Netflix doesn’t believe in business processes, we do.

LinkedIn recently published a document outlining the philosophy behind their corporate culture. It has been touted as a significant document. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO said that it “… may be the most important document ever to come out of the valley.” At Recombo we completely agree. And we have begun discussing how we could work some of their ideas into our corporate culture.

But there is an interesting point they have made that we would like to address. Under the section Freedom & Responsibility Netflix expresses their concern around the practice of creating processes to minimize risk as organizations grow. Their concern is that processes limit creativity, because it takes away an employee’s freedom to innovate within their responsibilities. They explain that a problem arises when the market shifts to a new technology or business model. The processes they have created restrict an organization from adapting, until they “[grind] painfully into irrelevance”.

We completely agree. Static processes make it difficult to innovate and limit an employee’s ability to address market changes. But, this is only the case if employees are not empowered to respond with process improvements. The truth is large organizations cannot dispose of processes all together because they make business activities that recur frequently so much more efficient.

Organizations cannot forgo business processes, but instead must offer the flexibility necessary to frequently innovate them. The difficulty is that before now, the tools used in business process management were largely static because they were too difficult to change. The software improvements needed to support a process reengineer project required programming, platform vendor support, and a significant financial investment.

But that isn’t the case anymore. Improvements can now be implemented by code-illiterate business analysts, managers, or employees through easy to use user interfaces. As markets change, empowered employees can now make changes to business processes themselves if they have the right tools and sufficient freedom to do so.

Take for example one of our clients, Questrade Inc. Questrade offers direct access online trading to the U.S. and Canada equity and U.S. options markets with customized Web and PC-based trading platforms. As an online service provider, they noticed a trend coming: the end of paper-based customer onboarding processes. Paper applications were becoming a liability as collecting the information digitally became a more efficient and viable option.

In theory they could have done away with processes all together, allowing each sales team to determine their own onboarding process. But most readers will intuitively expect that this would create a great deal of chaos and would likely end in disaster. Information would be inconsistent across the organization and compliance would become an unmanageable disaster.

Instead Questrade empowered their onboarding team to reengineer their process using our smart process application Agreement Express. We worked together to reduce the amount of information collected from the customer to only that necessary to meet compliance requirements and make informed decisions. We created new digital forms to collect information and automated as much of the process as possible.

The result was at 50% reduction in their salary cost to onboard new customers, freeing up time and capital for new projects. By redesigning their onboarding process they gave their team more time and more money to innovate with.

And when Questrade chooses to improve their processes again in the future (we hope soon!), their employees are empowered to do so using Agreement Express’s user interface and analytics.

This is the kind of freedom we’re talking about. The empowerment of employees to create industry leading processes today, and the flexibility to alter them frequently and quickly again in the future.

We highly recommend you read and learn from the Netflix document (it’s at the bottom of this post). It has some great ideas on how to improve your organization.

Specifically, we endorse finding ways to empower the creativity in your employees. It’s important to give them the freedom and the responsibility necessary to innovate in today’s quickly changing markets. A powerful way to do so is to use smart process applications to create efficient and flexible business processes.

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