Image via WikipediaBusiness process improvement is fundamental to the best performing companies, although we rarely hear or talk about it. Instead we focus on how great the employees are, how they are trained to deliver great customer service, and how well their leaders inspire their people work better. Maybe it is because consumers of services are human-beings that we focus on the people part so much. Or maybe it is because so much of the focus of business process improvement has been in the mechanization, automation and general dehumanization of business processes that we have become immune to its benefits. Business processes are seen as tools that should just work, when we should be looking at them as better systems that involve talented people.
The thing is that business processes, unless you are talking about straight-through processing (STP) and ultimate automation, include people. This isn't about the marketing that we are seeing from business process management (BPM) vendors, classifying themselves as "leader in human-centric BPM for Java platforms", or some other ridiculous classification that allows somebody to be the leader in a niche that is unimportant to real business users. This is about helping people do their jobs better within processes, and helping people understand the processes that they work within so that they can make them better.
Linus Fernandes on his blog, Rubber Tyres -> Smooth Ride looks at it this way:
Most new software system implementations require people to be trained or re-trained; they have to understand why the new way of doing things is better, how it will make them more productive, how it affects the bottom-line. [...]
Yes, BPM can work, it does work, but it’s necessary to recognise the other associated costs especially with human capital.
The more fundamentally you try and change your processes, the more likely it is that you will need to train or employ specialists to understand and run them. Whereas, if you can keep your processes more natural, rather than something-centric, the more likely it is that you'll be able to benefit from the skills and experience your employees already have. Allow people to do the things that require intelligence and human-interaction. Feel free to automate other parts, but don't feel bullied into it by software marketing. If there is no value in automation, just help people work better by providing them the information and tools they need to produce a quality product or serve customers better.
For more thoughts on how customer service and efficiency fit together, see this short video.
A post from the Improving It blog
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