Saturday, October 3, 2015

Have you met the employee with a form?

Sometimes the best possible intent leads to dysfunction and waste. This can happen when the big picture gets missed, and “systems” are designed without considering the users’ perspectives. Good analysts always consider their actions based on the “audience” for the results, and that way, build better systems.
So what does this have to so with the employee with the form?
Some people seem to see a form as a cure for something perceived to be complex. Examples I have seen include requesting services from an IT department, identifying an enterprise single source of lookup data, or for estimating the impact a system has on production. The recipient to-be of the form thinks of their own needs and then creates the form.
They may even create a “how to complete this form” document (never a good sign if it takes more than a few sentences to do this). In one job early in my career I encountered someone with a form creation form, which had to be filled out to be able to create a new form. How the owner got the form creation form created is something we leave to the imagination.
In the worst “employee with a form” examples the form becomes a place to document everything that the recipient feels the requester must provide in order to fulfill a request. In this case such forms never seem to solve problems; they create them. Here’s why:
1.  It’s poor customer service.
2.  It feels like bureaucracy.
4.  It probably is!
4.  It creates an impression of pass or fail for the requestor, rather than collaboration to fill a need.
5.  It wastes time and resources; the requestor is not in the best position to assess what information is required and either glibly completes the form, or goes in to too much detail.
It’s not that forms are always a bad thing. But they must be used correctly.
As a business analyst studying an “as is” process, learn to look out for this. Find out from the recipient of the form what the intent is. Find out from the requestor if the results of filling out the form meets a real need efficiently and effectively. And think automation – look how much easier TurboTax is than filling out a paper tax return.