Good Decision-making – The basics and beyond


MissionStrategyThe overall mission of any organization is to build, preserve and improve competitive advantage.

Each day thousands of corporations start up in many sectors. Many fail and a major reason is bad decisions.

The ones that succeed do so because they leverage their infrastructures. They use their starting equity to acquire plant, equipment and tools. They hire competent and innovative staff, design and build innovative products and services,  study the competition, track market trends and track changing legislation.

Above all, they manage their cost base such that some of the profits can be reinvested.

The members of this group make good decisions.

How do corporations make good decisions consistently?

In order to answer the question we need to know what decision-making is – it’s all about converting information into action.

Except that the information has to be available and it has to be accessible.

Simple decisions are easy to make. You have three people at your front desk, you get a CRM system that allows you to go to two people. Your ROI says the initiative will get to break even in nine months. After that, you are generating positive cash flow.

Not so easy to decide which of several proposed initiatives, all competing for the same scarce resources, should be allowed to go forward. Here, each will have a different ROI, a different risk profile, a different uncertainty level. You need a way to identify the more promising of your competing initiatives, select one or more and then prioritize implementation for the ones you select.

Do we go with two smaller, shorter ROIs or, do we go for one longer ROI that has higher risk but a better potential payoff?

There are two types of decisions in organizations – strategic and operational. Let’s see what they have in common.

 Background – Mission to Strategy to Initiatives

Most organizations have a mission which is the foundation of the organization i.e. “This is why we are here, this is how we spend our money, this is where we expect to be in, say, three years”.

Linked to the mission statement we typically find several strategic pillars and, attached to each of these, one or more initiatives.

Competing initiatives at a strategic pillar make for easier decision-making than making decisions regarding initiatives that compete for scarce resources across different strategic pillars.

Suppose an organization wants to become a world leader in remote Medical Devices. One strategy might be to make their devices multifunction i.e. measure blood pressure, heart rate, and blood sugar levels.

Another strategy might be to add educational content to the existing set of Medical Devices based on that notion that intellectual challenges decrease the onset of dementia for some patients.

Which of these will contribute more to increasing competitive advantage?

Getting back to our definition of decision-making, it’s important to understand that most decisions are made once, at a particular point in time. Things change.

The information that was on hand for making a particular decision or, should I say, the information that was accessible at the time the decision was made will be different today.

As stated earlier in this article, the information needed to make good decisions must be available and accessible.

How can we consolidate information for effective decision-making by top management (strategic decision making)?

A stack of file folders comprising position papers, spreadsheets and statistical reports probably is the worst way to try to consolidate information.

Digitizing information and putting it in Windows file folders is not much better.

The environment of choice for consolidating information is a free-form search Knowledge Base (KBase).

Two reasons:

  • You can access any of, say, 10,000 documents from a single computer screen.
  • You can engage searches and see what each search was able to find and what the search did not find.

Most software search algorithms only tell you what was found.

Moreover, you have to tell the software where to find what you are looking for. If an address was inadvertently enter into a comment field instead of into the address field, you’re not likely to find it.

Suppose McDonald’s is looking to add a new retail outlet.

One approach is to look for a location where Wendy’s already has an outlet. Another is to look for a location where Wendy’s does not currently have an outlet. A free-form search knowledge base will answer both of these questions in one search.

Kbases help you to connect-the-dots at the strategy level.

If Knowledge Bases are that useful, why don’t all corporations have them?

Answer – like many other things, they need care and feeding – if you don’t recognize the value of a knowledge base you won’t set one up. If you set up a knowledge base and don’t use it, you won’t be inclined to maintain it. If you don’t maintain it, you will not be able to use when you feel you need it.

So, we have a knowledge base, tools that allow us to prioritize initiatives, we give an initiative the green light, what comes next?

Implementing Initiatives

You need an implementation plan for all major initiatives.

If there are multiple steps, connected in complex ways, where different people need to attend to these different steps, you need CPM (Critical Path Method). Managing projects with CPM is all about managing “float”. If you don’t manage “float” you are likely to be late and over budget.

Hopefully your ROI has a timeline that extends beyond “ribbon cutting”, such that you have resources for training, plus funding to support ongoing maintenance of your initiative. The way to ensure this is to indicate clearly in ROI preparation procedures that ROIs must include all costs and that they will receive periodic reviews.

