Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Let’s assume that you know the need for clear business processes in your company. The problem is that if you’re the only one then it will remain an idea. So how do you build internal support step by step? This article is based on our learnings from hundreds of conversations with people that have worked on building the case for Business Process Management software in their organizations. Some have failed and others have succeeed. Here we summarize the do’s and the don’ts, so you don’t have to repeat the mistakes for others.
Before we dive into this I want to spend a moment to reflect on what awareness really means. Just like in all other business areas you – and your colleagues – go through different stages of ‘business process awareness’:
With this in mind, we would like to suggest that you ask yourself these four questions to uncover your organization’s process awareness:
A clear ‘Yes’ to a question means a higher level of awareness and that you are ready to go to the next level. Let’s explore each question a bit more:
It all starts with you. If you can’t articulate a problem that is both perceived as critical and urgent for your organization to solve – and clearly connect it with a business process that isn’t working – or simply isn’t known, then you have to work on that. Or as one of the fathers of modern production puts it…
”If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you are doing.”W. Edwards Deming
What Deming is saying is that the basis for understanding any recurring problem is to understand the activitiy behind it in a systematic way. This is where a process can serve as a common language for the company’s responsibilities and activities.
To summarize, you can clearly say “yes” to this question if you can formulate a statement like this for your problem:
“I know that many customers are unhappy since they use [product X] to [purpose] which it is not made for. Our product marketing team doesn’t align its communications clearly with our sales and support teams, so they end up setting the wrong expectations and can’t explain why [product X] isn’t fit to [purpose].”
With a clear answer to this question you’re ready to go to next level of awareness.
Then take these steps:
Remember the problem example from earlier? Let’s revisit that. If product marketing doesn’t see and realize the problems that their communications are causing, then they may perceive the problem to be with sales, support or even the customers. Now the scene is set for a political infight with no winners.
Often the problem is realized but no one knows how to solve it since there is no ‘Product introduction process’ that can help the different functions to work together. So with no knowledge of what to do and no clear lines of responsibility, then each function head may blame the others and nothing happens to solve the problem.
So, is there a common perception that the lack of a Product introduction process has the consequence that the different functions involved can’t solve this problem once and for all?
This is often one of the biggest hurdles. If managers are seeing most problems as unique and doesn’t recognize any underlying patterns, then the need for business processes will not be realized broadly. It is more a culture of ‘fire fighting’ where people are rewarded for putting out fires, rather than preventing them from starting again.
If it is widely recognized by employees at different levels that the company suffers from a lack of clear, common business processes, then you are ready to go to the next level of awareness.
You can tell by how often the word ‘process’, ‘procedure’ or ‘way of working’ is used when speaking about recurring problems.
Then take these steps:
Is the problem with customers using a product the wrong way the only one that can be traced back to a lack of business processes? Most likely not. What about the sales people that perform so differently? Or the new hires that often leave us again fast? The root causes behind these problems can probably also only be found with the systematic approach that a process can give us.
When management teams realize this and start caring about ‘the business system’ as a whole, then they most often see the need for a Operational Excellence, Lean or Process Excellence function. Depending on company size it most often starts with a first, dedicated and experienced hire. Often that person has to go back to the second question and start building the case for a comprehensive and systematic approach to business processes.
Then here are some suggestions for what to do:
Unfortunately, some Process Excellence teams see their purpose as doing requirements specification for systems only. They map process flows that serve the basis for ERP implementation. While this can be very useful and a great driver behind Business Process Management it has to be closely connected with the rest of the organization.
This is where the process experts realize that mapping and modelling alone doesn’t solve real business problems.
Have you created lots of process maps but they are not being used? Then maybe you are ready to go from Visio or Lucidchart drawings that can be found on a SharePoint or intranet site, to turn these process maps into tools for helping and engaging the rest of your organization.
Now you’re ready for Business Process Management for People. Maybe we should talk now?
Book an intro meeting where we show some cases related with your challenge.
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