That is my best back of the napkin calculation of the total dollars that will transact as part of reimbursement processes due to the Coronavirus. Oh, and that is only in the United States. This guess of over $4 trillion includes reimbursements by federal, state, and local government and reimbursements by private sector businesses.
Think about that for a moment. More than $4 Trillion. I started thinking about this through the lens of all of the reimbursement processes that I am currently involved in myself. Here is the list of reimbursements that I have applied for in the past 3 weeks:
- One Way ticket Heathrow to Boston $1,500
- Roundtrip ticket RDU – LPB – RDU $1,100
- Airbnb for a week $874.52
- 4 Trade Show sponsorships $22,420
Total = $25,894.52
That is a hell of a lot of transactions flowing in the wrong direction for a single person.
A Very Unhappy Path
For process people out there, we describe the reimbursement workflow path as the unhappy path option in a business process. In other words, it is the path that we hope does not occur when a business process is designed. When everything goes according to plan in a business process, that is called the happy path. So, if you take a simple example of an “Order-to-Cash” sales process, the happy path is the business process path through which a product is ordered, delivered, and payment is made. As you can imagine, a good business process has to consider alternatives where things don’t go as planned, i.e the order doesn’t get delivered, the cash is not collected, the product is defective, etc.
The Perfect Storm Path
At many levels the Coronavirus path shouldn’t even qualify as a traditional unhappy path by Business Process Management (BPM) practitioners. This is something that none of us have ever seen in our lifetimes. No one planned for it. This should be called the Perfect Storm Path.
Basically, the Coronavirus simultaneously activated the unhappy path of almost every single business process on the planet. It is simply unheard of. Unless you are selling video conferencing, telemedicine, or a few other categories of product, the world just turned upside down and inside out at the same time for your business.
The Most Popular Process in the World – The Reimbursement Process
Covid-19 has activated tens of thousands if not millions of reimbursement request processes simultaneously in the world economy. Suddenly, for a company like ours which automates business processes for a living, this is the mother of all processes. Just think about local and state governments for a moment. Most have announced some sort of emergency Covid-19 funding. This rescue budget plan is going to provide special funding to small businesses, special services, and individuals. Essentially, these plans say, if you fall into X,Y, or Z categories, then please send us proof within the next 90 days, and we will approve your request and reimburse you. This is happening all over the world right now.
The thing about reimbursement processes is that there has to be oversight. With this much money about to be handed out, there is room for corruption and cronyism which won’t become apparent until everything is audited years later.
This is where the Reimbursement Process comes into the picture. Inevitably, the process will look something like this diagram which involves a Request, Approval, and then Evidence and Payment. The heart of most business processes is some level of human intervention to make sure that there is a) oversight and b) a trail to audit, and c) a neck to wring if things go bad.
And of course, we need to move fast in all of this and we want to know how long each reimbursement is taking us so we can eliminate any bottlenecks that may appear.
At the end of the day, we are in a crisis. We want to make sure that the process is efficient and effective. And, since no one can get within 6 feet of anyone else, we need this to be totally digital. So, for companies that don’t have these processes fully digitized, they had better get to work on it immediately.