Over the last decade, the business world has made a paradigm shift in the way they think of business process reengineering (BPR). Senior business managers now base their BPR discussions on the concepts of “value adding” and “innovation,” aiming to reengineer business processes so that their organization’s operations and customer-facing services become more agile, dynamic, transparent, governable and profitable. Talk of BPR is now framed in terms of key performance indicators (KPIs) and
key performance measures (KPMs). The days of reinvigorating business practices throughout a given operational or supply chain, without an exact understanding of return on investment (ROI) - i.e., proper implementation of KPI/KPM around the process - are officially past.
The difficult economic conditions that currently persist worldwide will inevitably result in a good deal of consolidation and contraction in many industries. Keeping in mind the current recessionary challenges, it is a given that most large companies will have to change, at least in the short term, the way they conduct various parts of their day-to-day business. The impetus for organizations to “go green” is a another reason that business entities will need to examine many of their current core business processes, streamlining and tweaking them for maximum cost savings and efficiency, while making them more sustainable and environmentally friendly. A round of BPR will be absolutely necessary for the survival of many companies in this economically uncertain time, yet this also creates a great opportunity for businesses to better position themselves against their competition with innovations in service delivery, operational transparency, organizational structure and smarter consumption of raw materials. In addition, significant reorganizations of staff and an amalgamation of geographic offices and data centers may create a huge vacuum of responsibility and accountability for several mission-critical business processes. If you have recently dealt with a help desk or call center in the last few months, it won’t take long to conclude that intra-company service level agreements and (customer-facing) business process ownership is in complete disarray for even the most quality conscious of organizations.
Unless a company consciously and continually seeks innovation when they set to restructure and reengineer their business processes, sooner or later they will fail to maintain their competitive advantage, only to have their products and services marginalized into run-of-the-mill commodities. Such business process reengineering must not happen organically; detailed attention must be paid to corresponding future performance measurements and ROI per process. However, in their haste to save immediate money and show the greatest short-term preservation of cash, corporations are likely to “shoot first and ask questions later”—changing business processes as fast as possible, with an accompanying dearth of documentation.
Best Practices in Process Improvement and Innovation
To avoid the gravitation towards commoditization, it may be important for enterprises to look beyond their current portfolio of Six Sigma and quality management methodologies. While techniques for sustained business process innovation must be rooted in existing quality-management practices, they must support and lend themselves to the highest levels of business agility. By employing a host of tactics to achieve process innovation and value creation, existing organizational barriers that hinder essential change can be overcome. Some of these tactics include:
- Focused Internal Collaboration - Transparency and accountability will be provided via latest-generation knowledge management (service oriented architectures) platforms and dashboard technology for greater business agility.
- Applied Customer Driven Innovation – Greater responsibility will be given to customers on managing their purchasing and consumption experiences. A circle of “holistic innovation” will identify process steps as value-adding or non-value adding, with requisite innovations made where possible. Process steps that do not add value will be shortened or completely eliminated.
- Deeper Process and Data Mapping – Enterprise systems, process, data, and physical locations are documented from a more granular level and mapped to one another for maximum transparency and business continuity. Without a detailed insight into the lower levels of an organization’s mission critical operational landscape, business process innovation will be constrained.
- Better Process Metrics – KPIs and KPMs must be better defined and tuned, in order to more effectively mirror the essential nature of business processes.
- Further Automation of Workflow – Process steps are further electronically enabled and automated. Especially important are those processes where data is stranded in a non-electronic form such as water or gas meters and relies on the manual collection of data. The end goal should be to implement as many business processes as possible online.
In addition to the above, over the next year, both outsourcing and complex event processing will increasingly compete for the attention of CIOs looking to determine what techniques they can leverage to best realign and revitalize their business processes.