Friday, 27 January 2017 11:28

Will we finally get organised in 2017?

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Business Process Management (BPM) has become yet another 2017 buzzword, with claims ranging from “not more bloody paperwork” to it will substantially increase the value of an organisation.

Regardless of your view, BPM has evolved from evangelists suggesting every activity needs to be mapped (documented) to identifying processes that create value, reduce risk or that could be optimised.

Management (read Boards) have increased responsibility to comply with Occupational Health and Safety Rules, now using criminal liability as a carrot to use BPM. Enter the soon to be mandatory breach reporting, new audits for software and security compliance, increased fines and penalties for faulty products, and it is no wonder those dusty backroom shelves are being raided for QA manuals that have not been looked at since creation.

In 2017, the self-professed “Year of Customer Experience”, I asked Promapp’s chief executive, Ivan Seselj, to explain a bit more about this business tool and why organisations need it. Below is his take in his own words.

Ivan Seselj sittingAs another year kicks into gear many in the business community are scratching their heads and wondering just exactly what happened in 2016. The world was turned on its head – the Brexit vote took everyone by surprise signalling major changes in Europe, Donald Trump, against all odds, triumphed in the United States, and a double-dissolution in Australia delivered Malcolm Turnbull an an even more fractured parliamentary mix. In New Zealand, the prime minister resigned unexpectedly mid-term.

The only sure thing was more uncertainty that drove global share market volatility and changed key business paradigms. There is no such thing anymore as the norm – no one can predict what the future might hold. This widespread disruption is also being felt across all facets of the business world with companies now required to achieve new levels of agility and innovation just to survive.

Process disruption

The old ways of “doing things” have not kept up with the new ways and, as a result, are being seriously challenged. The year 2017 will be a time for fundamental process change. It is back to the NASA mantra of faster, better and cheaper and to achieve that you can’t make changes around the edge – you need to look at processes and the company holistically.

This disruption to process management has not happened overnight. It’s something that has been brewing for years. Over time, more organisations have realised that their current approach to managing critical process know-how is just not providing the level of agility required to keep up change. Rather than supporting growth and encouraging innovation, processes are proving to be a drag on efficiency and productivity.

For example, relying on a quality manual to provide internal process guidance is no longer, and perhaps has never been, the best approach. Such prescriptive definitions and rules can’t possibly keep up with the rapid changes that are now a common occurrence for most businesses.  

The recently updated ISO 9001:2015 quality standards are another example of the changing approach. The updated standard has been designed to provide a new framework for process management with the goal that organisations will establish processes which are both rigid enough to drive consistency but also flexible enough to deal with changes as they occur and, most importantly, be accessible to the business.

Today, however, many organisations continue to rely on outdated approaches to managing their critical process information, still storing it in formats that are neither accessible to teams across the business nor easily updated. Issues of process ownership, engagement and change management abound.

Why change?

Recent history has proven that if the old ways are not working, the masses will rise. In this case, they won’t be voters, they will be an organisation’s customers. Discontented with annoying, cumbersome processes, they will shift their business and their loyalty to a competitor who has mastered the process management challenge.

2017 Process Essentials

So, where does this leave those with responsibility for process management? What changes should teams be making now, or early in the new year to be ready for whatever an uncertain world may throw at them in 2017?

Here are three process essentials that all organisations should strive to have in place in 2017 to ensure they are 'match fit’ and ready for the challenges that may lie ahead:

#1 Ensure process ownership discipline

Make process ownership real by establishing process owners and experts. Process owners should be empowered and given responsibility for the effective operation of their processes. Experts work with a process every day and know it intimately.

Empowering process owners enables them to proactively improve their processes as opportunities arise. The people who are directly creating, selling or delivering products to customers are often in the best position to spot problems, solutions or make improvement suggestions. Ideally, the person who identifies the problem should have the authority to fix it. Not only will this help lift team engagement, it will also enhance the chances and speed of a successful resolution.

#2 Create and sustain real engagement

Once teams of owners and experts have been created, they need to be supported by tools that make managing their processes easy. Ideally, make process information available where and when teams require it by embedding it into the tools they already use every day.

Help teams get things right, learn new processes, and drive consistency with engaging, useful information. If process guidance is easy to understand and easy to use, teams will go back to it. This will enable ongoing engagement and improvement. If process documentation is considered difficult to use by teams, it will may as well not exist. It will not be used.

To ensure process improvement remains a day-to-day priority, a governance structure and schedule is needed. Visible support from the leadership team and sustained communication are also vital to keep people involved, engaged and driving change.

#3 Establish effective change management

As we’ve seen in 2016, the business environment is far from static for most organisations. In any business, it’s now essential to find an easy way to update processes as changes occur, and to quickly communicate those changes to impacted teams. An outdated process can be at best annoying or ineffective, at worst dangerous. Not only should notifications of process changes be issued to affected teams and roles, an auditable, historical record of those changes should also be maintained.

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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