Bridging the Gap between Infrastructure, Human Resources and Customers – (Parts I, II, III, IV, V)


This is a consolidation of the five-part series called Bridging the Gap between- Intrastructure, Human Resources, and Customers.

If you are a management consultant and would like to learn more about BPMx, call 800 529 5355 (North America) or 1 450 458 5601 to register for a series of  web-sessions.

The cost is only $20 per session based on 8 participants per session.  If  you master the software environment you will get a free copy and will have a foundation that could allow you to double your revenue for certain consulting engagements you take on.

BRIDGING THE GAP between Infrastructure, Human Resources and Customers

Part I

“Where’s the Beef?

BPMx is a methodology that increases customer satisfaction. You already know about BPA and BPI and BPM, but do you know what BPMx is and how expanding your scope of work to include BPMx could allow you to double your consulting revenue?

When you start up a business you typically need infrastructure, human resources and customers in that order. Without infrastructure and human resources, unless a customer arrives on a silver platter, the business will be unable to manufacture products or deliver services that are capable of attracting customers.

Running a business on the other hand requires customers, human resources and infrastructure in that order.  Customers are usually the only source of revenue for an organization.  But, in the absence of customer service customers either go away on their own or are lured away by competitors. Most infrastructure declines in value over time and therefore needs to be periodically updated and improved. Focusing on the customer takes care of your infrastructure and human resource capital.

There is a hidden requirement to keep everything in balance – you need processes to produce goods and services that are capable of satisfying current and evolving needs of customers.  Processes have a direct link to customer satisfaction.

In a way it’s a distortion to look at all business activity as a set of processes, but not if you include ad hoc one-step processes in your definition.  If you buy into this view of business activity you can categorize all work as a) processes that directly contribute to customer satisfaction, b) processes that are required for the operation of the business but do not directly contribute to customer satisfaction and c) processes that are not required and do not contribute to customer satisfaction.

Processes typically are organizational or industry “best practices” protocols.  Developing a set of best practices is not an easy task. Many organizations engage consultants to help them evolve a set of best practices. Engagements typically result in availability of written reports and concept diagrams or process maps. The effort is called Business Process Analysis (BPA), Business Process Development (BPD) and Business Process Improvement (BPI).

Missing in this is the ability to make consistent use of best practices on a day to day basis and this is the domain of BPM (Business Process Management).

You say you are already doing BPM.  I maintain otherwise.  “Where’s the beef?” is my question.

Part II

“Why most consulting engagements end when the job is ½ done”

Concept diagrams or summary-level process maps supposedly facilitate understanding of a process (“a picture is worth a thousand words”).

However, aside from a few isolated cases, most of the BPM tools that are available today for process mapping are totally unsuited for operations control or day-to-day monitoring of adherence to best practices.

Organizations say they are doing BPM but it’s true only at a conceptual level.

Day-to-day operational level control of a particular class of best practices requires detailed process maps:

  • where there are a large number of steps with complex interconnections between steps,
  • where individual steps require specialized skills for performance of steps,
  • where progress along ‘pathways’ needs to be tracked, and
  • where proof of completion of steps is important.

A second requirement is that people actually make use of detailed process maps instead of putting these in the corporate library where they sit gathering dust.

Whereas some of the BPM tools on the market are capable of generating detailed process mapping that yield operational level workflows, the resulting workflows remain “pictures of workflows” as opposed to “workflows that work”.

When you map a process, then a) compile the process steps and b) have a software system guide the processing by posting steps to staff Orders InTrays, you have the basis for “workflows that work”. Now you are doing BPMx.  It’s my impression the term was invented by a well-known UK consultant following a recent debate on LinkedIn on what needs to be done to BPM.

I like the strategy – if you cannot solve a problem change the question. Works some of the time and I think it works here because we have a new name and a new methodology.

“Workflows that work”, the output of BPMx, bridge the gap between infrastructure, human resources and customers. They ensure the right things get done the right way, using the right resources. They ensure tasks are completed within time constraints (right time), and that documentation standards and internal/external rules and regulations are met. Outcomes improve and customer satisfaction improves.

If you are a management consultant you may be able to double your revenue by transitioning from BPA/BPI to BPMx.

But, you say, my customers are already doing BPM.  No, they are not, in many cases and Part III explains why.

Part III

“Benefits of BPMx”

Without “workflows that work” staff is expected to refer to off-line or on-line manuals /concept diagrams. The problem is staff has no time to read 100 page manuals and stare at pictures of workflows.

As might be expected, over time, staff takes liberties performing steps and you end up with multiple interpretations of best practices across staff, even variations from one day to the next for the same staff member. Outcomes suffer.

When an organization has an established means for ongoing monitoring of best practices at the individual transaction level (i.e. “workflows that work”), staff no longer has to worry what the next step in a process is for any process instance (e.g. launch of a new product; patient service delivery; preparation of an RFP response), who should perform the step, where, how or when.

