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BPM Survey: The current state of process quality (pt 2)

Nearly 150 companies have completed our survey on ‘Quality in BPM’. And while we’d hesitate to call this a truly representative sample, the results nevertheless provide interesting reading material. Together with the University of Applied Sciences Koblenz we asked the survey participants to answer questions on process quality, their approaches to designing processes as well as questions on challenges they’ve overcome and issues that continue to frustrate them.

Successful companies change their processes more often
change_frequencyIt must rank as one of the more popular myths that companies which seldom change their processes run a stable and successful ship. In reply to our question on how frequently companies change their processes, 44% responded with ‚at least once a year‘.  This number, while being surprisingly high in itself becomes even more significant when it’s put into the context of a companies market success: A full 63% of companies which change their processes at least once a year are more successful than their competitors from the same industry. This leads us to conclude that a high change frequency leads to a high level of process competency which in turn results in successful company performance.

>> Read on

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  1. Stacy says:

    Nice article on BPM, and I would conjure that research on 150 companies is sufficient to begin forming opinions.

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BPM Survey: The current state of process quality (pt 1)

While our team is still busy with the final analysis of the data from the ‘Quality in Process Management Survey’ we conducted together with the University of Applied Sciences Koblenz over the past few months, let me kick off the discussion with a few general observations:

Even though business process management still ranks as one of the leading topics for senior management (as it has for the past 10 years or so), the quality of the processes designed, implemented and operated does little to suggest that much attention is paid to delivering something that comes even close to the importance attached to it.

With just 4% of companies claiming that their processes are ready for operations once they leave the project phase and more than a third of companies having to invest substantial effort to re-work processes to turn them operational, it seems that a lot of the BPM initiatives are a far cry from anything that could be called successful.

Of course, all this is not from lack of trying: Many companies have invested in technology to support their processes, have created roles such as process managers, process owners and have even established some sort of process governance. Much is in fact being done and companies are continuing to invest heavily into BPM. Only it seems that more investment and technology are unrelated to the causes behind the lack of process quality.

Over the next few weeks we will look at some of the survey results in more detail on this blog. And despite the negative tone of this post let me assure you that the survey results also show some positives: There are clear indications which explain why companies which are more successful than the rest of the industry have achieved that status through their approaches to managing their processes -  from design to operations. So tune in again soon to find out more.

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Why business analysts should also see themselves as process vendors

So you’ve analysed the situation, isolated the problem and found a way to solve said problem. Job done? Hardly. But that’s where it stops for many business analysts – much to their own frustration. Let’s face it, a process not taken up by the enterprise is in fact not a process, it’s an idea, a design only, regardless of how many days and months of effort went into it and no matter how valuable it could be to the enterprise.

Selling the process to the enterprise is the prerequisite for your solution even having a chance to solve the problem. The challenge is really to understand the imbalance you’re facing: The problem is there but your solution isn’t.

First question therefore: Who is your customer? Just as you have (hopefully) made sure that the process you designed is suited to the process customers’ requirements, your solution development process should also address the customer – in this case, the people you stand to profit from your solution. Note that I didn’t say ‘the people facing the problem’, because they are in many cases not the same people.

When it comes to ‘selling’ processes to the enterprise you need to look at two different sets of people with different motivations.

Let’s start with the easier of the two groups, the people facing the process problem on a daily basis. They need to be convinced that your solution will make life just that little bit easier for them without causing new problems in other areas of their work. What you need from them is acceptance and at least tacit support. Nothing more but certainly no less. With the recent surge in collaborative approaches and ‘Social BPM’, communicating with the process ground force will become easier to accomplish.

The second group – and this is where we turn to the hard sell – are the decision makers. We may shake our heads as much as we like but this group usually has a different main interest and a totally different perception of processes. They are (and maybe need to be) primarily interested in risk: Risk that KPIs of processes they are formally responsible for will reflect badly on them, risk that they have to share responsibility and also the risk, that any decision taken will be boycotted by their staff. What they are looking for is predictability and reliability.

Decision makers are also driven by the results of processes, whereas business analysts are usually focussed on the causes of good or bad results.

So now we have this situation where management may be unhappy with the results but at least they know what they are getting. It’s ‘the devil you know’ thing at work. And now there’s you holding up your process maps, trying to talk about the detailed flaws and causes of the present situation before outlining why changing this and that in the process will produce better results. See anything wrong with this picture? Still wondering why so many project results never see the light of day?

Also consider this: Among the many qualifications and skills a good business analyst needs, the ability to create a good abstraction of the real world must rank near the top of the list. That is YOUR skill and now you’re asking someone else with a different skillset and different qualifications not only to understand and appreciate your work but to promote it from concept to reality. Aren’t the bells of risk beginning to ring in your head too? They’re certainly ringing close to the decision makers ears. Frustrating, isn’t it?

One approach to solving this problem is to translate your abstraction of the solution into a scenery and language your customers understand. We do this by way of process validation and simulation. Creating a setting for management to experience the effects of your solution provides a much better chance of uptake than explaining your idea. No danger of interpretation, no danger of using the wrong buzzwords. Simply create a new (temporary) reality for your customers. Forget the causes, allow them to view the effects.

The Process TestLab has recently seen an increase in the number of process validation sessions which were run solely to allow decision makers to understand the impact and consequences of potential process solutions – without having to commit themselves to financing a sandbox environment. Reduced risk, reduced cost: higher chances of management buy-in and solution uptake.

Singing We are the champions under the shower may be an enjoyable experience for you but it won’t turn you into a mega-selling rock star. For that you need an audience willing to listen and to give you that much needed break. The Process TestLab can do the same for your process ambitions: You provide the content, we provide the stage – and then you have a real chance at process stardom.

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  1. Stacy says:

    Appreciate the time and research here: “Reduced risk, reduced cost: higher chances of management buy-in and solution uptake”

    This is what its all about, right? :)

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