Sunday, May 06, 2007

Six points for business improvement

For the last week I've been surrounded by colleagues from across the globe, many of them long-time experts in BPM, ECM and the many business issues that they often accompany. It was a great chance to hear feedback from sales, implementations, marketing and strategic thinkers, while also trying to communicate to best effect my own experience and visions for the products I manage. Mixed with the chance to announce the imminent release of the next version of one of the products, I've been pretty busy preparing. So that's my excuse for not blogging for a while.

And what came out of all this work? My view of what the biggest issues are around business processes and how to improve them. I might even discuss some of these over the next few weeks.

So in no particular order, here are six areas I believe every organization looking to improve its operations should focus on:

  1. Understand that business processes extend across organizational boundaries
  2. Gain visibility into process performance with meaningful metrics that reflect business goals
  3. Track and manage every piece of work that enters, leaves or is created in the organization
  4. Deliver processes, operations, resources and information as services
  5. Remove waste from processes, don't just "pave the cowpath"
  6. Employ technology that delivers ROI, not just lowest TCO

I'm sure there are many more - feel free to prioritize your own list

Special learning for the week: technology comes last. It is people and their needs that matter.

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A post from the Improving New Account Opening blog


Anonymous said...

When you say technology "comes last", do you mean it is of least importance or it is the last step in the process improvement?

Phil Ayres said...

Dear 'anonymous', what are your views on this?

I'd say that many business leaders have little interest if their process improvement is delivered on a Java or MS platform or that every technology checkbox in a RFP is filled. The end solution (from a business leader's perspective) should be based on technology that is reliable, rapidly delivers the end-user's application needs now, and can grow as it helps the business grow.

That's not to say that technology is unimportant. Technology is important, and I would suggest that the IT guys are the best qualified to decide if a particular solution meets their own requirements for functionality, reliability and TCO.

The reality is that BPM can become obsessed with tools and gadgets, when it should be obsessed with improving performance, reducing costs, meeting business objectives. And these last obsessions should be completely measurable in terms specific to the business: cost to process a claim; value of new business written per day; reduced value in business lost due to errors; absolute growth of a line of business.

In my view, technology should not be pushed ahead of the business solution and its measurable value to the business. Otherwise how does a business leader translate what a specific solution is going to do for his or her goals (and the bonus they hope to receive)?

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Anonymous said...

Business leaders have always been promised a return on their IT investments. Process automation is not new and your bullets are well known goals for business, but still a correct observation.

What makes difference today with the BPM-story?

Phil Ayres said...

Hi Jonas,

I think that BPM is an ideal basis for helping business leaders understand their business objectives, implement applications that deliver them, and finally demonstrate that those objectives have been met.

Unfortunately BPMSs, driven by analyst checklists and the need to be SOA tech-savvy, tend to resort to the lowest technical level when talking about themselves. That instantly makes them inaccessible to the business leaders they should be assisting.

I'm not proposing that BPM should do anything particularly new, just be careful about how it talks about itself around business and technology people.