From Chaos to Compliance

My last blog, Business Process Management in the 21st Century, explained the Business Process Management (BPM) breakthrough that puts business processes at the heart of the system for managing a business. I said that this will help organisations save time and money and deliver value. All good words but this is easier said than done!

Process chaos

In many organisations the way of working seems chaotic from the oustide and sometimes also from the inside. However there is generally an underlying order of events, allbeit with unpredictable results, with people using work arounds and short cuts to achieve their tasks.  

So, how do we practically apply this BPM breakthrough within these organisations?

I am sure that you are aware of many examples where the concept of business processes have tried to be implemented under the banner of improvement initiatives such as business process re-engineering, lean philosophy, total quality management, six sigma, value chain analysis, cycle time reduction, Kaizen and EFQM … and failed to live up to expectations and deliver the improvements and savings that were expected. There is a view that 80% of all initiatives fail.

Will this change and why should this 21st century concept of BPM make any difference? Well, the good news is that these initiatives did not fail because they were not good initiatives. They and many other initiatives are good and founded on sound theory. So why haven’t they worked?

Why improvement initiatives fail
After spending a lot of money on resources to come into an organisation to project manage and facilitate changes with the team, department or business unit, initiatives have been deemed to have failed because of :

  • lack of drive from people at the top and the bottom of the organisation
  • people falling back into old habits and the interest not maintained
  • people don’t like change and there is no buy in to the new way of working
  • others trying to change what people do, don’t really understand what they do

If it wasn’t for the people then everything would be fine!

The business case for an improvement initiative requires a return on the investment in the resources and the time that people spend identifying and designing improvements. Therefore the outcome of the initiative must be a step change to what an organisation does now in order to deliver the savings – otherwise why invest in it?

What is probably going through peoples’ heads is that they can see improvements to what happens now but there is no way of implementing them – they don’t need step change for this. People don’t follow what they are supposed to do now so why should they follow a different way of working. Let’s sort this chaos out first before a step change is made to a new type of chaos.

Stabilising the way of working
They are absolutely right and therefore there should be no surprise when the people resort to trying to sort out the chaos that they know, rather than the change to the improved chaos that someone thinks is better. No wonder we see these reasons for failure.

How will the concept of 21st century BPM make any difference to this?

One of the tools used in nearly all improvement initiatives is process maps. Many initiatives will start with mapping out what is known as the current state processes with the team, department or business unit. A BPM System such as Barium Live! can easily be used to model what happens in an organisation. Links can be made to documents such as guidance notes, forms and procedures and to urls to web sites or to the data management systems of the organisation. These process maps or models can then be made accessible to everyone in the organisation to follow.

However, to be absolutely sure that these processes are followed, these processes must become the heart of the system that is used for managing the business. This is where 21st century BPM concept makes a difference and the rapid Map to App functionality of Barium Live! becomes really important. When the processes are run as applications, everyone in the organisation follows the processes as designed. Chaos no longer exists and the way of working is stabilised.

By mapping out the current state, you will find that quick win improvements are obvious and can be implemented immediately. These are usually the ones that have been obvious to people for some time. By running a processes as an application, people can see that everyone is following an agreed way of working. There is something tangible upon which to have discussions on improvements and there is a confidence that an improved way of working can be implemented and complied with. Now, maybe those sound improvement initiatives stand a better chance and there will be closer to an 80% success rate rather than an 80% failure rate.

Vision and leadership
What is required of a leader in an organisation wanting to change is the vision and leadership to initiate the change and to require the use of business processes at the heart of the system for management. However, as I mention in my blog Business Process Management in the 21st Century, this is treading directly into the territory that was the domain of the IT systems. Future blogs will look at how the Business Director leading the change can convince the IT Director that a BPM System is there to complement the data management of the IT system and how the improvement initiatives can be applied to a stable way of working using systems like Barium Live!

Andy Salmon
Technical Director, WSP UK

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