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The BPM "Fantastic Four"

Archaic business processes call for effective business process management (BPM), writes ITSM Watch guest columnist Stephen Coco of Intellilink.
Sep 7, 2007

Stephen Coco

Increasingly, companies are seeking to optimize their operations through business process management as a way of gaining competitive leverage. To optimize return on investment (ROI), BPM should focus on the empowerment of process operators and the “Fantastic Four” of best-practice frameworks: total time to change; fiscal and customer responsibility; process automation; and operational excellence.

Where to Start

Does a given process directly affect core business operations? How many different functions are affected? What is the impact on profitability? These factors represent the multiple criteria an organization needs to consider in order to start a effective BPM effort.

Conduct an assessment considering a process’ impact on the business, it’s complexity, and the difficulty to change that process then use the “Fantastic Four” of BPM as a guide to evolve your organization.

The characters in the popular Marvel Comics-based movie The Fantastic Four provide a framework for categorizing BPM best practices:

  • The Thing as total time to change;
  • The Invisible Woman as fiscal and customer responsibility;
  • The Human Torch as process automation; and
  • Mr. Fantastic as operational excellence.
  • The Thing: Total Time to Change

    Like The Thing, time constraints can be insurmountable without forethought. BPM initiatives usually confront limits: you can do only so much, and you have only so many resources. For example, an unrelated major scheduled rollout for October may require the same resources as an ongoing BPM effort—tabling the BPM project and causing start/stop issues.

    Avoid common pitfalls by applying best practices relating to total time to change:

    Recognize time constraints. Pre-identify major events and milestones, including start dates, stop periods, and conclusion. Time your effort to comply with relevant compliance and regulatory mandated requirements. Take account of industry or economic events that affect your timeline.

    Don’t rush the good stuff. Too much macro process change, too soon can be problematic. Take your time evolving core business processes and, if necessary, choose a few key processes for a pilot period.

    Understand your “people” time. Know who is available, when, and what their capacities and capabilities are.

    Know your strategy. Align process changes with your company’s business imperatives. Roadmap the BPM effort to ensure that all BPM related changes are directly linked to key company strategy and the timing associated with that strategy. Use a phase based approach to your BPM planning.

    The Invisible Woman: Fiscal and Customer Responsibility

    Don’t be blind to the invisible aspect of BPM: the failure to see the financial and customer-service consequences of processes clearly. Savvy BPM planners know that process redesign must be profitability-driven and that the operational changes must create a better overall customer experience. Get rid of the fat by maximizing value-added process steps and minimizing non–value-added steps.

    The best practices for fiscal and customer responsibility:

    Get customer and supplier buy-in. Use techniques like co-developed value-stream maps that pinpoint the specific steps of a process that add value versus those that do not, and use constant customer touch-points to ensure you have the ‘voice of the customer’ accounted for. A process is only effective when agreed upon by all stakeholders.

    Gauge change by ROI. Do not change processes for the sake of change, but rather to increase operating effectiveness and profitability. By assigning rates to your workforce and holding all other financial measurements constant, you can use simple financial metrics like the total direct labor cost (DLC) of the process to measure the process’s financial impact. Knowing your cost structure will also help identify opportunities to take advantage of economies of scale and quantify process opportunity costs when service/operating levels are not met.

    Know when to say no. Sometimes the best customer service feels like the worst. Before agreeing to a customer or supplier request, think about it. Understand your priorities, funnel the demand, and avoid promising deliveries that exceed your capacity or pull resources away from higher-priority projects. Restricting unabated entry into your process will yield the best service your organization can provide.

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