How do you make decisions regarding operational activity (operational decisions)?

As you move forward to production mode following implementation of an initiative, it pays to have software do most of the heavy lifting.

If you map out your processes in the right environment, you’ll have one-click access to a compiler that can carve up your graph into discrete steps and auto-post steps, as these become current.

If you take care to indicate plan-side the resources needed to perform each process step, what data collection forms are needed at each step, include an instructional component, RALB (Resource Allocation Leveling and Balancing) will automatically fill worker InTrays.

When you are set up to do the right things, the right way, at the right time and place, using the right resources, you know you are in good shape.

Now we get to an important part of our discussion i.e. operational decision making.

The first thing to understand is that knowledge workers have different ways of working efficiently. Some like to start their day by finishing off a few small tasks others prefer to make progress on one large task and later work on small tasks. There may be no consistency from one day to the next, even for the same knowledge worker.

It follows that workers need to be able to micro–schedule their workloads. If you fail to enable this the ‘A’ in RALB will fail.

Next, supervisors who are sensitive to changing customer priorities and to variations in workload for individual knowledge workers need to be able to level (“L”) and balance (“B”) workload across knowledge workers.

RALB – don’t go to the office without it.

Tracking Progress Toward Operational Objectives

So, we have a mission, strategies, implemented initiatives, plus ways and means of allocating resources.

Tracking progress toward attainment of objectives is the next hurdle.

Don’t expect to do this using “manhours-to-go” or “percent-complete” along an end-to-end process.

Most work today is not capable of being orchestrated using end-to-end processes. The usual scenario is to have a series of process fragments that people, machines, and software must thread together at run-time.

Since each customer order, insurance claim, patient has different needs, you need an environment that accommodates following “best practices”, with facilities for accommodating deviations away from best practices.

The environment of choice for workflow management is Case.

Case, basically is a “bucket” that allows you to “park” any and all information relating to a particular customer order, insurance claim, patient. This sets the stage for easier decision-making.

Your typical Case is likely to have multiple objectives. Not all of these have the same relative importance. You may be able to close your Case with only a sub-set of objectives having been met.

Clearly, Case managers need a non-subjective means of determining the status of each Case (i.e. is the Case going to achieve its originally-stated objectives? On time? Within budget?).

FOMM (Figure of Merit Matrices) work well here.

KPIs – the Final Frontier

As you have probably noticed, there’s a considerable disconnect between strategy and operations in many organizations. Strategy is the domain of one group of people, operations another.

Rule #1 for success in an organization is that operations must, at all times, be supportive of strategy. If the mission\strategy says the organization builds airplanes, we don’t want money being spent building racing cars.

Since top management does not have time to micro-manage operations, they have to rely on ROIs (don’t authorize iniatives that are not supportive of strategy) and they also need to periodically trend KPIs (Key Process Indicators).

It’s not too difficult to work out ways and means of consolidating operational data to KPIs. However, it’s best to update KPIs in real-time, not rely on readings based on historical data. And, guard against watching the wrong KPIs.

The big question is where do you keep your KPIs?

How about back at the Kbase?

This closes the strategy->operations->strategy loop and it gives top management one additional and very powerful benefit which is the ability to look at KPIs and engage what-if and connect-the-dots processing. This can lead to a realization that KPIs need changing (i.e. the KPIs are no longer valid measures of current strategy.)

ROIs on the way down (submit/approve), and KPIs on the way up, are the way to bridge the gap between Strategy and Operations.

Posted in Automated Resource Allocation, Case Management, Decision Making, MANAGEMENT, Operational Planning, Operations Management, R.A.L.B., Strategic Planning | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Patient Experience: $100M in Free Revenue for Your Hospital


kwkeirstead@civerex.com:

Paul raises some excellent points!

Originally posted on Disrupting Patient Access & Experience:

Did you know that fifty-percent of patients who have selected a provider will seek a second opinion?  That means that fifty-percent of the people who chose your hospital will want information from another hospital or physician. It also means that fifty-percent of the people who chose a hospital other than yours will be seeking a second opinion, which means many of them will be contacting your institution.

However you do the math, seeking a second opinion means that over the course of the year your hospital will be hearing from as many as tens of thousands of people seeking a second opinion. And what is the question they are really trying to answer?  They are trying to answer the question—should I buy my healthcare for this situation from your hospital?

