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For consultants selling creativity to organizations is quite easy, because there is unlimited demand for it. Who would not want to improve their business at any given moment if it means getting more money? But, there are no authorities watching over this creativity creation and even companies who sell creativity seem to get stuck every now and then.

Isn’t it so that when the organization is having it’s roughest time, the people start to innovate new things, because they have to? That is not ‘true’ creativity however, since it is done under pressure. Organizations that show true creativity dismantle and rebuild their processes from time to time to make better structures. I bet you know the old saying: “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it”. Creative organizations are doing exactly that; fixing the process even it ain’t broken YET. It does not mean that those organizations should run around like headless chickens renewing their processes just for the sake of doing it.

Renewing organization processes is most definitely needed and it must be nicer to do it when things are still all right, rather than when it is too late. What should be the perspective on innovating the processes then? Effectiveness, productivity, revenue, etc.? If we think about the question why those processes exist, maybe we will find the answer also. The customer is the very reason for any business organization to exist. Those working in public sector might think  that it does not involve them, but they are wrong. Even in the public sector, money comes from somewhere and is used to do something. Then there must be a customer, too!

When we start to innovate processes based on the customer needs, we get into the very source of business. People have interactions with your organization, because you fill in some need for them. And whoever does it best will get the most clients. How can organizations have endless process creativity then? Certainly, knowing their customers really well and being able to think outside the box how to fill their needs.

Here are some reflective questions for you to ask:

  • Are our processes designed and optimized from the customer’s perspective?
  • How do we optimize our processes? Does that work as well as it should for us?
  • Do we have a process for optimizing processes?
  • How do we handle new ideas, innovations and such in our organization?
  • Do we think “out of the box” when planning our processes?

 

Get Janne Ohtonen's latest BPM book for free at http://addvalueto.me/download-a-free-process-leadership-book/

Discussion about good and especially bad customer service experiences is favorite topic of many coffee table conversations. These customer interactions can be called also as moments of truth (read more about them fromJan Carlzon‘s book titled “Moments of Truth”). Moments of truth can be either misery or magic. If you get really good customer experience, then you will be happy and recommend that business to others also. But if something goes wrong, it becomes moment of misery, which will make you feel bad and work against the organization. Managing those moments of truth is one of the key factors to success for an organization and here are some reasons for it:

Customer interaction. Every time a customer interacts with your organization, it is an opportunity for them to form an impression, which may be either good or bad one, i.e. moment of magic or misery. People will treat the organization based on those moments of truth.

Surplus costs. Every moment of truth is a cost to the organization, because you have to work to produce that moment of truth. And you do not want to pay for producing moments of misery, do you?

For every  customer interaction there is at least one moment of truth. If customers have too many  moments of misery, the likely result is that the customer will leave or at least seriously think about leaving your business.

Less is more. The more moments of truth it takes to get something done with your organization, the less successful the customer experience and the more likely the customer will leave. The more you have those customer interactions, the higher the probability to produce moments of misery.

Optimizing your process. For every customer experience that deserves to exist, there are an optimum number of moments of truth. The customer experience is the process that your organization should be delivering.

Let me explain this with an example from my life. Let’s take pretty much any phone service that you need to use. I will tell you about phone service of one ISP in Finland. I wanted to cancel my subscription and to do that I had to call them. First of course the automatic responder will ask your details like customer number and such. Then you need to select from the voice menu what is your business with them, then what do you want to have done. That has caused already tens of moments of truths before even getting down to the matter. It does not cause ISP much of surplus costs, because the system is automated, but one must still wonder what do they do with the information. And I ask this because when you get a real person on the phone, she will ask you pretty much the same questions. And if you happen to ask her “can’t you see the details I just gave to your automatic system?”, she’ll respond that this information was just needed to route the call to right person. Talking about moments of misery! If someone would just answer me right away and help me deal with my problem, that would mean less customer interaction and a happier customer.

When challenging most customer experience management professionals about how they would improve the customer experience for this interaction, they talk about making each touch point better, ensuring the business support people are as helpful as possible and capturing the survey results, feeding them back into the customer experience management program and employee rewards program.

Ask most consultancies how they could improve this customer experience and in most cases, their approaches will be the same. They would assume this customer process deserves to exist because it is not possible to stop customers. Thus, using traditional approaches, they would create a project to design an improved experience for customers. Then they will ensure that each customer interaction is “better” and “quicker” and will reward customer service agents for their increased “efficiency”, their KPI’s being aligned to the average touch time and talk time, or the quicker they can get customers off the phone or sending email.

