A Holistic Process Approach to Fixing Business Processes

A Holistic Process Approach to Fixing Business Processes

Once the decision has been made that a business process needs fixing the next step is figuring out how. Can it be done just by tweaking existing workflow or business logic? Do you need a cultural change in the organization to take advantage of a whole new opportunity that includes change the way you do business? (Pivoting to a new market or engaging in M&A activity often spurs such soul searching.) Do you just rip and replace it? If so, do you buy a big BPM package or take the DIY approach? Or is there a way to bolt on some new tech? (There's got to be an app-for-that, right?)

It's no secret that today's tech is changing everything we thought we knew about how to conduct business and this is forcing us to look at our businesses and, therefore out business processes, with fresh eyes. The days of just worrying about how well your processes meet just your needs are over. Your processes are now an integral part of your organizational persona. They reflect your culture. They interface with your customers, vendors, partners and suppliers. They drive (or limit) your ability to manage change, take advantage of new opportunities, and/or shed products and services that have become dead weight.

To fix and optimize your processes now requires a more holistic approach, one that includes taking into account not only your organizational culture but the future-state of your organization. Unfortunately, a lot of the folks in charge of these process optimization efforts, conditioned by the very technology that is now able to set them free, often get caught up in a technology-first mindset; the concept that says, "I have to apply technology to make these kinds of changes." In a lot of cases, it may just be as simple as tweaking the process that you already have. Or it could be a "manual" change. Or maybe it can be done using existing technology, a rule-change, or changing the way that people work, or reallocating the types of resources allocated to a particular task, may solve the problem.

The takeaway here is the old way of doing business process optimization are no longer scalable. There isn't an IT organization anywhere that will tell you they have the bandwidth to take on yet another wholesale change-management project, which is what old-school BPM efforts require. The truth is these types of over-horizon projects fail deliver the expected benefits more often than they succeed. If flexibility and agility are paramount to survive in today's hyper-fast business climate (and the prevailing business wisdom says they are), then your BPM solutions – technical or not – need to reflect that. That is why a holistic approach your business process optimization efforts is a necessity.

Taking this approach is even more important in a world where the same technology that has opened up your organization's internal workings has also put decision making and problem solving into the hands of a wider swath of your employees than ever before. This is great for customer service but it can play havoc with your back end if you are not optimizing your processes to support this distributed decision making.

So how do you act on these insights? Like everything new: look for opportunities for quick wins that won't break anything if your efforts don't pan out. When you are successful (which you will be) scale up from there. The idea is create small, manageable application scopes that will deliver value quickly. Fortunately, most companies understand this today. They've embraced the idea of an agile approach where change is iterative, steady, and broad-based rather than trying to boil the ocean.

To learn more about the future of business apps, read the white paper: “5 ways to transform business processes and optimize agility”