Have you found the Problem?

On one side of my world is the process management brick-wall, the other side is the chasm of process theory. Criss-crossing the terrain are the fast flowing reality rivers. This is often what it feels like when I am trying to get buy-in for developing a Business Process Management program.

Why is selling BPM so difficult?

Over the past few years, nearly every BPM conference, user group or meeting of the Australian BPM Roundtable has had a session about executive buy-in, selling BPM or simply, Why don’t they get it?

At the February Australian BPM Roundtable, Andrew Spanyi gave an interesting presentation on Leading Process Change (registration is required to access the BPM Collaboration.com site). One of Andrew’s rare practices for leaders is to have A Compelling Case for Change. Too often BPM is interesting but not compelling.

What is often compelling to leaders is single-points of process improvement; I cannot change the organisation – but I can fix the process in front of me. Andrew covers this in his summary, “No one single successful process improvement, innovation or transformation effort is likely to convey lasting competitive advantage; Process Management across the enterprise does!”

Therefore, there needs to be a compelling reason to do Process Management at the enterprise level – which may be much easier to find in a struggling organisation than in one that is already successful. So what are some of the common problems the may be compelling?

  1. A desire to create “one” organisation – when it is recognised that silos of operations are dysfunctional and there is a desire to create consistent processes across the organisation.
  2. Reducing costs – when there is a need for far cheaper processes.
  3. Improving customer value – often after a poor customer satisfaction survey identifies the need to vastly improve the service and value being delivered to customers.
  4. Poor financial or sales performance – a need to adopt a different approach to save the company!
  5. Increasing visibility – executives want increased visibility of the performance of the organisation, usually coming from a renewed strategic approach.
  6. Fad – a desire to implement process management or a process management system to be adopting an architectural or business approach that is thought to be desirable.

This was just a short list off of the top of my head. I want to explore this further at the Australian Process Days conference “birds of a feather” sessions; please add a comment; sharing problems that we an discuss at the conference session.

Finding the Business Problem

One approach to finding the business problem is to use an analysis tool to understand where your organisation is and where do they want to be, in relation to Business Process Management. The measured desire for change can represent the problem to be solved.

One way to determine the desire for change is to conduct an audit (survey) of key stakeholders and use the information to develop a process model, where is process management in the organisation today (as-is) and where do we want to be (to-be), what are the requirements (KPI’s) and what change is needed to get us there (the process project).

This can be done using an existing BPM Maturity Model, which is not an area I have had much experience in; however my initial experience has been that finding and adopting a suitable tool is not easy; either to find or to use. What’s your experience?

BPM for Non-Profit?

I recently asked a question on LinkedIn about the challenges of applying Process Management in the non-profit sector, this was motivated by my own experience, working within a service charity, as I tried to figure out how BPM principles could be used in an organisation that is largely volunteer driven, with a corporate headquarters.

The first thing that became obvious is that non-profit means different things, true it can be a reference to government organisations or large not-for-profit organisations, however my curiosity was more related to an organisations limited capacity rather than it’s motive.

That said, some of the responses I received were very well thought out and practical. A demonstration of how many volunteer organisations have a high calibre of people within their ranks, which reminds me of how these organisations are usually not very good at capitalising on this!

There were a number of key theme’s that came out of the responses;

  1. Alignment with strategy and executive sponsorship is as critical (if not more critical) as it is in more commercial organisations. Without a well driven strategic link, process management efforts are not likely to get started. This is closely tied into the funding imperative, as often there is a high level of scrutiny put on administrative funding (especially for organisations that are run from donations).
  2. It can often be difficult to find the right people to undertake process management in these organisations as projects are often performed at a discount. For me, this emphasises the need to recruit people with the right background, including managers that understand the importance of process thinking. I also believe this is important as processes are often cobbled together very quickly (especially in emergency management scenarios).
  3. There is a lot of value to applying process management techniques in these environments. Small improvements can often provide a significant improvement, especially when you are working with two very valuable commodities, donated funds and volunteer hours.

A great session on Lean Thinking?

In the previous post I referred to the Adelaide BPTrends Forum session that I attended, presented by Professor Peter Hines. I want to elaborate on what I got out of the session.

1. It is important to understand the fundamentals of the business and it’s strategy – common-sense management.

2. It is vital to understand how the business creates value for it’s customers. Customer surveys often focus on the products or services offered, not the experience that created the real value for the customer. Quite often organisations are not very clear about who their real customers are!

3. A good understanding of strategy and customer value leads to the ability to select to improve the processes that will be critical to achieving the organisations aims.

4. Detail this in a Purpose Statement, a practical communication about What we will do, How we will do it and What the outcome will be, including what the Critical Success Factors are and are we measuring the right metrics to achieve them?

Now the Process Improvement work can begin –

5. Understand the problem, what is the root cause and what opportunities exist to improve.

6. Ensure you have the right level of support. If Senior Managers are not behind the initiative and eager for success, then sucess is always going to be a big challenge.

Overall, a great session.

What has happened to common sense management?

Professor Peter Hines gave an excellent presentation on Lean Thinking to 30 BPM practitioners at the Adelaide BPTrends forum tonight.

Peter’s presentation covered a case study, demonstrating how a company used Lean Thinking to create a new strategic direction, execute organisational change and redesign their processes for greatly improved outcomes.

What struck me during the discussion was that the analysis and decision making techniques used were not ground-breaking, not proprietary and definitely not special. The techniques used were mainly common sense strategic management – understanding vision, setting goals, performing the analysis and executing change.

The only difference to what I got taught in the MBA unit on Strategic Management was to start the strategic process with obtaining a clear idea of how the organisation could create real value for their customers.

So the question for me was, has the wave of Process Management ideologies, tools and systems led senior managers to think they can achieve all the benefits of a Process Centric organisation without undertaking common sense strategic management?

Every Business Process Management project should be part of a Strategic Management initiative to assist the senior manager to change their organisation or business unit. The senior manager still needs to lead the development of strategy and execute organisational change, Process Improvement methods simply provide a new efficient and effective way to help achieve the desired outcomes.

Peter has setup a Lean Enterprise group on LinkedIn – “Lean Enterprise Australia & New Zealand”. I was very impressed with Peter’s presentation. Thanks to Ben Haigh (BPTrends Adelaide coordinator) and the University of South Australia for organising the event.