In BPM and process improvement the motto is, don’t make just any change, make the right change. How do you select just the right initiative? When you’re starting a BPM journey, you want to get this right – you need the Goldilocks project!
I’m sure you’ve seen it before, as I have:- organisations who make large investments, only to find themselves months or years later not delivering – that’s a scary reality that keeps happening.
But how do you avoid those same mistakes? You want your project to be successful; you want to deliver real results that’ll make things better than they were before. Here’s where I parade out those over-used terms “low hanging fruit”, “pick your battles”, “don’t boil the ocean”. Fear not – that’s my parading over.
Anyway you look at it, unless you have been given a bottomless budget & zero timeframes for success (yeah right) these are the keys to getting it right:
- Have a senior stakeholder as a sponsor – they’ll set real measurable objectives, help you identify strategic selling points and be your PR manager within the business.
- Tie your project to a strategic goal to gain & keep senior management support.
- Start small & work towards bigger. Select strategically and take no longer than 4 months to finish & see rewards.
- Involve the right business functions. The more diversity you have in team membership, the more diverse your teams’ solutions.
Selecting the right project to begin your process improvement journey is crucial…just like that bed that was “just right” for Goldilocks. ‘Til next time – T.
A few years back I was struggling to “sell” the concept of better business performance, by better process management. And I really wanted to implement a tool to support it, allowing the business to have access to & improve how they did things in incremental steps, as their process maturity grew.
I had an “ah-ha” moment during a BPM tool demo – something I was shown virtually stood up & started shouting, “look at me”. I saw the ability to capture process information such as the cost of an activity while you are capturing the flow. You could capture other process information, such as key controls & risks, roles & responsibilities but it was this cost of process that excited me.
I started to think outside the square when I was building up my supporters. With these types of information available, Finance would be very keen to see more, Risk, Compliance & Audit teams would like the ability to flag & tag process activities, there were lots of wins for lots of functions.
I organised a demonstration of the tool to key supporters where they could see its potential uses. That was one of my better ideas. The audience went from polite bored interest to avid interest rather quickly. By the end of the demonstration, the business was asking me “so when are we going to have this tool?”.
Eureka! The requirement seed had been sown. With some help from Finance I put together the business case and socialized it, so when the business case was presented for approval, supporters were at the ready to give it the thumbs up.
Implementing a tool, as you know, is only part of the job done, but that allowed my process champions throughout the business to start centralizing processes. Having them centralized improved project delivery significantly…no longer would BAs need to re-capture the process, they could use one that was already captured.
Governance structures were in place that allowed for the processes to be managed appropriately, so processes became a valuable asset within the company.
And that was the start of a great journey…you could do the same. Excite your key supporters by demonstrating different concepts that meets a need. Good luck. ’Til next time -T
One of the questions people ask me before I start a project, is how do you make BPM stick? How do you engage the staff and make sure that improved process is followed?
Well, there are lots of different ways. I could be glib & say with a big stick, but the flip side to the stick is always the carrot. Or as one of my team members used to tell me…”you catch more bees with honey” – she put on the best morning teas at meetings…but again, I digress.
Have you ever noticed that people hate being told what to do? But if they design a workaround or a change, they certainly stick to that like glue. I’ve found that the best way to get people to accept a new process is to get them involved in building it. They’re far more inclined to follow something they’ve had a hand in building and then slowly improve it over time, than they are if it’s enforced on them. So get teams involved.
Now, speaking of honey…we humans are a funny lot…a healthy dose of competition has a way of driving us and we do like our carrots (or honey). In process management speak, metrics become important to process stickability – what gets measured, gets improved.
Making process activity visible is the key, so teams can see how they are tracking, then they can self manage & prioritise work. Certainly, have the team leader monitor things to make sure cherry picking isn’t an issue and have escalations built in.
Teams with the ability to self manage perform really well. Encourage this with rewards – everyone likes rewards! They can be either small incentives during the year or by performance bonuses at the end of the year. Select the reward mechanism that suits your environment – I’ve seen some choose to do both!
Another way to help things stick – put a feedback mechanism in place. You’ll want to know if there are issues with a process that can be easily fixed – those doing the process will know what doesn’t work & how to fix it. Team members also like to know that their feedback would be welcome. Its a great way of weaving process stewardship.
So in summary, to make it stick:
#1 Have the teams involved up front;
#2 Metrics & rewards;
#3 Build a feedback mechanism.
The easiest way to manage all the alerts & metrics, including dashboard visibility is by implementing your processes in a BPMS – even if at first, there’s more people driven processing than system automated or integration activity.
Why do that, you ask?
There are immediate benefits like consistency in process, visibility of process, metrics are available at a glance & you’ve got real process data to support any business decisions.
Remember, when all is said and done, people either make or break a process – ignore the people aspect of change at your peril. If all else fails, emulate Theodore Roosevelt: “speak softly & carry a big stick”. ‘Til next time – T
Back in the ‘90s, I was involved in a large transformation program. It was back then I started in my process improvement journey.
I was working at a large Insurer and working with business people in their area of expertise. The SMEs (that was the first time I’d heard that term), my colleague and I, captured their processes…from memory I think it was processing a motor vehicle claim.
