Why Processes need Projects and Projects need Processes

In a recent post, and some back and forth with The Process Ninja, we discussed the Good and Bad of Process Projects; this led me to think about my days learning about process and projects, both of which I am quite passionate about.

Whether you call it a project or not, the only way to make a significant change in an organisation is through a project, as defined “A temporary endeavour … undertaken to meet unique goals and objectives”; however I believe a project is not where a Business Process is made!

How are Business Processes conceived and enacted?

Business Processes have existed in organisations forever, and they will exist regardless of any specific Process Management activities. A Process Management initiative is about improving the way a Business Process is defined, resourced and operated. Therefore, a process project is really about creating capabilities to support the Business Process, not the process itself!

A common theme across my favourite BPM methodologies (Process Renewal Group and BPTrends) is that;

First the organisation understands it’s processes at the enterprise level;
Then, governance at the enterprise level decides to improve a particular process;
A process project is born.

Contrast this to a more traditional approach, where a project is created to improve an area of the business and one of the many outputs of the project is to model the related processes!

So what’s the difference? Firstly, improving the Business Process is why a project exists – so doing process analysis and design is fundamental – not just another output, then once the to-be future process is well understood, then the project is about building capability. This is why a project is necessary – we are changing the organisation to be able to enact the new process!

Roger Burlton defined six areas of capability that projects build to support processes, they are;

  1. Human Competency
  2. Business Rules
  3. Organisation
  4. Facilities
  5. Technology
  6. Motivation

The outputs of the project are to build the required capabilities to support the business process, e.g. The required people skills, decision model, organisational structure, capital equipment, computer systems and reward structures that match the requirements of the business process.

This leads me to a key point; A project does not implement a Business Process; instead the organisation uses the outputs of the project to execute the process the way it has been designed!

  • Projects are created to improve a Business Process (or part of one).
  • Project OUTPUTS are the capabilities that support Business Processes.
  • Improved Business Processes are OUTCOMES of Projects.

Does the Customer have a place in the Process?

I have previously written about Finding the End-to-End Customer Perspective, in which I wrote about the scope of the defined Business Process having a big impact on the value proposition for the customer or stakeholder. Another aspect of end-to-end thinking is including the customer inside the Business Process.

Why do we need to include the Customer?

Think of a typical Business Process where a customer is making a request of your organisation, maybe they are filling in an application for credit.

The current (as-is) process is considered inefficient as customer contacts the Accounts department and an Accounting Clerk collects all of the relevant information from the customer and then faxes the customer a nearly completed form to finalise and return. It is decided that implementing a self-service web-site will improve efficiency and save the company several staff years in the Accounting department.

The new (to-be) process is implemented, at the start everything looks good, the customers are able to fill in the form on-line and easily print, sign and send the form in. The form is also easy for the Accounting department to process as the information is already available in the accounting system.

However, the Accounting department is busier than ever, the phone seems to be ringing more and staff morale is down. What happened?

The customer is not part of the process. A key part of this process, getting and completing the customer application form, has been pushed out and is no longer considered part of the process; however customers are taking longer to complete the information required, they often don’t understand what is require and they are ringing up for help to complete the form. Once submitted a high percentage of forms are rejected back to the customer because they are incorrectly completed, causing re-work and unhappy customers.

If the customer part of the process was measured, then it would show that the end-to-end process is now less efficient at achieving its customer driven goals than it was previously. The process design may be more efficient from the Accounting department’s perspective; however that is the wrong way to look at it – unhappy customers and staff is a guaranteed recipe for failure.

Another example of this concept is in Gary Comerford’s e-book, The Perfect Process Project; In Chapter 6 there is a great customer perspective story relating to a call centre. Call centres (ironically they are often called customer service centres) are always a good source for processes examples that do not include the customer!

Finally, Michael zur Muehlen has written a great article on the BPTrends site, Service Processes: The Customer at the Centre.

Can you think of one of your Business Processes that does not include the customer? What difference could you make if it did?

Method in my BPM Madness!

At the recent Australian BPM Round table session I did a quick survey of participants to see, amongst other things, what BPM Frameworks are being used in Australian organisations?

I was not surprised by the result, however it is interesting that out of 20 organisations there was not 1 recognised BPM Framework that had been adopted; and comments were even made that they are not necessary. I think this last comment related to the terminology being used.

I have recently added a new page to the Executive Guide to BPM explaining what a BPM Framework is and why they are needed. See the Process of Process Management. For me, implementing BPM is implementing a Business Process and therefore you need a guide on how you are doing it!

What BPM Frameworks are there?

The challenge is finding and evaluating a Framework. There are three main sources;

  1. Books
  2. Training
  3. Vendors

I was introduced to my first Framework by Roger Burlton of the Process Renewal Group. The Process Renewal Group Framework is based on Roger’s book, Business Process Management: Profiting From Process; however the best understanding of the Framework and the techniques to implement it came from attending Roger’s training course and being mentored by the Group.

There are other Frameworks that come from similar sources, and consequently I have not had the opportunity to review any of them, I just know that they exist from web research. Frameworks from BPMInstitute.org and Management By Process are examples of training / consultant led offerings.

Another option is to adopt the processes recommended by your BPMS vendor. The advantage of this option is that the framework is tailored to the tools you have available. This can also be a disadvantage if you do not already use the tool as the training seems to be inherently linked, even if the framework is generically good. An example of this may be the framework promoted by Appian.

