Oxford dictionary defines the word mundane as “not interesting or exciting.” To create a case for automation, people around the world have been using the term mundane with respect to Business Operations. Sometimes mundane and manual are used synonymously.
Outsourcing mundane operations and automating mundane operations seem to be the direction everyone is moving in. I always had a problem with the word “mundane” being associated with business operations.
The reason I have a problem with the word mundane is that the moment you categorize something as mundane, the brain shuts off and does not look for avenues to improve it. And having that mentality can be catastrophic for the team. Even the people that are doing these activities would feel demotivated, thinking what they are doing is not important.
Business Operations in the Context of a Business
I agree that Business Operations can be routine and process-oriented and sometimes manual as well, but that does not mean it is not impactful. Business Operations is the internal engine of any business, and running it efficiently is what every business aims for. Today’s business operations are tomorrow’s Innovation and today’s Innovation is tomorrow’s business operation. That is why it is important to give business operations the respect that it deserves.
Rather than looking at business operations activities as mundane and doing them with our brains shut off, we should look at first why we are doing what we are doing. This will allow us to find out how much value it adds to the organization.
DefineRight Viewpoint of Business Operations
At DefineRight (DR), we have a way of looking at business operations. We look at the activity that we are doing, tie it up to an output, then an outcome, and then Impact. Let us say we are building a dashboard showing the site activation number for a clinical trial study. A site is where a Clinical Trial is conducted, and it is important to get them started on time to prevent delays to the overall Study. That is an activity. However, if you look at it using the activity-output-outcome-impact framework, the output is a dashboard, the outcome is the easy availability of data and metrics on-site activation to study teams, and the impact is reducing cycle times for site activation.
Let us look at another simple example from the clinical trial world – some companies enter and manage their protocol amendment data in excel sheets. Now that is an activity, and the output will be an excel data store with all protocol amendments in one place. The outcome is the availability of a number of amendments per protocol information to the study team, and the impact is to use that information to reduce the associated costs of protocol amendments, thereby reducing the overall cost and timeline of a clinical trial.
The ability to look at every activity that you do with this activity-output-outcome-impact framework allows you to continuously experiment with better ways to do that activity. Can I find another way to capture protocol amendment data so that they are available faster for timely decision-making? What can I do to improve the quality of the data so that decisions are made on accurate data? And the list goes on.
This can happen only when people who are handling your operations are trained to look at the Why. That demands a knowledge of the business, also the ability to ask questions to seek out the outcome and impact. Look at the Impact, and then the daily activity that you are doing is no more because each one of us has been trained to look for the why in what we do. Every activity does not matter how “mundane.”
Business Operations to be Considered Enhancing the Value of the Business
Business operations can be categorized as those that enhance the value of the business and those that do not add any value. It has nothing to do with the nature of the activity – Repetitive activities can also enhance business value. Understanding every activity keeping the activity-output-outcome-impact framework in mind, will allow you to bring efficiency to your business operations. So next time you think that the activity you are doing is mundane, take a pause and refer to the activity-output-outcome-impact framework and ask yourself the question again – Is what I am doing really mundane?