Here is the catch. This whole customer interaction could have been made significantly better and significantly cheaper by considering the philosophy of whether this customer experience deserved to exist. Instead of having automated middleman, a significantly better customer experience would be just to have trained personnel deal with most customer service situations. This approach could have helped to solve the problem quicker and in most cases, could have prevented the need for spending so much time on the phone.

This kind of customer centered thinking is being used by many of this century’s most successful companies and there are many techniques, which are enabling organizations to benefit from this kind of approach. So, when asked to improve the customer experience, never assume that all customer experiences deserve to exist; you have to challenge them!

Here are some reflective questions that you can ask:
  • Does our organization produce proper customer interactions?
  • Have we analyzed our business processes from customer perspective?
  • How could we simplify our business processes so that they would make customer’s life easier, simpler and more successful?
  • Do we actively engage with customer to discuss about the service we provide?

 

Get Janne Ohtonen's latest BPM book for free at http://addvalueto.me/download-a-free-process-leadership-book/

Starting a business process management project and choosing the right BPMS system can be a quite tricky thing to do, especially if your organization does not have experience on it. There are several ways to start BPM projects and there are many methods available to choose from. Here are some questions that you can ask when thinking about starting a BPM project.

What process is at hand and what does it achieve?
You should first get an idea what that process is about. Asking what it achieves will help you get the reason why this process exists. It will also help you understand how critical is this process for organization’s customers. The process should be clearly some part of producing successful customer outcomes. But do not restrict yourself into one process only, every process in your organization needs to have some clear function in fulfilling customer needs (otherwise that process is redundant and needs to be get rid of).

How does the process currently work?
To choose what is going on in the process, you should get some kind of idea how that process works today. There are many ways to do that, for example flowchart and CEM Method. If your organization does not have process maps, this is a good time to pick up a pen and start drawing. But remember that the point is not to get that process map, but to understand how that process works today. Therefore, it is important to have all relevant parties participating process mapping. I say it once again: the goal is not to model the processes just for the sake of modeling them, but to understand how those processes work.

Who are the participants in the process and what are their roles?
This will get you the roles and responsibilities of the people involved with process. This will also help you to find right performers to various tasks. Right people should be doing the right work. This is why it is important to have people from all parts of processes participating the modeling, because they do taks that others do not know of and thus, could not model them into process map.

Which business units participate in the process?
This will help you understand who are the stakeholders and how complex it will be to design the process. The general rule is that if there are more units, the more complex the process will be and the more effort you (and client project team) will spend bringing everyone to a common accepted stage. The more you have functional silos in your organization, the more complicated it will be. Process optimization goal is to get rid of those useless functional silos and design the organization’s hierarchy around fulfilling the customer needs.

What will be the value of the process to customers in future?
Now you start asking questions about what needs to be built. Find out what business you are in, what are the customer needs and how to provide that with minimal customer interaction. Such processes that are not directly contributing to fulfilling customer needs are the be get rid of. Also tasks in processes that are not clearly contributing to that goal, should be either removed or at least improved.

Where does the process start and end?
This is very important, maybe even the most important question besides what business are you in. Sometimes you will realize that employees do not understand where process starts and where it ends for your customers. They know just their part of the process. Make sure that everyone involved in that process knows both their part and the whole purpose of the process. This helps people to be more proactive in process improvement and it will also make the work more meaningful because they will know how their contribution is used in the big picture. This will also help to avoid building those functional silos that do not work well.

What information flows from one person to another?
It will help you to model and minimize internal hand-overs. If you are going to use BPM System, this will help you determine what the screen and data fields should be. Sometimes you could be dealing with complex sets of data. Do ask questions why these information flows happen and whether they are really useful.

Which internal and external systems will this process interact with?
Find out what level of integrations are you looking for. Most of the business processes will be integrated with some other systems. Sometimes integrations could lead to complex processes, screens and routing. Remember that integration is a tool for providing successful customer outcomes easier. Use technology to help you, not to slave you. Nowadays there are many good BPMS system available to do that.

Are there any business rules associated with the process?
Ask what business rules are there. Also ask how often do they change. And most importantly, ask whether they are still relevant. If you are going to use rule engine as part of the BPMS, this will help you determine if rules should be embedded into the process or put in as a separate component.

What are your reporting requirements?
Your data layouts, your process routing could depend upon what reporting requirements are there. If user needs reports business unit wise or region wise, you will need to incorporate those fields into your work-flow. When you measure, remember that you get what you measure. It is crucial that your KPIs are aligned with successful customer outcomes, otherwise you will not get the results that you are looking for in business sense. You can use Business Intellicence tools joined with BPM tools to get that information.

