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One huge obstacle for achieving process excellence is working in traditional, functional specialist siloes. This article explains what are the three key factors for bringing those functional siloes together to advance process excellence.

This article is based on experience acquired from several IT companies providing software-consulting services in Scandinavia. As you can imagine, IT companies are cradles of functional siloes. People are actually eager to work in siloes and promote their own niche expertise (for example Scala programming skills, Enterprise architecture, project management, etc.). But how many times those IT companies fail to produce a software that actually helps the customer to solve a business problem and make their lives easier? Based on some researches, only one time out of five. Let’s look into these tips and come back to this real-life example at the summary.

#1 Customer Centric Process Culture

Changing the organisational culture to be both customer centric and process oriented is very important, because that way the organisation will start to align itself automatically towards process excellence. Customer centricity gives the processes the reason to exist and process orientation makes sure that the organisation is providing added value to customer as efficient way as possible. But you can’t really imprint this on the organisation and therefore you need to grow it as part of the organisational culture.

Your organization needs a culture, where focus is on mastering processes from a customer-oriented process perspective – Build in competitive advantage in delivering value to customers. If your organisation has a genuine focus on the customer – the customer will become everyone’s business, no matter what functional silo the person represents in an organization. Even people in “internal roles” should be doing something that enables others to serve customers. Always seek customer satisfaction and value through fulfilling their identified, true needs through business processes. Make your employees to understand that customers will always want something, but even more important is to know what they really need.

#2 Shared goals and metrics

Shared goals for the whole organisation and key measures for gauging business performance, gathering the necessary data and analysing it using key variables is very important. You get what you measure for, but keep in mind that turnover, growth percentage and other faceless, corporate measures do not touch the hearts of people and therefore won’t lead to results either. Instead, build your balanced scorecard from customer-oriented perspective and make sure everyone sees and understands those results in the same way. Even HR and financial department people need to be connected to customer outcomes through what they do. With every KPI that you have ask “How does this help my customer to succeed?” That will help you to think internal matters of an organization from customer-oriented perspective. If something does not contribute to providing great customer experiences in a profitable way, get rid of it.

When using metrics, remember that extrapolating from the past doesn’t work. You cannot predict the future from what has happened yesterday. The reason is very simple: the world and the customer changes all the time. The history won’t tell you what will be the next thing the customers get interested of. Those companies who extrapolate from the past won’t innovate something new and inspiring for their customers. They will be only a blend-improved version of what already was. Therefore, use the metrics to guide the behaviour of people to the right direction, ensuring success in future.

#3 Removing organisational barriers

It is very beneficial to remove organisational barriers through creating boundaryless collaboration culture – Break down organizational barriers to improve teamwork throughout the organization. It might be best to have truly process-oriented structure in your organization, so that everyone gets what he or she need to do to provide profitable customer experiences. Do not support old-fashioned silos that prevent people from collaborating.

Also train and coach management to be proactive– Set goals for providing customer experiences, review them frequently, establish clear priorities and focus on problem prevention rather than resolutions after the fact. Have your people anticipate problems before they even occur. Cost of fixing a cause of problem is lower when detected earlier. Have people working in teams towards shared goals, without artificial siloes preventing genuine collaboration.

Support a drive for perfection, combined with a tolerance for failure – You must be willing to try new ideas and approaches that have some risk of failure in order to make changes leading to perfection. Just make sure that you learn from your mistakes that you will make on the way. If you cannot extract a teaching from a failure, you better stop trying. No failure is a failure, if you learn something from it; it is just a way not to do that thing (like Edison concluded while trying to create a light bulb). And that is only possible when everyone is working together in an organisation regardless of their position, title, department, gender, age or anything else. Those people, who do not contribute to shared goals, need to look for other place to work, because there is no place for free riders in boundaryless organisation.

Summary

So, could you now imagine getting better software if the IT company that you employ had a real focus on your needs as a customer and they would produce those results regardless of organisational boundaries and everyone would actually communicate with each other? And wouldn’t it be even better if they were measuring through out the project how they are advancing in relation to your business goals and supporting them with an IT system? Would that be something of interest to you? If yes, then it might be of consolidation that there are some IT companies out there who are still genuinely interested in customer outcomes. You just need to find one!

Janne Ohtonen
Author: Janne Ohtonen
I have delivered tens of challenging change programs, with double-digit performance enhancement in many of them. I hold Ph.D. and have contributed to a number of scientific research papers including developing organisation’s business process management capabilities and enterprise architecture. My approaches are acknowledged as thought leadership and used in a number of organisations today. I am a regular contributor all over the world to C-level roundtables, MBA courses and international conferences as keynote speaker. I deliver expertise in Customer Experience Management, BPM, principles of leadership, innovation and change.

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