For many companies, the most daunting and cumbersome aspect of Business Process Management (BPM) is simply conducting a sound, effective business process review, in order to determine what is working and what can be improved. It’s easy for a board of directors or executives to sit in a meeting and proclaim, “let’s streamline operations and business processes and save some money,” but it’s another thing to focus on the right areas that need fine-tuning.
This is especially true with mid- to -large size businesses with multiple complex departments that share business processes.
If you are a business professional for a company and have been handed the responsibility of delivering a bullet-proof business process review that has the chance to live up to its own expectations, you might feel somewhat overwhelmed by the process — even before you’ve begun. Here are a few guiding principles for delivering a business process review that bears out serious improvements and savings:
When you’re perusing a business process, it necessarily involves pouring over flow charts and data. That’s the tangible part of the process that deserves its own directives. But there are also several x-factors to business process reviews that are worth noting, since your findings may very well reorient someone else’s operational creation that they may or may not be ready to mothball. And this sensitive spot can be compounded if an entire cadre of executives feel the same way.
Consider for a moment some of these points:
- Onboard an executive member from the get-go: having the sponsorship or advocacy of a decision maker can help lobby for a business process review’s findings, or give you a heads-up on an approach that will never fly.
- Ascertain how far you can go: the best business process rollouts are incremental, starting small, proving results, and then arguing for wider-ranging improvements. Conceive your proposal in this way to give decision makers the opportunity to sign on to something that seems reasonable.
- Include new ideas from new team members: choosing junior members of your team to conduct a business process review can lead to an “inbred” way of looking at operations, all of which could lead to a limited or conservative conclusion. This is why outsourcing your business process review can be a major advantage, as it puts the process into the hands of a team who has no vested interest or ego invested in the status quo — all they want is to suggest BPM changes that will bear quick results — which will in turn benefit their firm.
Making sure you manage expectations and egos isn’t all you need to worry about — you also have to have a game plan for how to analyze and parse massive business processes. Here are a few key points that can make a world of difference:
- Identify “pain points,” workarounds, and exceptions early on in the process
- Utilize a process quality check list (e.g. a task is more efficient when performed earlier or later, which workarounds exceptions are candidates to be integrated and performed within the happy flow, …). Then, use this best practice process as a catalyzer for a gap-analysis discussion focused on domains but always inviting participants of neighbour domains to advance on transversal topics.
- Prioritize consideration of improving customer-centric processes in your review: there are bound to processes that are are largely back-end or proprietary that could be a pet focus for the executive team. But the goal of a successful business process review is to present a plan that has the best chance of delivering measurable results. Internally driven processes (e.g. audit, employee satisfaction) will not demonstrate the value of BPM like process that intersect with sales, customer service, order fulfillment, and other revenue-generating aspects of your company.
In addition, you should also read our older post: “Three Crucial Best Practices for the CIO’s BPM Pitch,” which fits into this discussion quite nicely as well, even if you are not a CIO.