What are your implementation time lines and constraints?
Determine what are the time lines and constraints. It is possible that people will ask you the question “when can I have this?”. Be sure you keep it open or at least realistic. Unless your implementation team has analyzed everything, do not give an estimate. Determine what constraints organization has and figure out how the project can still go through.

Who will sign off the requirements and final production for this process?
Finding out the right people is important. If one person is going to sign-off the requirements and the other is going to do user approval tests, you are in trouble. Make sure the right stakeholders are in your list and you spend enough time talking to them over the course of project implementation. It is  very important to make sure that top management is committed to process improvement and give their full support for the project.

As this blog article has shown, there are many things to consider when you start a business process management project. And that being said, actually BPM is not one-off project, it is on-going, iterative process where you improve your business continuously. If you are a beginner in BPM, it might be a good idea to get some experienced people to help you.

 

Get Janne Ohtonen's latest BPM book for free at http://addvalueto.me/download-a-free-process-leadership-book/

Nowadays many businesses seem to struggle with achieving a proper balance between maintaining business rules and discipline while providing employees enough space for freedom and individual wishes. You must have seen those stories in magazines where CIO’s are pulling their hair off when people bring in their own iPhones and Blackberries. Some organizations are far too permissive, allowing their personnel to do virtually anything as they see fit. The problem in that is potential security risks. Other organizations are too strict, severely restricting their employees’ actions and behavior by forcing them to do things the way that does not fit them. Remote offices and home working has not made this situation any easier for organizations to maintain.

Here is a formula that claims: Business Rules + Relationships = Organizational Integrity

My years of experience in the business world have taught me this balance is crucial for a healthy, productive working environment. If you have business rules, but have very little in terms of relationship, you will likely experience rebellion by employees. If, on the other hand, you have placed a strong emphasis on relationships, but you do not have well-thought-out, established guidelines for everyday practices and behavior, you might experience chaos. Being able to balance the two provides assurance to your people that you care about them, yet at the same time expect them to produce results in keeping with your organization’s mission and values.

Business rules are there, setting the boundaries that organization should function in. Relationships are there maintaining people. It matters how you design your rules and how you explain to those employees who are looking to bend the rules. Another thing that should be kept in mind is that those rules should not be carved into stone. Business environments change fast and rules should change accordingly. There are many methods available for analyzing which business rules are still valid and you can even use BPMS systems to handle those rules which relate to IT systems in an organization.

The problem in your organization occurs when there is a confusion among employees as to what “to do right” means. As leaders, our responsibility is to communicate that clearly and effectively. Business and professional people look to their leaders to define the parameters under which they are expected to perform their jobs well. People should understand how those rules are related to organization’s mission and strategy and especially how those rules will help them to perform better.

Rules and guidelines, especially when created with valued input from the people who will be governed by them, should not be restrictive. They actually can be empowering, because the individuals understand they are free to use their talents and abilities within those limits. Without those rules, employees can become confused by fear of doing something wrong. Clear rules and clearly maintained relationships will lead to better organizational integrity.

Establishing rules just for the sake of controlling people can be demoralizing, so guidelines must be used as a means for enhancing the productivity – and satisfaction – of people in your organization. Strong, effective leaders know how to balance compassion and discipline. Are you such a leader?

Here are some reflective questions that you can ask:

  • What gets the strongest emphasis where you work – rules or relationships? Explain how you see this being demonstrated on a day-to-day basis.
  • How do you think a leader can go about seeking this balance between rules and relationships? Is that even practical to attempt this, in your opinion? Why or why not?
  • Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you were not certain what the rules were that governed your actions or the plans you were formulating? If so, how did you feel about that circumstance – and what was the outcome?
  • Are business rules in your organization up-to-date?
  • Do people in your organization understand how those rules help them to do their work better?
  • Are those business rules thought out also from customer perspective? How your business rules affect customer?

Get Janne Ohtonen's latest BPM book for free at http://addvalueto.me/download-a-free-process-leadership-book/

 

When a technology sector becomes truly transformative, inevitably there are those who, unable to credibly claim their role in its leadership, instead seek fame by declaring its dead – "The Internet's dead, we're all about the post-Internet now!" Yep, Internet's closed. Go home. Never mind that the greatest transformation in human history, changing every aspect of our lives – industry, education, healthcare, agriculture, entertainment, government and globalization – everything changing, still right now, because of. . . the Internet.

If there were only one analytical technique the business process improvement (BPI) team could use, it should be quantitative data—and then I would expand quantitative data to include baseline data, customer data, and analytical data.