Process Is Competitive Advantage … Yes Really!

Product ideas are competitive advantage, production techniques are competitive advantage, business models are competitive advantage. But process. Surely not something as mundane and boring as process.

For most organisations their processes are documented and controlled less well than any other asset in the business. Probably every organisation has a better handle on their company mobile phones (which are free) than their processes. But that is changing – and fast.

The recent economic downturn has turned the executive spotlight onto operational efficiencies – and that means a clearer understanding of process. The second driver has been regulatory compliance which is forcing companies to document their processes and make them more transparent. As the economy has eased (slightly) companies who ‘got’ that process is both a strategic weapon and regulatory support are unwilling to let themselves go back to the old way; processes updated sporadically just before an audit. They recognise that way leads to cost and no benefit.

OK so far. But that makes processes important but not competitive advantage. Show me the evidence.

Firstly, I see that processes are being baked into operational strategy in (Fortune1000) company after company. And secondly, major companies are using their process assets in customer facing situations to improve their customer experience and win new business – turning their investment in process management into direct competitive advantage.

So the questions are –

When will process be so important to your company that you are prepared to run a formal procurement and make a multi-million dollar commitment to roll-out a process application to every employee, make an advertising-level quality video to communicate it to your organisation, and reap the rewards?

When will you feel ready to show your key customers what you are doing around process management – as a positive differentiator, not a compliance backstop?

Or are you desperately hoping to find that next breakthrough product – and ignoring the very quick wins and competitive advantage of process management?

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Ian Gotts is CEO and Chairman of Nimbus Partners, an established and rapidly growing global software company, headquartered in the UK. He is a very experienced senior executive and serial entrepreneur, with a career spanning 25 years. Ian has co-authored a number of books including “Common Approach, Uncommon Results”, published in English and Chinese and in its second edition, "Why Killer Products Don't Sell" and books covering Cloud computing from the perspective of both the prospective buyer, and the software vendor. Having begun his career in 1983 as an engineer for British Rail, Ian then spent 12 years at Accenture (nee Andersen Consulting) specialising in the project management of major business critical IT projects. During this time, he spent two years as an IT Director, seconded to the Department for Social Security (DSS), with a department of over 500 and a budget responsibility of 40 million pounds.