Why do organisations have a laissez-faire attitude to process management?

How can organizations have a laser focus on some aspects of performance, and yet be blasé about other things that matter equally to their success?

The next wave in back-office transformation promises a new tranche of efficiency savings. It’s on every CEO’s radar. Huge sums are being spent on transformation programs. But many organizations seem content to allow significant value to leak away – by taking a curiously laid-back approach to managing process.

Their blind spot reflects the continuing prejudice about process in many organizations; the view that process is for nerds. Peter Franz, managing director at Accenture and leader on BPM, mentioned at the Gartner Summit last week that he even has two versions of his business cards: one with, and one without, the inflammatory ‘P’ word in his title.

The case for giving more attention to process management is now overwhelming – and especially in back-office transformation, as the pace of change accelerates:

Within back-office functions – Finance, HR, IT – hybrid service delivery models, mixing internal shared services with external outsourced services, are the new normal. And multisourcing predominates, with shorter contract terms and multiple service providers.

Across back-office functions, initiatives to drive new levels of savings and service improvements are integrating the functional silos – Finance, HR, IT – to create new Business Services organizations.

Everything points to a future where service delivery is far more complex and dynamic: the Service Integration challenge.

Leaders in service integration see process as the essential language of successful transformation. They see a process management platform as the framework for collaboration and continuous improvement – long after the program team have gone. They want joined-up perspectives and a governance framework that meets compliance requirements and ensures sustainability.

But many other organizations are astonishingly negligent in how they manage process. They treat process as a consumable, a necessary overhead. From their perspective, it doesn’t matter if process is fragmented or incomplete, or duplicated and inconsistent, or in different tools and formats, or sustainably managed beyond the end of the project. They don’t recognize process as a business asset.

Two stories just this week that illustrate the extraordinary waste that results. In one case, an organization is set to spend upwards of $500k to transfer processes created by its SI in one process tool onto its strategic process management platform. In the other case, an organization spent several millions to capture its outsourced processes, but allowed the outsourcer to ‘manage’ them, and so now has to invest again just to regain the process understanding that will allow it to figure out how to re-bid the outsourced contract.

Peter Franz makes the point that this really is a C-Suite issue. Organizations go to very expensive lengths to optimize other aspects of service integration – and yet have such a laissez faire, short-term and project-based attitude to process management.

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Mike Gammage is VP and Principal Consultant at Nimbus Partners. Mike has worked in performance improvement consulting, and more recently the BPM space, for more than two decades. He is particularly interested in the overlap between two very dynamic worlds: BPM and perfomance improvement (the drive across all industries to standardise, improve and automate) and sourcing and the virtualisation of the enterprise (the drive to create more flexible and lower-cost service solutions through outsourcing, offshoring and shared services). In either case, Mike believes the enterprise needs a single source of truth about its end-to-end business processes, as well as a framework for the design and implementation of change. It also needs to connect the end-user and all other stakeholders to ensure the adoption of change. These are the keys to sustainable transformation and continuous improvement.