Business Process Improvement and Change
The ability to look at your business as a series of processes is key to major change.
Business Process Improvement (BPI) is an approach to improving and optimising an organisation's business processes. The aim of the improvement is both effective delivery of agreed outputs and outcomes from the process as well as the most efficient performance of the process.
It seeks to establish ongoing Process Management that ensures the process undergoes constant review and continuous improvement as requirements change over time.
The effective delivery to customer's needs is critical to get right in Business Process Improvement (BPI) as improving the efficiency of a process that does not meet customer needs leads to a less than optimum outcome.
In the early years of Business Process Improvement (BPI) there was heavy focus on efficiency and waste reduction and BPI as 'just a cost focused' approach was mistakenly adopted by some.
In addition early approaches to BPI did not lead to effective ongoing Business Process Management (BPM) as no new process based management structures or internal review mechanisms were established.
This lack of ongoing Business Process Management (BPM) was addressed as the BPI approach matured and the mistakes of not leaving a legacy of a management structure based on processes as well as hierarchies was more clearly understood.
In simple terms BPI is concerned with:
- Understanding the Goals of the Organisation
- Determining Stakeholder Needs and the Voice of the Customer
- Keeping pace with changing organisation requirements and stakeholder needs
- Measuring and benchmarking performance and improvement
- Aligning processes to goals and needs
- Meeting Stakeholder Needs through efficient and constantly improving processes
- Clear process ownership alongside traditional hierarchical and functional ownership
- Implementing change through process improvement projects
H James Harrington is often credited as one of the key forefathers of this approach to improvement following his 1991 book Business Process Improvement.
BPI is a fundamental approach to change and tried to separate itself from certain views of TQM and associated incremental change by advocating significant business process change to produce major savings. This was confusing to some as certain views of Total Quality Management (TQM) included a combination of local incremental change via Japanese methods based on the Kaizen approach as well as radical reengineering of business processes including complete process redesign.
From the basics of BPI two spin-off terms and approaches to change evolved:
- Business Process Redesign and
- Business Process Reengineering (BPR)
Unfortunately in the 1990's BPR was often associated with radical staff reductions. However the approach itself popularised by Michael Hammer and James Champy was merely trying to radically redesign processes to meet the fundamentals of BPI. However Hammer himself felt that the early focus on the process and its mechanisms had overlooked the people elements and needs of change on a radical scale.
Post the advent of BPR a new approach heavily linked to Information Technology needs became popular; Business Process Management (BPM). In many ways BPM went back to the roots of Business Process Improvement (BPI) and significant change approaches like Total Quality Management (TQM). Business Process Management sees itself as a holistic approach to change focused on BPI's key tenants of efficiency and effectiveness and alignment of activity. Business Process Management attempts to separate itself from TQM by stressing the integration and part in change that information technology plays. In other respects BPM follows all the core principles of Business Process Improvement (BPI).
All the process based approaches to change involved the key steps outlined above and:
- Understanding the As-Is performance and processes
- Determination of improved outcomes form the processes
- Designing the To-Be processes and performance requirements
- Structured and controlled implementation of change via projects
Key advocates of this BPI based approach to organisational change were Rummler and Brache who defined a detailed approach to organising a company around its business processes and then making changes.
In the last decade many organisations have produced formal 'process maps' of their organisation and used this as a basis to understand the end to end performance of their business rather than seeing it through a functional lens.
This has led to cross-functional change projects and initiatives and engaged people from many disciplines from marketing and sales through Operations to Support like HR and Finance. This has benefited organisations as they drive efficient process delivery against the needs or stakeholders whilst improving staff engagement.
In recent years computer suppliers of enterprise systems have developed tools for turning the process maps into tasks and computer code requirements. These maps help systems developers ensure they are creating something which meets new business process needs.
There are several key business change methodologies all based around or upon Business Process Improvement: