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?

I’m a Process Tragic!

Roger Tregear in his first BPTrends Column on Practical Process asked “As you go through your day, do you find yourself mentally redesigning the processes at the supermarket, airport, theatre and most other places you go?”

Yes, that’s me. I can join the club, I’m a Process Tragic!

In this article Roger describes his interest in process-based management, a passion that I share. I have spent many hours developing a message to describe the process centric view of management behaviour.  Sometimes I find someone who grasps the concepts and is enthusiastic, more often confusion or disagreement is the result.

Roger suggests that we need to build a body of knowledge about the compelling reasons why organisations would benefit from adopting a process-based culture.

I have my own Compelling Reason Body of Knowledge to build, to strengthen my message and help organisational managers not only get enthusiastic, but influence them to join the club!

Let me know if you are a process tragic (or would like to be convinced). There are plenty of us around – another Craig is a good example, the Process Ninja.

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.