With software guiding the progression of work along a process template it becomes difficult to inadvertently skip steps, perform steps out of sequence, use resources that are not appropriate for steps, be late/too early, or fail to properly document steps in the way of forms/certificates.

BPMx increases staff efficiency, increases throughput, decreases errors, improves compliance with internal/external rules and regulations, leading, over time, to improved outcomes.

But, you say, how can a process diagram mirror the vast number of special situations that arise in what may, at first sight, seem like a simple straightforward linear process?  Unlike manufacturing, process steps in Office/Services workflows can become very complex.  Part IV tells you how to get around this hurdle.

Part IV

“The devil is in the details”

Now comes the hard part.  It’s reasonable to expect that BPMx will result in some automation of steps along process template instances.  This both simplifies as well as complicates.

Whereas software can guide progression of work along a process template and put up barriers for staff to help ensure that deficiencies as detected are remedied, machines are not very intuitive and need detailed instructions if they are to perform steps on their own.

Let’s take a simple example: I instruct a robot to go down the hall and enter one of three unlocked doors.  In the absence of clear rules such as “come back if you find all three doors locked”, you could find the robot endlessly trying the three doors days after you issue the instruction.

In healthcare, a yes/no decision point can easily become ‘yes, no, patient did not understand the question, patient did not hear the question, patient could not provide a response, patient would not provide a response, the interviewer did not understand the response  . . .’

No complex Office/Services workflow, however cleverly crafted, can handle all eventualities, so what happens when a staff member must skip a step, perform a step in a different sequence, add a step that was not part of the original workflow, or terminate processing along a process pathway?

The answer is it is better to use best practices most of the time than to not use best practices at all.

So, all we have to do is make it possible for staff to deviate from best practices as and when they need to but put in compliance controls at key process control points to keep things on the rails.

The problem is addressed by adding a dimension to BPMx I call “independent background checking” (by the software system) at key process control points (PCPs) along process pathways. When a PCP becomes a current task along a workflow the software system will trip up both staff persons and robots if deficiencies are detected.  If you think about it, this gives you 100% auditing at the individual transaction level.

Without independent background checking “workflows that work” really don’t work.

Part V

“Where do we go from here?”

You may be familiar with the scenario where you visit your client, take notes, go back to your office, construct a VISIO or some other process diagram, then go back to see the client a day or so later.  Each visit has a start-up cost because of the time gap and travel requirements. After several iterations extending over days or even weeks, you end up with a “picture of a workflow”.

With a BPMx tool, you can host a live discovery process where you build a process map in real time, in front of your audience. Each day you take on a scope of work that lets you by the end of that day, to build, compile, run and obtain signoff  on that part of the total project.  Your efficiency increases by an interesting multiple. Customer satisfaction goes through the roof.

At run time, the difference with BPMx is equally dramatic. Instead of collecting data, analyzing the data, discovering problems after the fact and then devising ways and means of avoid these problems in the future,  BPMx software systems can provide Continuous Quality Management at key Process Control Points  by causing a hard stop as and when evolving problems are detected.

Avoiding problems is a better strategy than trying to fix problems after the fact.

This might seem like sad news for readers of ‘Exception Reports’ because these reports become few and far between. But, with BPMx, the landscape changes across the entire organization – there are lots of more interesting tasks QA people can focus on.

Bottom line :  BPMx is “motherhood and apple pie”.  Your option is not “whether”, just “when”.

I will leave you with the analogy of trying to plan, organize and carry out a trip using a paper roadmap versus using a GPS device where at ‘run time’ the GPS lets you adapt your trip on the basis of road construction, traffic volume, etc. BPA/BPD/BPI is your paper roadmap, BPMx is your GPS.

You can increase the scope and quality of the consulting services you provide to your clients by embracing BPMx technology.  In so doing, you will automatically tap into two new significant revenue stream opportunities a) process implementation and b) periodic process reviews both of which require consultant input.

For more information on BPMx, call K Walter Keirstead 450.458.5601 at Civerex Systems Inc. – we have nothing to sell to you other than help getting you up to speed with BPMx.

About kwkeirstead@civerex.com

Management consultant and process control engineer (MSc EE) with a focus on bridging the gap between operations and strategy in the areas of critical infrastructure protection, connect-the-dots law enforcement investigations, healthcare services delivery, job shop manufacturing and b2b/b2c/b2d transactions. (C) 2010-2017 Karl Walter Keirstead, P. Eng. All rights reserved. The opinions expressed here are those of the author, and are not connected with Jay-Kell Technologies Inc, Civerex Systems Inc. (Canada), Civerex Systems Inc. (USA) or CvX Productions.
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3 Responses to Bridging the Gap between Infrastructure, Human Resources and Customers – (Parts I, II, III, IV, V)

  1. As a result of the passage of time BPMx has transitioned to ACM/BPM.

    Like

  2. Pingback: Life beyond Business Process Modeling | KWKeirstead's Blog

    • @Adam.. I removed the para about “Project Gestalt” – they would not want to get calls from readers.

      Otherwise, ping again and you should be able to pick up the updated article (first published in 2010)

      Like

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