Anyway, we interviewed lots of people, made notes and ran away to model their process – we were using ABC Flow charter and produced a pretty messy looking process flow on this massive piece of paper. Surprisingly, it was really helpful and while modelling it seemed tedious – some of the SMEs got aggravated when we went over & over things – at the end we all had a really clear picture of what the process was like & how complicated it had become over the years.
I remember at a presentation of the captured flow, some of the team sitting back looking at it and they started nudging each other, saying “see…I really am busy when you keep hassling me for stuff”. That moment was gold! I never truly understood until that point WHY it was a good idea to model how things really got done. And today the same whys & how-to’s exist.
There’s is a lot of BPM software around – things have come a long way from the humble beginnings of buying ABC Flow charter on a floppy disc (yes I’m THAT old!). It’s a really confusing market out there & some of the claims made by vendors are really amazing. So which tool do you choose? Don’t always assume that the bigger (most expensive) hammer is the best choice – pick the right tool for your situation.
Do your homework – the trick is to know what you want a business process modeling tool for and how you will use it, before you go anywhere near purchasing. If I could advise anything, it would be that.
Nowadays there are also quick & savvy ways to lower your cost outlay, but still get really great software at a fraction of the price – while Software as a Service (SaaS) may have once seemed risky, today it’s a great way to start, with tools available at a fraction of the cost of some of the big guns.
Take a look at them – they might just be what you’re looking for.
We’ve all heard the definition of insanity, yeah? Keep doing the same things over & over, expecting different results.
CEOs constantly challenge others to “…improve the bottom line”. Frequently, businesses follow their processes, targets are met, profits are OK, but still the challenge is to deliver more. Sounds like insanity is winning!
When all is said and done, for “things” to change, “something” somewhere has to change. In my experience, BPM & business process improvement, can discover that “something” in a business and often in surprising places.
Every process must deliver results, meet targets, be measured and more and more these days – meet some type of regulatory code. I can see you nodding your head. Surely, all your processes are being measured & monitored? …What’s that? They aren’t? Excellent, theres a fix for that.
If you have a CEO like my example above and you know BPM can help but aren’t sure how sell it or don’t know how to make it a reality, find help. There are key things you can do to sell your idea and they aren’t hard – it’s a matter of being able to identify a problem, quantify the opportunity in terms the C-Level expect (savings) and the proposed “fix”. In essence, its your business case for change.
Sounds easy, right? So what are you waiting for? Go stop the insanity. If you need help, get it, secure your support/funding/whatever you need and then enjoy the journey – what an exciting time. I wish I was there…
When you think BPM, what do you really mean? More jargon? A philosophy? A system? What is BPM?
There’s a heap of vigorous discussions being had the world over, but what it really means, is Business Process Management – a way for a business to know & manage what they do, so that they get the results they expect to get all the time. Whether that means that bills come in, processed & paid correctly and on time, or whether its when the customer comes in, orders their coffee & walks out satisfied that they’ve got the kick-start for their day – they are both processes that someone needs to follow (hopefully) the same way every time & there is (hopefully) someone accountable if things go wrong.
You can never replace the people in process – maybe in the future robots might to some degree – but until then we can only get help for some of the parts of processes – systems & technology can help, or they can really disrupt operations & be a right pain. But readers beware…if your manager comes back from a conference & runs in claiming that “I have seen the future & behold it is good…” then starts regaling you with details of a system they saw & how it will transform the business, that would be a good place to pause. Others might say be afraid…be very afraid.
Please, do yourself a favour – before you start to think about any systems (BPMS), you need to optimise your processes first, or else you may end up automating & delivering a bad result faster than you used to! To do that, you need skilled people to help transform the processes.These can be from within your business, or external experts brought in to help, either way you need these types. You want to know what issue you are trying to fix, how you might measure it, what success looks like, and a lot of other criteria – you can use these as your litmus test for your improved processes.
Think about using experienced experts (aka “process tragics“) – they exist – to help kick start the transformation piece and maybe they’ll suggest automating in small increments, but make sure the experts also impart skills to your own people. After all, you’ll want to keep improving many other processes & you need your own teams to make it become “what they do everyday”. Once you’re doing that, all the time, you’ll find that you truly are living the BPM dream.
When you are charged with making a difference, where do you really start? Can you really get something in, started & embedded in your organisation at a relatively low cost?
I think back to organisations I’ve worked with, and realised that’s exactly what I’d been brought in to do. And I knew what I needed to do & just started… I’m a bit stubborn that way, but it took time – time for the organisation to adapt to changed ways & time for real benefits to be realised.
If I’d not gone through the pain of doing things the hard way, I wouldn’t be where I am now, but I digress…if I could’ve found a roadmap, some kind of step by step approach that I could follow to get “done” faster – boy that would have been manna from heaven.
But if you don’t have the time, what do you do? Where can you get help?
Well, lets face it, money doesn’t grow on trees, and the boss will want to see something tangible that will really deliver what we like to call bankable benefits. Impressing Finance with fast & lower cost ideas is the golden key!
These days, with the advent of the Cloud & Software as a Service (SaaS), our BPM jobs are made so much easier, so you can impress those who hold the purse strings. There are good people around who can give you that roadmap and have the skills to help lighten the load…you just have to find them, right?