The Computers Can’t Save Us: To Solve Process Problems, Think Like a Baker

Business processes are a lot like cakes: good ones come from quality ingredients and are made by planning and proven recipes. If you have the wrong ingredients and little understanding of how to achieve the right result, it produces a bad cake. This analogy can be extended: If you’re working with poor ingredients and recipes, an industrial kitchen stocked with the latest tools won’t improve the result. You end up with more bad cakes, but faster.

Enter process automation.

We have asked computers to automate nearly every task-based element of our workday. Email is automated letter delivery. Cloud storage is automated file cabinets. Excel is an automated calculator. We’ve become so much faster and more efficient at low-level tasks that organizations are now handing more complex processes over. Relationship management, order fulfillment, and even human resources are increasingly mediated through software, but many organizations are finding that the investment in these systems hasn’t had a corresponding return.

Business process development has an analogy in computer science: GIGO, or Garbage In, Garbage Out. Many organizations are finding that weaknesses in their processes, the ‘Garbage In’, aren’t being solved by implementing new tools. Instead, they’re still getting ‘Garbage Out’. Worse, many problems are amplified by technology. While automation doesn’t necessarily help you do things better, it can almost always help you do them faster. More bad cakes.

“I’m living this right now. People are frustrated. What do I do?’

1. Recognize that CRM, ERP, or other tools won’t magically solve process issues.

This can be a hard conclusion to reach, especially where there has been (sometimes large) investment in systems on the implicit promise of solving the very thing they can’t fix. Process is just another way of saying ‘how people do things’. Even assisted by technology, people are the key factor in every process equation, which brings us to the next point.

2. Solve the root cause.

Teams that work together may have metrics that don’t align or lack shared buy-in on goals for the organization. Often, the causes are simple – communication, information sharing, measurement – but the solutions are complex. Each company will have unique challenges, but it’s critical that they’re addressed before operationalizing them into an automation tool.

3. Build feedback loops to identify and address new issues in your process.

This will help combat efficiency drift. As external variables change, the process and systems must change with them to stay relevant. Regular check-ins with each stakeholder group, external audits, and intentionally designed benchmarks or metrics, used together, are a powerful combination to measure performance and guide changes to prepare for the future.

System problems are hard to overcome if you don’t know where to start. By following the steps above and recognizing the weakness in your processes, you’ll be on-track to helping your organization maximize the benefits of automation.

WOSB Program Self-Certification Changes

To participate in the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) or Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Business (EDWOSB) Program, a company must either self-certify through the Small Business Administration (SBA) website or through a third-party organization. However, the program is making some changes in the near future. Effective October 15, 2020, WOSBs will no longer be able to self-certify.

As part of the 2015 The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Congress eliminated self-certification for WOSB set asides and sole source. Despite the change, the SBA insisted that WOSB self-certification remain a viable option while they figured out how to address the change. Now, that change is coming.

According to reports by the SBA Office of Inspector General (OIG), 89% of all WOSB sole source contracts were awarded improperly. It was determined that federal agencies, contracting officers, and firms did not comply with the federal regulations for 50 out of a total 56 sole source contracts, which are valued at a total of $52.2 million.

Before awarding a WOSB or EDWOSB contract, the contracting officer is required to confirm that WOSBs/EDWOSBs have provided supporting certification documentation in the SBA system. Yet, SBA OIG found that contracting officers awarded 18 contracts valued at $11.7 million on a sole source base to companies with no documentation in the system. Additionally, 32 sole source contracts were awarded to companies with incomplete documentation in the system.

SBA OIG pointed out that the 2015 NDAA, which allowed WOSBs to receive sole source contracts, also required the SBA to implement a certification program for these businesses. Though the SBA implemented the sole source authority in October 2015, they have not issued regulations pertaining to a certification process for the program. The SBA estimated another year of implementing a certification process. This is not the first time that an oversight body has questioned whether WOSB self-certification may be causing ineligible companies to win set asides and sole source contracts.

With self-certification going away, WOSBs must turn to third-party organizations for certification. There are currently four organizations approved by the SBA to provide third-party certification:

  • The National Women’s Business Owners Corporation (NWBOC);
  • The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC);
  • The U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce;
  • And the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (EPHCC).

Companies certifying for the first time must either certify through one of the third-party organizations mentioned above or through https://certify.sba.gov/, which will be offering a free online certification program. SBA will also allow participation from firms certified by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Center of Verification and Evaluations, provided they meet all eligibility requirements.

JetCo Federal Unveils New Website, Expanded Services

JetCo Federal, a supply chain management and warehouse supply company, has unveiled a new website that showcases the company’s expanded products and services.

“For more than 13 years, government and commercial customers have trusted JetCo Federal to reliably deliver high-quality products,” said Sue Tellier, President of JetCo Federal. “The expansion of our capabilities, as showcased on our new website, will allow us to serve a larger customer base while still upholding our commitment to supplying the highest quality products both now and in the future.”

JetCo Federal’s expanded products and services include warehousing, storage, packaging design, kitting, and a larger selection of warehouse consumables. The new website can be viewed at www.jetcofederal.com.