For a moment, let’s consider the officer of the Chief Financial Officer.  That person’s job is to make…

View original 666 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Success with Entrepreneurship


Most of us who want to start up a business venture have a finite amount of capital. You have to develop a product/service, promote it, and start to see money coming in. It’s rare to be able to get everything right the first try, so it’s reasonable to expect a few false starts.onward_and_upward

Once you are out there in the market, you have to make sure there is an ongoing demand for your product/service, a growing “delighted” customer-base, and a cost base that allows you to re-invest part of the profits on preserving and enhancing your infrastructure.

Most businesses end up either firefighting or manage to get things to settle down to where top management and operational staff have time to focus on innovation.

There is an essential difference in terms of outcome from continuous process improvement initiatives versus continuous innovation. In the case of the former, you reach a state of diminishing returns whereas the latter knows no bounds.

You cannot legislate “innovation” but you can encourage a culture that is supportive of innovation but organizations that are permanently in “firefighting” mode never seem to have any time for innovation.

For more information on clearing away the hurdles to innovation, see my four-part blog series “Managerial Productivity I-II-III-IV at:

http://wp.me/pzzpB-zO

Posted in Competitive Advantage, Organizational Development, Strategic Planning | Leave a comment

Pulling It All Together – Managerial Productivity (IV of IV)


We started off this four-part series with a post on the importance of having a clean slate forpuzzle the pursuit of productivity improvement, not of processes, but of managers.

Part I (Stop Reading Exception Reports) highlighted the need for organizations to embrace ACM (Adaptive Case Management) and BPM (Business Process Management) to provide in-line orchestration and governance. The objective here is to allow top management to break away from firefighting mode.

In Part II (The Whole Is Greater Than The Sum Of The Parts), we saw how RALB (Resource allocation, leveling and balancing) in Case environments can streamline work performance. The objective here is to allow knowledge workers to increase their productivity so that they have more time to devote to innovation.

Then, in Part III (Reach For The Sky), we saw how minor restructuring (staff empowerment, improved use of committees/meetings, putting in place oases, contingency budgeting, life-cycle ROIs, fast-tracking of worthy initiatives) can provide an environment that is conducive to innovation.

Action Is Required

No benefits will come out of these recommendations unless/until you take action.

Reading “buy low/sell high” articles, attending “feel good” motivational seminars, or starting up internal “Let’s innovate” campaigns will not help.

What is needed is a 2-3 day visit from an experienced facilitator to take you through a process where all of your corporate assets plus intelligence needed to make strategic decisions and authorize operational initiatives can be consolidated to one place. The objective is to build and have ready for use,  an inventory of corporate assets, not talk about the importance/benefits of having such an inventory. Stay clear of consultants who borrow your watch to tell you what time it is.

The environment of choice for building an inventory of corporate assets (plant, equipment, facilities, staff, products, products under development, customers, competitors, relevant legislation) is a free-form search Knowledge Base. Once you have this in place you will be able to use it for strategic planning and operations monitoring.

Your Kbase will become your main means of increasing competitive advantage.

Stop Reading Exception Reports – Part I
(Put Guidance and Governance In-Line)

http://wp.me/pzzpB-zO

 

The Whole is Greater Than The Sum Of The Parts – Part II
(Put RALB – Resource Allocation, Leveling and Balancing In-Line)

http://wp.me/pzzpB-zS

 

Reach for the Sky – Part III
(Empower Staff)

http://wp.me/pzzpB-A8

 

Pulling It All Together – Part IV

http://wp.me/pzzpB-Ag

Posted in Adaptive Case Management, Business Process Improvement, Business Process Management, Case Management, Competitive Advantage, Decision Making, MANAGEMENT, Operational Planning, Organizational Development, R.A.L.B., Strategic Planning | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Reach for the Sky – Managerial Productivity Series (III)


status_of_libertyOnce organizations map out and deploy their processes to an RALB run time environment where work is orchestrated by BPM (guidelines) and facilitated/constrained by ACM (guard rails), it’s time to face up to the reality that only 1/3 of employees in many corporations are engaged.

It seems reasonable, under this scenario, to spend less time increasing the productivity of 1/3 of staff and more time engaging and empowering the 2/3 majority.

