Business Process Automation and Fast Food

Don’t get me wrong – I love a good home cooked meal. Fresh ingredients and loosely followed recipes mean that no two meals are ever identical. Flavors, textures and intensities always vary. Fast food is exactly the opposite – order a Big Mac anywhere in the world and you know exactly what to expect. Hilton (Conrad, not his great-granddaughter Paris) applied the same principal to his chain of hotels, with notable success.

What’s this got to do with business processes you ask? Simple: your processes should be more like fast food than home cooking. You’re not trying to satisfy your in-laws, you’re striving for consistency, quality and repeatability – uncontrolled variation between steps is undesirable as it inevitably exposes risk. These ideas are articulated in George Ritzer’s book, “The McDonaldization of Society.” Ritzer’s premise is that society is becoming more and more rationalized. The four essential components of McDonaldization apply equally to what we strive to achieve with our contracts:

  • Efficiency – the optimal way to get the job done. For fast food chains, this is getting customers from hungry to satisfied as rapidly as possible and then moving them on. For business processes, efficiency means minimizing the time spent on each step.
  • Quantification – knowing how long things take and how much they cost. It’s hard to improve your processes without something measurable. Fast food chains know exactly how long every step in their processes takes – usually to the second. Every step in the process life-cycle needs to be understood and quantified in order to improve and rate its efficiency. The concept of a contract risk score that can be tracked across your entire portfolio over time takes this to the next level.
  • Control – having strong, well established processes and using technology over manual labor wherever and whenever possible. There is no place for originality or creativity for common orders.
  • Predictability – achieving the same quality product every single time. Automation facilitates predictability both for fast food and business processes.

So while in some areas of life – such as the dinner table – variation and uniqueness are important, business process is not one of them.

So how do your business processes compare to fast food? What about your contract processes? Are they consistent and up to date or are they more like a home made souffle – they sometimes flop?

I’d love to hear from you at @liptonj or leave a note in the comments.

Justin Lipton is CFO and Co-Founder at Exari

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