The Case for Business Process Management

We’ve seen a clear trend on many of our service design projects. Everybody is talking about the importance of adopting a client-centric approach. It makes sense, after all, to position the client at the centre of our service design efforts.  But doesn’t it also make sense to include Business Process Management (BPM) in our early planning activities?

Let’s be honest, BPM is not a very popular choice given how difficult it is to gain agreement on business level processes across so many implicated stakeholders. It’s hard enough to gain wide-spread support and advocacy for projects as it is.

What’s the case for BPM?

Let’s start by looking at a definition of BPM.

Gartner defines BPM as “a discipline that improves enterprise performance by driving operational excellence and business agility.” Think of a business as an engine and BPM as a tool to fine-tune every component of that engine in order to achieve maximum performance.

Many organizations have internal business processes that, for any number of reasons, may be slow, inefficient, unreliable, duplicative, and redundant. The performance of these processes greatly affects the organization’s ability to implement change. BPM puts all of these processes under review and identifies the improvements needed to produce better results. It’s not only the path to improved performance, but it is also the first step to achieving readiness to implement change.

What is the relationship between BPM and Service design?

BPM gathers internal client requirements that are derived primarily from within the organization.

Service design gathers external client requirements that are derived primarily from outside the organization.

They are two sides of the same coin. I believe that we cannot achieve external outcomes without first achieving our internal outcomes.

More standardized and consistent internal performance is required in order to respond effectively to requirements derived through service design. Let’s face it, behind every service is a host of internal business processes that are not consistently efficient or responsive. It is our internal processes that will deliver the external results.

How should BPM and Service design work together? 

Taking a client-centric approach to service design is a great way to redesign a service to achieve higher levels of client satisfaction. The real challenge occurs when the time comes to convert the design into action.

Starting early to optimize internal business processes will ease that conversion greatly.  It will improve the eventual handoff to the implicated stakeholders across the organization.

The requirements gathered through service design will not only greatly contribute to the BPM efforts, but they will better focus the business process work on client outcomes. This avoids the real problem with BPM:  that it primarily takes an inside-out approach that can be seen as ignoring the client experience.

This harmony across the approaches will deliver superior project results. It will improve the ability of the implicated stakeholders to not only embrace the change, but to quickly adapt their work environment to implement the change.

Conclusion

Opting out of BPM will not have any immediate negative impacts. The challenges will only arise when the project prepares to release back to the internal organizations expected to deliver on the new service design.  Like so many projects before, this will be the moment when people realize that designing services without considering the underlying business processes is about as problematic as completing BPM without considering the input of the client.

Embrace the two sides of the coin:  BPM + Service design = superior project results.

Share your thoughts.  I’d like to hear from you.


Kathy Roy has implemented business transformation and change management projects in complex organizations for over two decades. She has worked with major companies, both public and private, and with numerous business sectors in both Canada and the United States. She is part of Systemscope's Strategic Business Consulting practice.


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