Tag Archives: business rules

Is Present Reality (Current State) a Prerequisite for Design of the Future State?

Once in awhile, a riddle so obscure and enigmatic comes along that it baffles and stumps most of our brightest thinkers and deepest philosophers, qualifying as a Zen koan. Like the sound of one hand clapping or the sight of your face before you were conceived, the answer cannot really be found in any conventional sense. Well, in my humble opinion good people, the tension between current state and future state and the need to document and analyze the “as-is” prior to taking on the “to-be” doesn’t qualify as a Zen Koan or a crossword puzzle for that matter. There is no question. You have to understand the present dynamics and process in order to sensibly develop something new.

I know that I will offend some of the business process management wizards and high priests by saying as much but my position is one of firmly believing in the value of documenting and analyzing the current state to ensure a high quality future. Frankly, jumping into the design of the future state without regard for a rather precise current state is irresponsible. Not unlike asking someone how they’d like to perform in graduate school without first ascertaining whether they can read or not. Or promising someone full health without first diagnosing their diabetes. The present state in business tells a vast and deep story that shapes the possible and potential future.

Dangerous “Experts”

I attended a conference recently (devoted to the adoption of EMR in physician practices) whereupon I was able to listen to a discussion at our lunch table between a woefully ignorant doctor who wondered aloud what it would take to implement such a thing as an electronic medical record and an “expert” across the table who piped up and assured him that he needn’t worry about how things are done in in his practice today. He would only be required to imagine what life would be like with his new system. What a  load!

Notwithstanding that particular “consultant” and his advice to the good doctor, it got me wondering, “How many of my colleagues would suggest the same?” I wish I could survey all of my BPM brothers and sisters out there. Do you honestly think you can account for all of the business rules, decision-making, forms, customer preferences, suppliers, and key metrics involved in a process without concerning yourselves with the current state. Do you really think you can skip that step and begin modeling the future state without compromising quality or any other vital business attribute? I think not.

Change without consideration for the present is invention

Don’t get me wrong. I love to invent stuff and get wickedly creative when given a chance to roam free. However, invention cannot capture all of the good reasons why my system dynamics are what they are and cannot account for the benefits and value inherent in my current state without first elucidating them. Failing to harvest and capture the good, the rules, the data, the preferences, and the logic and simply launching into invention risks losing a lot including compliance with standards of all kinds. The risks involved can cause an invented business process to become fatally flawed in short order, grinding business to a halt.

Take your time and carefully document what you do today and how you do it. Inventing the wrong thing, failing and trying weeks or months later to return to an undocumented state is fools work.

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HR Dimensions of BPM (business process management) Are Mission-Critical

Business Process Management (BPM) promises to bring the disciplines of IT and HR together. That’s the promise, anyway.  BPM draws the map and establishes goals while HR provides the framework to hold people accountable for those goals. Sadly, I rarely see the integration of HR in BPM projects led by IT folks and yet I believe it’s absolutely essential. Bridging the divide between HR and IT is not so difficult if you follow some simple guidelines.