Here are a few suggestions:

1. Form committees sparingly. Let them come together and disband.

2. Reduce the number of wall-to-wall meetings, shorten the durations of the rest and be choosy re who either gets to attend or is forced to attend, depending on the perspective.

3. Provide away-from-the-desk “oases” to foster innovation.

4. Include contingency funding in annual budgets so that innovative projects can start up at odd times.

5.  Put in place project monitoring/control to monitor ROIs through their life cycles. Ensure that when approving ROIs, the timeline extends beyond the “launch” date so that training is not short circuited and that a settling in period can take place.

6. Improve your approval processes so that they are able to accommodate “fast tracking”, where appropriate.

Stop Reading Exception Reports – Part I
(Put Guidance and Governance In-Line)

http://wp.me/pzzpB-zO

The Whole is Greater Than The Sum Of The Parts – Part II -
(Put RALB – Resource Allocation, Leveling and Balancing In-Line)

http://wp.me/pzzpB-zS

Reach for the Sky – Part III
(Empower Staff)

http://wp.me/pzzpB-A8

Pulling It All Together – Part IV

http://wp.me/pzzpB-Ag

Posted in Adaptive Case Management, Business Process Management, Productivity Improvement, Uncategorized | Tagged | 2 Comments

The whole is greater than the sum of the parts – Managerial Productivity Series (II)


1plus1In the office/services sector, if you measure the time to perform a linked set of tasks and compare the sum of the task times to total elapsed time to go from start to finish, total time will usually exceed the sum of the task times by a factor of two or greater.

In this scenario,  more is not better.

Two reasons:

  • When you suspend a task and go to another project it takes time to exit from the task and time to get back to your task. The more you multi-task, the more exit/re-entry times add up.
  • When you finish a task and the next-in-line task needs to be performed by another person, there usually is a time delay associated with the hand-off.

Corporations spend a lot of time writing a policy/procedure detailing how work should be done. Necessary? Yes. Sufficient? No.

What is missing is an infrastructure that minimizes task exit/reentry and minimizes hand-off delays.

You need two things to increase productivity in office/services.

  • RALB (resource allocation, leveling and balancing).
  • Guidelines/guardrails.

Guidelines come from BPM (Business Process Management), guardrails come from ACM (Adaptive Case Management).

RALB pulls everything together. Tasks post automatically as upstream tasks are committed.

BPM provides “best practices” advice and assistance for setting priorities and making decisions.

ACM sets up guardrails to prevent extreme, unwanted excursions away from best practices.

Unfortunately, getting organizations to subscribe to ACM/BPM is a bit like herding cats.

The range of excuses is too extensive to detail here. What I hear mostly is “ . . . too busy fighting fires” so they never get to see how ACM/BPM prevents many fires.

A couple of days with an experienced consultant is all it takes to break away from the herd and set the stage for significant productivity improvement.

If you want to get to where your organization is doing the right things, the right way, using the right resources, at the right times/places, pick up the phone.

Karl Walter Keirstead
1 800 529 5355 USA
1 450 458 5601 elsewhere

——————————

Stop Reading Exception Reports – Part I
(Put Guidance and Governance In-Line)

http://wp.me/pzzpB-zO

The Whole is Greater Than The Sum Of The Parts – Part II -
(Put RALB – Resource Allocation, Leveling and Balancing In-Line)

http://wp.me/pzzpB-zS

Reach for the Sky – Part III
(Empower Staff)

http://wp.me/pzzpB-A8

Pulling It All Together – Part IV

http://wp.me/pzzpB-Ag

 

Posted in Adaptive Case Management, Business Process Management, Case Management, FIXING HEALTHCARE, LEGAL, MANAGEMENT, Manufacturing Operations, Operational Planning, R.A.L.B., Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Stop Reading Exception Reports! – Managerial Productivity Series (I)


Looks like we are into a new series at this blog.

A good productivity improvement starting position is to eliminate waste, allowing Jugglerexecutives more time to work on more interesting/important work.

Corporate executives who spend a lot of their time reading exceptions reports need new technology that accommodates in-line transaction-level monitoring.

Once this is in place they will be able to move on to more interesting work within the corporation because there won’t be more than a couple of line items on the exception reports they have been reading. Many of these reports are likely to totally disappear.

