Like the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, while Information Technology has the potential to provide solutions, it also aggravates the problem.
In the old days where paper moved around the offices, and personal interaction was mostly face-to-face, the process and its performance were largely visible.
Over time, as we ask technology to do more and more, and we integrate systems together, our understanding of the process gets buried behind the servers and routers, the middleware and databases.
Once the flourish of understanding earned during the technologies implementation fades with time and staff attrition, our process understanding and therefore maturity are then left much worse than before, and much harder for anyone to dig out.
An increasing number of systems in large organisations are no-go areas for re-engineering as no-one, without massive investment, can figure them out.
Despite endless CEOs pontificating about the importance of client-centricity, for many the true experience of their clients is invisible to and unheard by the employees who can influence that very experience.
We set up structures for customer feedback and complaints, mostly to manage the volume of demand on our resources caused by our own failings rather than to drive action to improve the situation.
Net promoter score is a good thermometer, but it provides very little actionable information.
If our business process management is going to serve the needs of our clients, the truth about their experience and perception must to be heard, unfiltered and shared.
Albert Einstein once said “Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted.”
Metrics are a huge part of mature business process management, but so many of the metrics gathered in business today are simply meaningless administrative overhead. They give some the sense of control, but too often as we scratch below the surface they prove to be incorrect or incomplete.
Mature business process management uses a small subset of ongoing metrics that are truly meaningful, but will offer the ability to gather metrics for specific areas easily as and when needed.
Email is often called “the killer app” of the internet age. As valuable as it is, it also has a hidden and very destructive influence on the way that we work and interact.
There are two reasons why email is an obstacle to mature Business Process Management:
-the ease with which new copies of messages can be created and distributed means that accountability and tracking quickly become confused and chaotic
-it is so easy to organically create and evolve processes that use email for interaction again relaxing control and understanding of others
Proven, healthier alternatives exist, but it is going to take a determined effort to wean us off email.
Command and control management and their functionally-oriented hierarchies are the default in the absence of process-centric management.
Once established, it tightens its grip on organisations. This suffocating hold can only be released through deliberate action from the most senior leaders.
Lower down the hierarchy employees become focussed on serving their managers rather than the clients of their processes. Managers often have a vested interest in the status quo, then become barriers to change due to its associated risks.
Few teams have a clearly stated and openly shared purpose and operating principles. What’s required is to more clearly define the processes they support and the needs of the clients of those processes. With this, meaningless goals fall away and true client-focussed process-centric performance accelerates.
Arguably (along with managers) IT teams could be barriers to maturing BPM, but they are also victims. As the engineers of the knowledge economy, technology specialists wield great power, or at least have the potential to.
If the context and detail of re-engineering opportunities can be understood, technology and those who develop it can deliver untold benefits: scalability, consistency, risk reduction and performance to name but a few.
However these projects rarely deliver on their potential. Well-meaning analysts produce requirements and then programmers write code that simply fails to deliver what’s needed.
But how can they deliver the best answer, when no-one person, or group has the ability to tell them the full story about the problem. Immature Business Process Management strikes again…
A sense of purpose and belonging are some of our most basic human needs. We hire bright energetic new talent, buzzing with creativity and energy, and ask them to perform mindless workarounds to known issues, disconnected from the needs of customers or the goals of the firm.
Millions are spent on retaining these people against the silent screams that tell them to leave, or ask them why they commute to work every day. Sometimes it is direct: raises and bonuses. Sometimes its “social events” or team-building exercises with temporary shared objectives, that lose their value as the day ends.
Most hard-working employees that I have had the pleasure of working with want a clear purpose and to be an appreciated part of a team. Yes, compensation is important, but so much is wasted in recruitment, retention and performance management.
Again, mature Business Process Management should deliver this clarity to the employees on the front line.
Customers are not alone in suffering. Perhaps you are a manager of a team or department, recently promoted up or brought into a new firm. You’re asked to drive performance, often needing to make changes, but how good is the information available to you?
What processes are you responsible for? How are they performing? In many cases information is vague or out-of-date. Where it is useful, it is often fragmented.
Yet decisions need to be made. There are new surprises every day, and soon the working day is filled with fire-fighting. Is that so bad? At least its visible, the heros get rewarded in most towns.
And so it goes on…
To start, I’d like to identify the reasons why we should care. Who are the victims of immature Business Process Management, and what happens to them as we things change? The first (and arguably most important) victims: customers.
Most of us have experienced the frustration of being a customer of a large organisation, such as a bank, trying to use their services, but quickly feeling that we are dealing with the multi-headed monster of myth, the hydra, that is more interested in self preservation than delivering on its promises.
Few in “customer service” seem to know what’s going on. It takes an age to get stuff done, and invariably the outcome is wrong. Via call-centres, face-to-face meetings and online exchanges, we end up trying to navigate the organisations from the outside looking for simple resolutions, but rarely win the fight.