  • Understand HR’s Role. This is fundamental to your success. You must understand that significant changes in business process cause changes in job description and performance expectations. HR can help you decide which changes are significant enough to have a material impact on job descriptions and can identify those performance measures that make a difference to performance appraisal. Similarly, significant changes in processes may mean change in employee recruiting (you may, in fact, be seeking a different skill-set than previously thought) and it will likely mean considerable change in supervision.
  • Integrate From The Beginning. Include HR in the BPM discussion from the start. Invite HR to the table and seek their input and advice. If you don’t have an HR professional on your staff, invite a consultant from the community. Trust me, the lawsuits that can result from botching this aspect of your BPM initiative will outstrip the cost of hiring an HR consultant by a factor of 100.
  • Include HR in Human-Centric BPR (re-engineering). BPM and BPR are not simply mapping exercises. Eliminating waste, finding efficiencies and improving quality in the way things are done is about modifying human behavior. All of our models and talk of “suppliers, triggers, resources, outputs and metrics” must bear in mind that real people are involved at every juncture.
  • Conduct HR/BPM Gap Analysis. Involve HR in assessment of the changes you’re making to the current state. Review your future state designs together and determine:
  1. What rules need to be properly documented and how will people be held accountable for following those rules?
  2. How will employees navigate the decision-making processes and who do they seek permissions from?
  3. What training will employees require to implement the new state of your business processes?
  4. Who will provide that training and how will you know when your people are competent in the new way of doing things?
  5. Are there any risks associated with your new business processes? Exposure to dangerous conditions? Risk of accident or injury? Violations of workplace safety laws? Your HR professional can answer these questions for you.
  • Establish New Performance Metrics Together.  Assume the new key performance indicators (KPIs) will have a direct impact on the way employees are appraised and rewarded. There may be some exceptions and your HR professional can help you decide.
  • Enlist HR to Communicate your BPM Initiative. Establishing buy-in and overcoming resistance to change (your biggest barriers to success) are dealt with by executing a comprehensive communication plan. You must create and maintain momentum by including all of your stakeholders in the conversation. Your greatest asset in communications is your HR professional. IT people in particular should not attempt to communicate without the help of HR.
  • Implementation & Training. You want to implement changes in process and HR professionals want to properly train people. Implementation is the intersection where HR and IT usually collide. If you’ve followed these guidelines reasonably well till now, implementation will be a success because it will have been a collaborative effort.
  • Assess Compliance. Compliance is a creature with many heads. While IT may have ERP, XML and integration standards they are trying to comply with and the CFO has Sarbanes-Oxley compliance issues with the new process, HR will have a full slate of compliance issues to assess. There are safety and occupational hazrds to assess, discrimination and disability conditions to review and the full array of hiring/training/supervising processes to evaluate in light of a modified workflow. It’s not impossible, for instance, to engineer or design a business process that suddenly creates a disadvantage for people with a disability who had been properly hired to do things the “old way”.

The most often-cited reason BPM projects stumble and fall is that organizational dynamics and human behaviors weren’t properly assessed and accounted for. There is a lot of psychology at work here. HR people are a different breed and IT people – most often asked to lead BPM – need to accept and include HR. I think the creation of HR/IT teams for the purpose of BPM ought to be your first BPM initiative. It’ll create the conditions for everything else you’re hoping to accomplish.

Market Roller-Coaster Ride Strongest Justification For Business Process Management, Analysis and Re-Engineering

Business Process Resiliency

The past week’s tumultuous downward spiral, global banking interventions and stock market spike speak to the need for organizational resiliency everywhere. I’m speaking primarily to those of you who are scrambling this week to get your shop under some semblance of control in the wake of your market’s turbulence. You’re desperately seeking answers and you’ve heard or read somewhere that workflow management and business process management (inclusive of documentation, analysis, design and re-engineering) can transform the way you do business. The promises are lofty but, like technology, workflow management and BPM are essential tools. The difference is not in saying “we do BPM” but in the way that you implement BPM in the social, cultural, and operational fabric of your organization. The value and benefit is in HOW you use BPM. But the bottom-line is BPM produces a degree of resiliency not possible without it. That may be a strong opinion but I will stand by it. One cannot adapt to invisible conditions. BPM makes conditions visible and adaptable. You do the math.

BPM Builds Resiliency

To contend that BPM builds resiliency is not quite complete. It makes resiliency possible. It is the lens through which you can identify your resiliency needs. Without visible processes, you have to rely entirely on anecdotes, opinions and assumptions concerning your strengths, weaknesses, productivity and efficiency. All of which vary from one employee, supervisor or director to another. Social constructs like that are always relative. BPM is the closest thing we have to a mechanical view of your enterprise and much less susceptible to relative interpretation. A business process model is the shortest and potentially most accurate model depicting what you do and how you do it. Imagine military leaders discussing strategy and tactics in the midst of battle rather than at the perimeter of a table housing a model of their battlefield and you begin to get the picture. If you’re in the thick of the trees, it’s tough to see the forest and your place in it. If you’re slogging it out in the muck, it’s tough to develop an adaptive strategy with your mates.