I used to build process control systems for various industries, one of which was cement making. Cement plants are highly automated and the consequences of breakdowns can cause major repair/restart headaches. The obvious solution was to have in-line process control with several fail-safe backup protocols. If you visit a cement plant and try to find a worker, you will have about as much success as trying to get service in a large retail store.

In office/services, having things fall between the cracks is, for many, part of each workday.

Here, process monitoring was traditionally carried out by BPM (Business Process Management) software, with frequent pauses/hard stops along template instances to accommodate needs not anticipated in templates or rewinds to convenient upstream process points as faults were highlighted in exception reports.

The gradual merging of ACM (Adaptive Case Management) with BPM (Business Process Management) is changing all of this.

ACM/BPM provides orchestration (guidelines of decision support) plus governance (guardrails). Work happens.

In-line rule sets make sure the right things get done, the right way, at the right times/places, using the right resources.

In–line rule steps go a long way to detecting trends before actual problems have had time to evolve, allowing line managers / machines to initiate corrective actions that minimize exceptions.

If you have noticed recently that your multi-page exception reports show only 2-3 items, there is a good chance that your organization has embraced ACM/BPM.

If not, you should push for a review of how your organization can reduce the gap between operations and strategy by introducing ACM/BPM.

Don’t worry, you won’t be out of a job if most of your current workdays are taken up reading exception reports. There are lots of more interesting and challenging things to do, one of which is to make sure top management is looking at the right KPIs. The dynamic nature of business today is that there is a high risk of monitoring the wrong KPIs.

Stop Reading Exception Reports – Part I
(Put Guidance and Governance In-Line)

http://wp.me/pzzpB-zO

The Whole is Greater Than The Sum Of The Parts – Part II -
(Put RALB – Resource Allocation, Leveling and Balancing In-Line)

http://wp.me/pzzpB-zS

Reach for the Sky – Part III
(Empower Staff)

http://wp.me/pzzpB-A8

Pulling It All Together – Part IV

http://wp.me/pzzpB-Ag

Posted in Adaptive Case Management, Automated Resource Allocation, Business Process Management, Decision Making, Operational Planning, Process Management, Software Acquisition | Leave a comment

Finding needles in haystacks – Can you do it?


I deal with a fairly large number of organizations (suppliers, clients, correspondents).                     Haystack

I like to track e-mail exchanges but some of the time there is overlap between threads so no point trying to define and organize messages under Outlook folders.

Microsoft Outlook, in my opinion, has terrible facilities for organizing e-mail messages. If you are using folders and inadvertently drag and drop a message to the wrong folder, it can be frustrating to find it. The message search facilities in Outlook are not particularly good either.

I just noticed I have 17,405,808 messages sitting in 30 .pst files across 4 hard drives that host some 10 Tb of data storage.

Today, a colleague wanted to find a contact at TEAC, so I typed in the model of a TEAC field audio recorder that I use and immediately got 5 hits, two of which gave me the name of my contact. The last time I spoke to my contact was 12/31/2012.

My search environment is a little Outlook add-in software called Lookeen. I have no clue how I found it.

I went to the web site just now (http://www.lookeen.net/) and was astonished to find that it costs less than $100. I hope they are selling truckloads of this product.

There is a point to this little story.

I find that CEOs today are more receptive to “connect-the-dots” activities.

My theory is they have come to realize that staring at a fixed set of KPIs (Key Process Indicators) carries with it the risk that, because of the fast pace of business, they may be looking at the wrong KPIs. The ability to initiate investigations on their own becomes important.

The traditional approach to “connect-the-dots”, of course, has been to invent questions to put to assistants who then go away and come back with answers, leading to a new round of questions.

If you want/need to “connect-the-dots”, you will quickly find that a free-form search capability in a Knowledgebase is the way to go.

Before visual search/results display capabilities, reading through long listings of relational database (rdbms) search results was non-productive and suffered from the great deficiency that non-visual searches only tell you what the search algorithm was able to find, not what it was not able to find.

Visual searches let you see across 10,000 or more documents (all on one computer screen) what the search algorithm found and what it did not find.

Consider McDonalds, looking to add a new fast food outlet – they may be looking to add a new outlet at a location where Wendy’s has an outlet, but it could be they want to add a new outlet at a location where Wendy’s does NOT have an outlet.

