transform

When a bigger hammer isn’t better – What BPM tool do you use?

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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.

BPM Tip #1 – selling BPM

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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…

BPM Tip # 2 – Design

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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.