Resiliency is about adapting to conditions and bouncing back from blows. Adaptation requires knowledge of conditions in the environment or ecosystem as much as it requires knowledge of ones own capabilities, traits and resources. There is no substitute or alternative at the moment for BPM in demonstrating, reflecting, modeling and measuring conditions in both the company and its market. It’s the shortest route to a complete assessment and planning.

Measures and Metrics Count

Notice that adaptation is also a function of measuring conditions. Unlike natural selection processes which might favor traits and capabilities honed over decades, centuries, and millenia, we need immediate access to accurate data concerning our strengths and weaknesses. Our environment is changing much too fast to wait for year-end results. BPM will equip you with deep knowledge of what it is you need to measure. A high-performance entity measures in surprising ways and – of course, – what gets measured varies widely across industries. However, what gets measured gets managed. It’s not what you expect that will change deliberately. It’s what you inspect.

Break The Rules?

Our experience with economic upheaval ought to be having the effect of causing you to challenge your assumptions, myths and deep-seated beliefs in the rules you follow. Not sure what rules govern your business? Don’t worry, that’s what BPM will help you discover. BPM establishes the rationale for process and articulates the business rules you follow. Upon identifying your business rules, challenge them. If you can break them and establish new rules without breaking the law or any ethical/moral codes and without compromising your quality, customers, employees or mission then you will be participating fully in your own adaption and resiliency. How about that!

If the rules you live by don’t change while the economic and market forces around you are changing at the speed of light (as they have been for a month or two) then, my friends, you will get left behind. Don’t let this happen.

Up and Down

Like the roller-coaster we’re on, you need to assess what you’re up to at the macro levels of strategy and economic/market factors as much as you do at the more micro levels of business process and key performance metrics. Inside, out, up and down. Many of you are new to this field. Some of you are new analysts and some of you are executives. All of you may be wondering if business process management is right for you. The answer is that it is essential.

State Of The Economy A Powerful Reminder For Us All: Plan For & Make Business Process Changes With Help Of A Comprehensive Business Case

Kapalign’s Business Case Assessment Tool: Print Me!

News of Washington Mutual folding and Congress stalling on bailout plans is not the sort of thing you expect to discuss on a blog dedicated to smart business practices. Wait a minute…aren’t business practices, business rules and business process at the heart of the mess our financial institutions are in? They certainly are! It’s for this very reason that I keep telling those who’ll listen: “BPM is NOT an IT project!”

What is it?

What we do – those of us who design and analyze business processes, rules, decisions, metrics and logic – is attempt to capture and improve the manner in which tasks are deployed in relation to one another and many other interdependent variables from suppliers to information to material resources and people. We also evaluate all of those variables in light of strategy and business goals. Further, we do all of this in concert with people from operations, HR, marketing, service, R&D, production, manufacturing, administration and IT. By virtue of this being about process and system dynamics, we are all in this together. The challenge, my friends, is that the territory we map has values and is subject to ethics and many other business and legal principles. Our banks lost sight of that and the customers followed suit.

