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This is the On-line companion to my monthly column in
Enterprise Reengineering
The National Publication for BPR

Background Resource Gold Mines
(From the July 1996 issue)

One of the underlying objectives of BPR is to ensure that employees have access to the information they need to accomplish their jobs. Most BPR initiatives focus exclusively on information flows that are "within" the company's business processes (customer information, technical data, etc) Unfortunately, many BPR initiatives have a "blind spot" when it comes to providing all the information an employee needs. What is often overlooked is what I call "background" information.

I came upon this idea of background information while teaching Internet courses. I lead students to many impressive internet sites such as Lycos and Alta Vista, but I noticed that there are several sites that seem to have a universal appeal.

Phone Numbers.

The Internet represents a new form of communicating, but the internet can help with a more traditional act of placing a phone call. How many times have you heard a fellow employee wandering down the hallway calling: "does anybody have the phone book?" Also, check the company's phone bill and see how much you were charged for for dialing information. It just so happens that there are several complete nationwide phone books on the internet.

Sites such as Switchboard and World Yellow Pages Network include over 100 million residential and business phone numbers for the entire country. Just specify a person's name (include a town or state if you know it) and within seconds you have the person's phone number and postal address. I admit that most people will initially search for themselves and are amazed to see all the relatives and twins they have. But it is also impressive to search for a business such as Insty Prints in your town (or a list of all Insty prints your state).

There are also a variety of specialized online phone books which cover a specific focus, but may have additional features/information:

Online Maps:

Did you ever get lost trying to reach a client, or make a service call? If you have the address, the Web site called Mapquest can help you drive there. Mapquest contains an interactive database of EVERY address in the United States. Tell their "tripquest" page the name of your home town, and the name of your destination, and tripquest will determine your driving instructions to the nearest tenth of a mile!

You will also want to explore their "interactive atlas". Enter ANY Address in the US, and a detailed map appears with a "Star" at the exact location of the address. The displayed map is fully interactive, allowing you to zoom and pan, or even display the nearest hotels, restaurants or other attractions.

Speaking of maps, how many times has a meeting started late because client got lost on the way to your site? If only your company web site included a map of how to get to your building, visitors could visit your web site in advance and print out the map and directions. For a great example of this, visit this page at MITRE.


Most industries, including Internet, have a vocabulary all their own. For example, If someone asks you to "finger" them, should you be worried? If your employees are struggling to keep up with all the jargon of today's complex world, there is relief in the form of online dictionaries: BABEL, a glossary of Computer Oriented Abbreviations and Acronyms; ILC Glossary of Internet Terms; MEGATERMS: over 22,000 Military Terms and acronyms; and the Gateway 2000 glossary.

There are dozens more specialized dictionaries including language translation dictionaries. For more information, look at this branch of Yahoo.

Other Background Information

Depending on your industry, here are some other valuable resources you can depend on:

These examples are just some of the "background information" types commonly used by your employees. I know that information like phone numbers and directions may seem mundane, but talking and visiting with each other is still a necessary part of many business processes. I encourage you to visit the online version of this article and try a few of these resources yourself. You will be hooked.

Russ Haynal

Please be sure to visit my Archive of BPR articles.

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