BPM: Taking it to the Next Level

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Taking BPM applications to the next level involves more than buying a good BPM solution. The technology is important, but two things will make or break a BPM deployment. The first is creating customer value through the company's enterprise-wide business processes and the second is understanding and managing the processes at the organizational and actual process activity level. To accomplish these the mindset of the whole organization must change.

Andrew Spanyi is the managing director of Spanyi International, a consulting and training company that operates in the field of organization and process design. He has worked with executive teams at global organizations assisting them to change the way they think about their business. He is the author of ‘Business Process Management is a Team Sport, Play It to Win!’

Spanyi maintains that the single greatest obstacle to the adoption of BPM enterprise-wide solutions is the traditional mindset of senior executives. This mindset is characterized by:

  • Silo behavior
  • Turf protection
  • Undue preoccupation with organization of structure
  • Command and control thinking that stifles innovation

These factors work against an enterprise-wide view of the organization, and against deploying a BPM initiative that will affect the whole organization. Spanyi's hypotheses is that firms that have embraced business process thinking would have:

  • Developed an enterprise view business process relationship map
  • Appointed business process owners or stewards for major cross-functional business processes
  • Developed a business process management plan
  • Linked key performance metrics with a customer's point of view to key financial metrics

Fifteen companies and two authors participated in his study. One of the preliminary findings reveals that there is no consistent definition of Enterprise BPM. Other findings were:

  • 4 of 15 respondents reported that they had a business process relationship map at the enterprise level
  • 4 of 15 reported having appointed process owners or stewards – 2 of them had owners at the enterprise level
  • 3 of 15 indicated that they could answer the question, "Which of our business processes need to be improved and by how much in order to achieve our strategic objectives?"

These findings told Spanyi that there was progress but there was still a long way to go before EPBM becomes a reality. He compared EBPM to teenage sex. Everyone says they are doing it but in reality, few are and the they are doing it badly.

Spanyi defines EBPM as:

"…the deliberative, collaborative, and increasingly technology-aided definition, improvement and management of a firm's end-to-end enterprise business processes n order to achieve three outcomes crucial to a performance-based, customer-driven firm:

  • Clarity on strategic direction
  • Alignment of the firm's resources
  • Increased discipline in daily operations"

The fundamentals of EBPM include creating customer value through a company's enterprise-wide business processes and understanding and managing the processes at the organizational level and also at the actual process activity level. He emphasized that it isn't just about technology, either. EBPM technology is necessary, but it isn't a sufficient condition for success in itself. The best IT tools can't solve the main barrier to successful BPM – and that barrier is the people issue.

The first thing to do is to access the current situation. How far along are you in process maturity? Are you working on small processes, larger processes or are you working on end-to-end processes? Whatever stage, it is important to create context for the processes, link to strategic business issues, and then reinforce the business benefits.

Spanyi said the eight essential principles of EBPM Strategic Focus are:

  • Look at the business from the outside-in as well as from the inside-out
  • Develop a core strategy that is tightly integrated with the definition, management, and improvement of the enterprise's business processes
  • Articulate the firms' strategy such that it inspires and remains front and center throughout the year
  • Assure that the core business processes are designed to deliver on the strategic business goals
  • Ensure that the organization design for measures and rewards enables effective business process execution
  • Assess and deploy enabling technology based on value added through enhances BP performance
  • Hard wire the enterprise-wide process measurement system to budgets and operating revenues
  • Sustain the focus and alignment (manage what you measure)

Executives need to become player/coaches and managers rather than the traditional command-and-control role. They need to change their mental models and appreciate sequencing and the proper level of detail.

Companies that do this are outperforming their industry peers. There is no direct relationship between the tools used and superior business performance. You can't just buy the software and get ahead. However, aligning the business with the strategic focus of EBPM principles will ensure that improved performance becomes a company standard.

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