Putting the “Business” Back in Business Process Management: Building a Good Business Case

One of the most intriguing and frustrating aspects of this work is the difficulty with which people view and understand BPM in light of the gestalt of business conditions. To that end, I want to offer another list of business case factors to remember. Many of these will help you establish and maintain a collaborative and ethical business process environment and orientation:

  • A Business Case is a proposal for some manner of business improvement, innovation, product development or other initiative that serves to help decision-makers make their decision regarding the viability of the proposal. It includes:
  • a problem statement and a purpose statement
  • an analysis of current performance against your vision, benchmarks and industry standards
  • specific goals and objectives including a value proposition
  • alternatives and options
  • discussion of constraints and risks
  • review of political, economic, socio-cultural and technological factors
  • disclosure of assumptions
  • review of what you’re going to measure and how you’ll measure
  • and a cost-benefit analysis

One of the over-arching ideas in building the business case for your project ought to be: “If we are going to commit to spending money and other resources, then what you are doing must be in support of and a benefit to the business.” What you do must have value and be important in terms of serving the highest-value opportunities. We shouldn’t be making changes in process design just because we can and we shouldn’t allow process to reflect risky propositions and immoral behaviors. Neither will produce an outcome to be proud of. You can see why an executive sponsor is both critical to your success and potentially your worst nightmare. You can also see why risk management is so crucial.

Be Careful What You Ask For

I’ve discussed unintended consequences before and this week those words are more prescient than ever. Be thoughtful about change. Solicit input from a wide cast of characters and think long-term. Wide and long for span and asking the difficult questions concerning purpose and vision for depth. Always aim for depth and span.

The Bottom-Line

It may seem far-fetched to you now but I believe we all play a part in designing business processes that avoid the kind of risk facing us today. If you apply yourself with great depth and span and challenge your business practices and processes to live up to your vision and mission, you’ll be alright

Business Process Reengineering: The Right Skills And Roles For The Task Will Save You Money

Notwithstanding the horror story about child labor in Iowa’s agribusiness this week, business process management represents an ideal opportunity to examine Skills, Roles and Costs. The idea, of course, is that you can begin to identify the right people at the right pay grade for the task. Sound simple? Take a look around your shop today.

Ask Yourselves…

  1. what skills are really required for the task being performed in this process?
  2. what level of training and education are required?
  3. what level of authority is required?
  4. how much time is reasonably required to conduct the task?
  5. what value (to the customer) does the task deliver?
  6. what impact does this task have on quality where the product or service is concerned?
  7. are there any legal requirements being satisfied by this action?

Now Ask…

  1. who is performing this task now?
  2. do their qualifications, experience, and place in the organizational structure match the requirements of the task?
  3. based on the time required, how much does this task actually cost us? (really do this math)
  4. what can be done to the task to either push it “down” or “up” the organizational structure where it might more appropriately belong?
  5. is the cost worthwhile in my customer’s estimation? (really ask this question)

Myth-Busting: Most Likely Savings Now

Having done this many times myself, I can attest to the immediate results. Given the state of our economy and your need for immediate relief, I strongly urge you to examine your processes from this perspective if it’s all you do. I assure you that savings are there somewhere if you simply ask: “what if someone with a lower pay grade were to do this?”

See It, Change It, Save It

If you don’t have current process models and diagrams, then get some. If the work and process is invisible to you, chances are the savings are too. If the process is visible, you won’t be able to help yourselves from asking “why do we do it that way?!” particularly after you cost the individual tasks out within a process.

Decisions Are Most Likely Culprit

For my money, I believe 95% of organizations include way too many “Get Supervisor Permission” and “Get Executive to Decide” steps in their processes. I promise you, take a close look at how your business rules (and lack thereof) are causing people to run down the hall and seek permission or guidance. Want to save money? Knock this bad habit off.

The Solution Is In The Business Rules

If it’s required that an employee take an action, define why. If your definition can be challenged, do so. Document your business rules and make sure that they are accessible to those who would seek permission and guidance. Would your competition enforce such a rule? Are they paying for it?

Executives Doing Executive Work

The other half of the solution is in managers doing management work, supervisors doing supervisory work and executives doing executive work. Trust me, this is the sticky part. It’s at this point that you will encounter executives who love to micro-manage and derive self-esteem from being the permission-granter and guide for their flock. It’s also where mediocre performers hide. The unconscious calculation is something like this: “If I fill my day with answering questions and guiding my flock, I don’t have to do my executive grade work.”