Where do you start with business process?

There are many people with a sincere desire to manage business processes but have no idea where to start. It can appear overwhelming at first and more than a few of these people are in a lonely position, squeezed between an IT that sees the world as automation, and senior management that doesn’t fully buy into the value (and allocate the budget to do things well).

Without technology or senior support, phrases like, “under the radar,” and, “I don’t want to hassle anyone” are very common. Does this leave you helpless or are there things you can be doing?

Start now

Supported or not, technology-enabled or not, you can create an inventory.

  • Identify key process stakeholders in the organization. They usually have responsibility for either many or employees or critical manual functions…or both.
  • Find out what models are being used. You’ll be surprised to find SCOR, APQC, ITIL, TOGAF and other models are likely in use.
  • Determine the documentation used to support processes. Don’t be upset if the answer is “none” or “many”. In the absence of good process management, people either fail to document or do it in many, disparate ways.
  • Identify continuous improvement methodologies, if they exist. They may be informal, so ask the right questions. Appearing to reinvent the wheel won’t win any friends.
  • Look for experience in process modeling and BPMS. You may be surprised to find that there are skills around the organization and/or people with a passion for the work.

This quarter or earlier

So you’ve done these things. What can you do in the near future?

  • Identify ‘quick win’ process improvement opportunities. If your first project is one year long, it is likely going to lose momentum and support, no matter how clever it may be. Quick wins buy the good will to get funding and resources.
  • Improve upon documents and models. Start with what you have and find ways to include the work already done into something more centralized and managed. This step alone has a big payoff in efficiency and trust.
  • Start a POC (in stealth mode, if necessary) and get a victory. Find a sponsor willing to let you solve a problem and prove the value of solid BPM. Relationships will go a long way on this one.

The next year

What can you do for the long haul?

  • Establish a business process governing body. If you’ve achieved your quick win and built relationships, you’ll be selling upward at this point. Done well, this road is already paved.
  • Create a business process competency center. Start with the people who are motivated and within your sphere of influence. Don’t play ‘all-or-nothing’.
  • Get a differentiating business process into production. Call center operations are a great example. Visible and tangible results that can be easily measured in satisfaction scores. This should give you a sustained launch of BPM.
  • Market your success. No great idea goes unpunished…if you want support, executives need to hear in numbers and pictures, what you’ve accomplished. Keep it simple, non-grandstanding and factual.

More than anything, remember to look for value before looking for broad support. There are environments where C-level support is there from the start, but those are more the exception than the norm.

If you plan to demonstrate value early, you can’t go wrong in setting your own and your organization’s expectations.

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Chris Taylor joined Nimbus in 2009 as VP Consulting Americas, and leads a team of business process improvement consultants who serve major corporations across the world. Chris’s clients include Nestlé, Cisco, Northrop Grumman, ThyssenKrupp and many others, who use Business Process Management (BPM) tools and techniques to drive process standardisation, improvement, quality and compliance initiatives. His insight to what makes BPM a sustainable success for so many client organisations makes him a valuable industry commentator. Before joining Nimbus, Chris held senior consulting and leadership roles focused on business transformation with ILOG (now IBM), Perot Systems and Accenture. In his early career, Chris managed aircrew and flight operations while flying for the US Navy. He is an avid skier, hiker and sailor and spends most of his off time exploring the mountains and coasts near his home in Southern California and the rest of the world.