Web-services, SOA, BPM & Cloud Computing – XI

Business Process Reengineering Cycle

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The term Business Process Management (BPM) has been buzzing around for quite a while.

What exactly is BPM?

Is it solely about technology?

Or is it more than that?

Yes, BPM is in vogue because the technology to model processes, simulate them, improve them, and maybe even improvise is available in a huge way.

Business Process Management takes a completely different approach to business; instead of looking at how departments function, it looks at how processes work instead.  It cuts across silos preferring a holistic look at the enterprise and its functions. It prefers to forego local optima for global optimisation. The whole value chain may be part of a process starting from suppliers and ending with the customer.

Can we identify the processes that take place to produce a certain output? What are the different departments and functions that collaborate to produce the desired product or result? How does it all jell together? What are the different services provided that assist in the process?

What are the activities or services  that make up a process? What is the time dedicated to each activity in the process? Where are the bottle-necks? What are the specific business rules that apply to a process? What are the different types of cases or customers  that are encountered? Is there anyway the entire process could be speeded up?

These are just a sample of the questions that process design and modelling seek to answer.

The breaking-up of a process into its constituent parts , the persons who will be part of the process, the specific policies to be instituted for automating the process, and finally the exceptions that need manual intervention or a different process or sub-process are all modelled.

First, an as-is representation is created to allow the interested parties to understand how the existing process works. This is not necessarily the same as each person’s comprehension of the process.

Once a model is created, analysis of the activities and the costs associated with each activity—monetary and time— is necessary to identify and cut out the flab in the system.

Non-value adding activities are to be trimmed  and the time and cost of the retained activities are sought to be reduced.

Finally, once the new process is put in place , a business activity monitoring activity is also set up to ensure that there is no lapse back into old habits and practices.

The monitoring activity leads to identification of refinements to the process, which aids in optimizing it.

So what’s the big deal?

The big deal is that BPM is about change. It needs a culture that can sustain change. A culture that is resistant to change will not take kindly to new processes that are  “not the way we do it here or not the way we always did it”.

Lest you think that this phenomenon is limited to BPM, think again.

When was the last time a new software system or application was launched in your organisation? What was the reaction? Was it universally welcomed? Or did there occur a chorus of groans that echoed and said “Oh, no, not again! Not another one!”

Yes, that’s what I mean. 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.

Without buy-in from the people involved in the process, there is likely to be friction generated and resentment created. Yes, a diktat system may work but do you really need a larger churn in employees or greater job dissatisfaction?

More importantly, the makeover of processes may cost old jobs, require new skills and possibly create new specialist positions.

(Has anyone noted the pace of change in nationalised banks , here in India? Do they lack resources?)

What would your organization’s strategy be?

Yes, BPM can work, it does work, but it’s necessary to recognise the other associated costs especially with human capital.

The technology is something we can discuss later.

Have a great weekend!

The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.

Muhammad Ali

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