Producing a high quality service requires better (defined, understood and followed) processes than producing a product.
A "complete product" is both physical product and the wrap around services.
I can make the best products in a very inefficient way, so that's not a good way to look at it, I think.
A process is only 'the thing' that makes a company do what it promises. So it should start at the end. What do you promise?
And that's the result of the process (a service, a product or a solved problem) TOGETHER with the goals attached to it (time to delivery, defects, cost, quality, compliancy)
Only after making that clear, you can decide how the different aspects of a process should be designed to deliver what you promise.
So that automatically indicates that the process is in service of the process result. A good process is just a means, never a goal in itself.
And according to mister Lean (or any other process improvement guru) that process that delivers your promises might still be a crappy process. But if it does what you promise, so what?
In the end customers don't want you to improve your processes, they want you to execute those processes well.
From my experience in trying to get government organizations to adopt a BPM product, the success of that adoption is dependent on how much you can get the stakeholders/SMEs/end users to accept a new process. Sometimes, their belief is that the product is just going to be more efficient while performing the exact same steps and maybe some extra "wish list" types of functionality. While this may be possible, or even favorable, in some systems, the majority of legacy systems (which BPM products are often replacing/updating/wrapping) have workarounds, invalid pathways, unnecessary steps, etc., that have caused the inefficiencies and other waste (time, data storage, etc.) that spurred the purchase of this new-fangled product. The problem comes when no one remembers why they are doing Step 5.4.3a, they just know that they have to do it. They write it into their requirements, and look for it as a measure of "success or failure" of the product (along with other similar "necessary" steps). This is wrong-headed in most cases, hence, making the job of the BPM advocate to pry the past out of the requirements, to cut the fat, streamline and modernize, and convince the stakeholders/SMEs/end users that the product can make vast improvements upon what the old system used to do, if they would only let it.
Convincing a SME that a modern product can provide modern solutions is often mixed up in his/her perception of the importance of human interaction--automation is a threat to their livelihood and they insist upon the value of a manual process. This is where leadership must step in--they have purchased this powerful engine to perform automation, so in any case where manual processing can be removed from the overall process, it should be. Obvious, right?
If, however, you lose the battle in implementing true BPM by reproducing an old, unnecessarily complex process, then it doesn't matter how fancy or up-to-date the product is--it's still going to be inefficient and ultimately become the next messy legacy that will need to be replaced.
I have to use my EA hat (I am at an EA conference in Bangalore). The quality of product or service is an architectured combination of people, other products, processes and projects. For example, any commercial plane is produced with the quality unreachable with 6 sigma (as said today by J. Zachman).
So, the answer is NOT ONLY and a bigger picture must be considered.
This is not about the class of the product, but adhering to specifications, which the process should define.
First thing we find is that we probably don’t need a helicopter, we need a spaceship. Because everything is the produce of multiple countries. That coffee you’re drinking didn’t just come from Starbucks – it involves African, Asian or South American beans, American harvesters, German roasting equipment, Italian coffee making machines and a host of expertise, both current and past. Just to make coffee!
The idea that we, in a single company, can control the quality of the process is just self-delusion.
The idea that you can control it when it comes in the door is delusion too. Because things are interdependent. If you are making a car, for example, you can specify the tyres it uses and set quality control standards on every order. Or you can work closely with the tyre manufacturer, trying out suspension settings and matching them with tyre compounds, tread patterns and profiles to create something better. If you also involve the shock absorber manufacturer, the noise, vibration and harshness engineers and even the seat cushion designers you’ll get something better still.
And we have another decision. Who is the arbiter of quality? Some of us think it is us. Another “the sun revolves round the earth” self-delusion moment.
A prospect makes an “acceptable quality” decision with every purchase. They know the price/speed/quality tradeoff. They know the law of diminishing returns too – and the 80:20 principle. They usually can’t/won’t afford the ultimate quality and accept something less. And they trade off quality of product with quality of service. The desire for quality can also be overwhelmed by must-have features too.
We need to mesh with that. If we provide too high a quality, we may lose out on price. If we don’t offer a feature because we can’t guarantee quality, we can lose out on a lot of sales. And is maintaining a quality standard worth an out-of-stock, if that loses us a key retailer? Quality is ultimately a subjective decision, taken by our prospect and reinforced when they become customers.
But the ultimate answer to the question is Yes. Because the process we should focus on is the dynamic one for aligning product - and service - with customer needs, demands and expectations. Not the process we designed in a vacuum focusing on product specs, SLAs and delivery.
The better that product/market fit process is, the better the product will be in our customers’ eyes.
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Some say that McDonalds have very good processes. And from a certain point that might be true:
- Standardized: you can work in Amsterdam, but easily replace someone in Prague
- Efficient: They have been thinking about the flow
But what comes out of those processes is disgusting. According to my taste and opinion. So quality is very subjective and depending upon opinion, taste and expectation.
But what is so good is that the product/service of mcdonalds is very clear and that automatically makes very clear what it is not. And that is what makes a good company in my opinion: they make clear what kind of customers they don't serve.
And making clear what you don't do is a big quality on it's own.
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