The huge difference is you need to engage two searches in an rdbms to get the required information whereas in a Kbase environment you get to see the required information with one search.

The model used in Kbases is pretty straightforward:

Type -> click -> find

Kbases, in my view, are changing corporate landscapes.

In a cake-bake, the CEO with a Kbase will be the fastest, best-informed CEO in the north, south, east and west.

If you want more information on the role Kbases can play to increase your competitive advantage, take a look at “Where, oh where, have my documents gone?” at

http://wp.me/pzzpB-zb

 

Posted in Database Technology, Decision Making, Enterprise Content Management, Strategic Planning | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Art and Science of Workflow Scheduling for Office/Services


ArtScience

Workflow scheduling in the office/services domain is complicated by the fact that not all of the work can be described plan-side using flowgraphs.

Compare CPM (Critical Path Scheduling), a deterministic flowgraph scheduling methodology (where there is one convenient starting start and one converging end step) to ad hoc Adaptive Case Management scheduling in office/services where, at first glance, the only attribute linking any two steps at any Case is time.

In the domain of office/services, we lose the ability to assign durations at some steps (i.e. how long will it take you to complete the invention you are working on?), so traditional ES-EF-LS-LF calculations can no longer be used.

The presence of pathway-embedded decision boxes that carry out branching on the basis of run-time data values takes us further away from plan-side scheduling.

We do have, thanks to BPM, “best practices” process fragment templates for some office/services work, but about the only thing we can say about office/services scheduling at the end of the day is we need an environment that can accommodate any mix of unstructured and structured work.

The mix can vary from 95/5% to 5/95%. Beyond these two ranges you no longer need one of BPM or ACM.

No wonder managers agonize over scheduling, but it can all come together without a lot of fanfare if we facilitate three types of scheduling at Cases and across Cases.

  1. Scheduling as a result of background BPM (i.e. steps post according to BPM process logic to the attention of workers who are available and have the appropriate skill sets to perform steps).

The posting method used results in each next-in-line step being broadcast to all
workers who have a Role that matches a Role at the step.

The first to “take” the step owns it and is expected to perform the step and commit it.
The owner-worker micro-schedules the step based on his/her specific workload for
a day.

Supervisors level and balance workload across workers.

 

  1. Insertion of ad hoc steps at worker InTrays by supervisors and workers.

 

  1. Insertion of steps or sequences of steps by intercept engines that parse incoming external event messages and post steps to gatekeepers or worker InTrays.

 

What is extraordinary is the simplicity of the User Interface required to accommodate the above activity.

All you need to manage workflow is a split screen with a traditional calendar on one side and a to-list on the other, plus a refresher course on how to use Agenda books that all of us have, at some stage, used.

Proof that the setup works comes from a realization that everyone, every day, comes to their place of work and first takes note of their fixed time commitments for the day. In between these, we focus on one or more to-do tasks.

Aside from ‘sticky’ to-do tasks (i.e. breakfast meds in a hospital), workers are best left alone to micro-schedule their to-do tasks. Some people like to advance a large to-do item in their InTray, others prefer to “clean up” several small to-do items.

So there you have it, a simple setup for what initially appears to be complex scheduling. It turns out most scheduling is not that complex at all.

But, but, but, you say, “the devil is in the details”. Correct, and here are examples of not-so-easy scheduling tasks that we all face now and then.

Healthcare: When a worker “takes” a task, fails to complete/commit it and goes off shift, “the show must go on” so you need a mechanism called “break glass” that allows virtually anyone, subject to inputting a reason, go in and complete the task or assign it to someone else. An intervention of this kind should only be done following verbal contact/e-mail response because of the danger to patients. e.g. no dose can be fatal, double dose can equally be fatal.

Manufacturing: If you are a government inspector visiting defense manufacturing plants, you need to use a “traveling salesman” algorithm for advance scheduling.

The lesson here is any run-time environment/UI you put together needs to route data collection to a Data Exchanger. In respect of the latter, rule sets can direct data to specialized engines for data enrichment and import back of enriched data for use within the Case environment.

Nobody said it was that easy, overall.

Posted in Case Management, Scheduling | Tagged , | 1 Comment

The real purpose of a BPMs


BPM

I have a client who has been with us for years. They have been using one of our healthcare  products for Case management but somehow never got around to using the workflow management module.