There may be some more generic options, such as the Association of Business Process Management Professionals (ABPMP) Common Body of Knowledge. As I am not a member I have not reviewed this framework; however there is a good summary presentation available, see Guide to BPM CBOK.

The Round Table also attempted to develop a common methodology which was called The Process of Process Improvement (TPPI). The output of the exercise can be found on the BPM-Collaboration TPPI Wiki (registration is required).

At the moment I am evaluating the BPTrends methodology that is based on the book Business Process Change by Paul Harmon. This methodology is supported in Australian by Leonardo Consulting who have written an excellent summary of the methodology and the certification program that they offer; see Achieving Process-Based Management.

I am sure there are many BPM Framework offerings that I have not covered here. If you know of one or you have a framework or methodology to offer – please leave a comment to let me know. I am also keen to collect or create reviews of the Frameworks that are available.

What Framework are you using or considering?

Finding the End to End Customer Perspective

A constant challenge for me is explaining to my colleagues what the difference is between an organisation’s existing processes and this Business Process Management stuff I keep talking about.

I usually start by describing the attributes that change an ordinary process into an effective Business Process. I have added a page to the Executive Guide to BPM on this very topic, see Business Processes Explained.

A key aspect of Business Processes is to have a perspective that stretches across all of the steps that need to be completed to achieve the right successful outcome. All too often functional managers only focus on their part of the process, missing the end-to-end perspective of what really needs to be done.

The perspective chosen can have a dramatic affect on the design of the process, for example:

Scoping the Recruitment Process

A typical recruitment process will concentrate on, and be measured by how efficiently the Human Resources department responds to requests to advertise positions, find and collate candidate responses and finish off the paperwork. I think you would have to visit many organisations before you would find a recruitment Business Process that actually measured how successfully the right candidate was selected.

As a candidate and as a recruiting team lead, I have had far more experiences where the process has been very inefficient (taking much more time that it should), has caused serious concern to candidates and frankly has not selected the most suitable person for the actual role, when they were required. Why do you think this is the case?

Generally this is because the process is not designed and measured, end-to-end. It is the difference between the Human Resources department being responsible for just their bits of the process, compared to being responsible for the end-to-end result; which in my example may be the performance of the successful candidate once they are in the position they were recruited for.

If one executive was held responsible for the performance of all new recruits, then the design of the process, especially in the steps of initial job design and the conduct of the selection panel would be done very differently. No longer would Human Resources blame the business for a defunct process or the other way around!

I could go on with many similar stories, in fact I would bet that you have a story of your own that you could share?  Please do…

A second look at the Customer Perspective will follow in a future post – Does the Customer have a place in our Process?

Starting with Customer Value

I have had several conversations recently where I have been asked to describe what I do and what is Business Process Management. As part of the reply I have referred the inquisitive person to this website, however I realised that there was no simple description of BPM here – until now.

The Executive Guide to BPM provides some basic information about Business Process Management and what I see as being key to implementing BPM. This page will also be a springboard to a number of artefacts that I will be creating about Process Management and how to implement it!

While writing the guide, I realised that many of the concepts will require further explaining, along with a few good stories to support them. This is a story about Process Thinking and understanding Customer Value.

Eating out in Canberra

A few years ago I was in Canberra for a training session ran by Roger Burlton, a large group from the class went to dinner at a local restaurant. At the end of the evening we all pooled our money and went to the counter to pay.

One of our group was visiting from overseas and needed to separately pay for and get a receipt for their meal to be able to claim a refund from their organisation.

The restaurant had a “We do not split bills” policy, we asked nicely if we could pay for this one meal separately and explained why. The proprietor was serving us and he was sticking to his policy. After some back and forth conversation he was heard to say “It is my restaurant – I set the rules”. By the end of the conversation, he had finally agreed to separately charge for this meal – if we agreed to pay a very small processing fee (we are talking $1 added to a $500 bill).

This is a great example of a policy that is focussed on efficiency, however it clearly destroys customer value – which do you think is better for the business long-term?

Process 2.0 – Collaborative and Adhoc

Most Business Analysts have a reasonable idea about how to develop a Business Process. We don’t all do it the same way (far from it), however the general approach is usually much the same, it goes something like this…

  1. Gather requirements from the business
  2. Design and validate a process model
  3. Implement the new process with the business
  4. Move on ..

What will this look like in the world of Process 2.0?

I recently asked the BPM Collaboration community about Process and Google Wave (check out the forum thread to follow the discussion). Bernie Clark provided me with a link to a great YouTube video prepared by the SAP Research centre, it is titled “Gravity, the best example of Google Wave”. This is well worth 7 minutes. Well done to the research team for a quality presentation.

Using this kind of collaborative process development, the Business Analyst becomes more of a facilitator and educator about the way to build processes, without needing to get too involved in the business. With this kind of approach, an organisation would be capable of developing and deploying Business Processes in record time!

Add to this, adhoc process modelling. This concept, introduced to me as a new feature in the webMethods 8 product suite, provides the ability for knowledge workers to model processes as they are being executed. Generally there is marginal value in mapping a complex process that is not executed regularly, especially where human judgment is involved!

However, if you can capture the process as it is completed, then you can measure what has been done and learn from the experience in the future.

My first reaction to adhoc processes was, “It is hard enough to get people to map processes and execute them, what incentives would be needed to encourage adhoc mapping?”.

What if we mixed both collaborative and adhoc process modelling?