Maximizing BPM Benefit

When faced with the elusive question, “How do I maximize my long-term benefit?”, remember these two key principles:

  • BPM should be a continuous learning cycle.
  • New process improvement ideas can come from unexpected places.

As part of our recent research study on organizations across a dozen industries who have implemented a BPM solution in the past 3-5 years, the following quote from a Financial Services company representative highlights this point:

“You must know what BPM tools do best. Once you’ve catered your initial processes based on this core functionality, it is essential to then learn what else the tool can do for you. You must constantly be in a learning mode.”

With a BPM suite, by increasing its use, you increase its value. As users become more fluent in the concept of process management and broaden their understanding of the functionality and capabilities of the tool, they uncover more and more opportunities to increase productivity and quality in their daily activities.

Today’s BPM suites have so much functionality that you can actually create unnecessary risk if you try to do too much in the first few processes.  Let the concepts sink in, let the team get used to it. Before you know it, they will be bringing new suggestions on what else to improve/tweak/change.  Consider incentivizing the staff to generate new ideas.

Organizations that use their BPM for one or two processes can realize significant benefits and cost savings.  But the organizations who have realized the most benefit from their BPM implementation have truly embraced the concept of continuous improvement using BPM to improve traceability, visibility, accuracy and speed of their processes.

These days, saving money and improving processes is everyone’s responsibility. Gone are the days of “I-just-work-here”.  Everyone up and down the process chain will play a part in maximizing your organization’s benefit from BPM.  Keep the communication feedback channels (and your ears) open…

Doublin’ Down in Hard Times

Hard times are definitely here.  By this time everybody in IT-land has done the obvious: frozen maintenance where possible, put off hardware and software upgrades, outsourced where possible, trimmed heads (contractors, consultants, staff), pushed BI/CPM/EPM analytics projects forward, and tuned up data and web resources.

Now is the time to think outside the bunker!

IT needs to consider what will need to be done to nurture the green shoots poking through the nuclear fallout. All of the talking heads and pundits see them ( glowing with radiation or whatever) and  the utmost must be done to make sure they survive and grow or we shall all sink into the abyss!

This is the time to double down in IT (poker speak).  It is not about heavily hyped Cloud Computing or the latest must-have tech gadget, but about something much more mundane and boring: improving the business process.  There, I’ve said it, what could possibly be more boring?  It doesn’t even plug-in.  In fact (shudder!), it may be partially manual.

Business process is what gets the job done (feeding our paychecks!).  Recessions are historically the perfect time to revise and streamline (supercharge ’em!)  existing business processes because it allows the company to accelerate ahead of the pack coming out of the recession.  In addition, recession acts as something of a time-out for everybody (I only got beatings, no time-outs for me), like the yellow flag during a NASCAR race.  When the yellow flag is out, time to hit the pits for gas and tires.  Double down when it is slow to go faster when things speed up again, obviously the only thing to do.

How? is usually the question.  The best first step is to have existing business processes documented and reviewed.  Neither the staff involved driving the process at the moment nor the business analysts (internal or consultants) are that busy at the moment.  That means any economic or dollar cost of doubling will be minimized under the economic yellow flag.  The second step is to look for best practice, then glance ouside-the-box to maximize improvement.  The third step is to look for supporting technology to supercharge the newly streamlined business process (I knew I could get some IT in there to justify my miserable existance!).

Small and medium businesses get the biggest bang for the buck (just picture trying to gas and change the tires on the Exxon Valdez at Daytona) with this strategy.  This process allows SMBs to leapfrog the best practice and technology research the Global 2000 have done and cut to the chase without the pioneer’s cost (damn those arrows in the backside hurt!).  Plus implementation is cheaper during recession ( I love to be on the buy-side).  The hardware, software, and integration guys have to keep busy so they cut prices to the bone.

The way forward is clear, IT only needs to lead the way, following is kind of boring anyway.

Designed to Sell, Corporate Edition

When contemplating which business units or product lines to put up for sale in today’s challenging market, it might be wise to borrow some tactics from  the real estate market. It really comes down to three important guiding principles in planning a divestiture as part of your deleveraging strategy:

1. Know your market – cultivate target buyers to avoid a fire sale. Identify players looking for complementiarity in products, services or customer base.

2. Model the outcome on your going-forward financials – freeing up cash may be top of mind for everyone, but we all need to think past the current crisis and understand what the impact will be on sales and profitability going forward. If you don’t have a business intelligence toolset in place already, you may have difficulty in achieving the type of agile scenario modelling that is necessary here. Infoworld is reporting BI as a key spending area in the recession, specifically for determining profitability.

3. Know where to invest, or “design to sell.”basement – there may be secondary benefits, above and beyond a divestiture’s products, services, and customer base. Specifically in the technology architecture, especially if the business unit is on its own (instead of shared corporate) platforms. Ancient mainframe technology is like the walnut panelling and avocado shag carpeting lurking in the basement. Customized applications with their big in-house support teams are like the pink stucco patio and poolhouse a proud homeowner showcases, causing the buyer to race down the road to the next listing. Call in the design team, these could be good spots to begin a corporate makeover, as they are very likely to increase the value of the sale.

On the flip side, things like collaboration tools and  business process management suites are like the well-appointed master suites and media rooms that can help a buyer warm up to the sale. In addition to things like a lean operating architecture, these technologies help make a divestiture an attractive asset for buyers looking to build out a platform company.