Recently, they started up a new division and asked us to help with streamlining of their operations.

This included mapping out processes, assigning roles to process steps, attaching data collection forms to steps, compiling the maps and rolling out processes to a run-time environment where BPM was able to provide background orchestration and ACM was able to provide governance via global rule sets.

We rolled out each process, invited a group of stakeholders to take on featured Roles and piano-play a few process template instances. As anticipated, we got feedback on the process logic and forms (steps with bad Role encoding, steps in the wrong sequence, wrong forms at certain steps). The versioning turnaround time in most cases was immediate i.e. change the Roles, change process logic, change process step forms then re-compile and roll out a new version.

Since the mapping was done in real-time with the active participation of stakeholders and since the environment lent itself to close to “instant gratification”, it did not take a long time to “improve” the processes.

Unfortunately, for most organizations, the BPM story ends here with delivery of a mapped, modeled, improved process on paper.

The real purpose of BPM, in our view, becomes evident when you put processes in a run time Case environment where you are able to achieve orchestration from BPM and achieve governance from the Case environment.

You need automated resource allocation, leveling and balancing capabilities (R.A.L.B) at the Case environment so that process steps from multiple Cases\process templates\instances post automatically at User InTrays as and when steps become current along what typically works out to be a Case load of 20-50 patients in healthcare and possibly 100 interventions per day of Day Orders for a worker in a job shop manufacturing setting.

Without RALB, workers do not have an easy time prioritizing (micro-scheduling) process steps that post to their individual InTrays nor do supervisors have an easy time leveling and balancing workload across workers.

The other thing often missing is Interoperability – if your Case environment is not able to export data to local and remote systems and applications and import data from these, your Case environment becomes a “ivory tower” where decisions are made in the absence of current data that could have an important bearing on such decisions.

Being able to manage workflow at Cases is all important because Case automatically gives you a history of all interventions at any Case with date/time stamps and user “signatures”. You get to see Case data, as it was, in reverse chronological order, on the form versions that were in service at the time the data was collected. Case plus interoperability allows workers to make decisions based on past and current data and if we add in predictive analytics, workers have the wherewithal to carry out “Case Management”.

It’s hard to imagine how e-Case Management would be incapable of providing at least a 30% improvement in productivity.

If we add onto this increased throughput as a result of having next-in-line steps post immediately as current steps along Cases\process templates\instances are committed, decreased errors as a result of in-line step-specific rule sets, and improved compliance as a result of Case level governance it is hard to understand why so many BPM initiatives quit at the paper process map stage.

A possible explanation is that BPM imposes rigidity in respect of the performance of work. This makes it difficult to get workers on board and even more difficult to sustain your BPM initiative.

Facts are if you inventory all of your BPM processes at a Services Menu and then include in this inventory a reasonable sub-set of individual process steps as “processes of one step each”, your software users will never feel constrained by BPM – they can, at any time, simply by selecting a menu item at a Case, revisit already committed workflow steps, insert steps not in the process template and record data at steps not yet current along a BPM workflow.

The final discovery once you get staff on board with e-Cases is that with Case-level governance you are likely to discover one worker performing interventions using a process template, with another worker, for whatever reason, performing the same scope work via a number of seemingly, except to that worker, unrelated ad hoc interventions.

Since both know what they are doing (i.e. we hire knowledge workers with the presumption that they know what to do, how to do it), it’s not surprising both are able to reach the same goals/objectives.

The lesson here is clear – make sure you go “the extra mile” with BPM. You can do this by combining BPM, ACM, RALB in an e-Case environment that accommodates interoperability.

The elevator pitch to CEOs/CIOs is easy – workflow management environments provide orchestration (the center line guidelines along a highway) plus governance (guardrails on the sides of the highway).

The benefits are increased staff efficiency, increased throughput, decreased errors, improved compliance with internal and external rules and regulations, all of which lead to improved outcomes and increased competitive advantage. With a potential 30% productivity improvement, ROIs should turn positive in 12-18 months, with clear sailing beyond this.

The punch line is – “when you have ways and means of doing the right things, the right way, at the right place , at the right time, using the right resources, there is not much that is likely to fall between the cracks”.

Posted in Adaptive Case Management, Automated Resource Allocation, Business Process Improvement, Business Process Management, Case Management, Data Interoperability, R.A.L.B. | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment