A year in the process world - Some quick thoughts.

2008 draws to a close and gives us the opportunity, once again, to review what has happened over the last twelve months in the world of business processes.

Economically the last twelve months have shown a lot of change. The bail-out of the financial markets, coupled with the potential issues with the Big 3 car manufacturers, along with what we Brits refer to as 'The Credit Crunch", has caused a lack of consumer confidence. Already this last three weeks, 3 major British high street retailers have gone into administration and one - the venerable Woolworths - will disappear totally from the high street after almost 100 years of business.

Naturally all this uncertainty has caused ructions in the general world of business. Companies are no longer willing to spend a lot of money on things that think they can do themselves, or to 'waste' money on non value-added expenses. Travel budgets are being cut. Advertising is being cut. Conference budgets are being cut. Outsourcing is being stopped.

Looking at business process management specifically one area that has been in the news a lot is the loss of outsourcing contracts in places like India and the Philippines. Every week in the last half of the year appeared to bring news that some company was withdrawing its outsourcing contract from one of those two places. Not much information was given about how these companies were going to actually deal with BPM work in their organisations? Presumably a lot of companies were looking at bringing in a third party software provider to implement a tool to do this (and you know my opinions on having the right tool for the job)

Amongst major vendors there has been some business success with their products with demand for Business Process Management solutions at an all time high. Metastorm also managed to gain a big hold on the BPM market by releasing V6.1 of it Metastorm/Provision tools set.Iit also released plans for an IPO to raise money and then pulled out of that in November due to market conditions.

There were, as usual, many conferences this year. The big one, obviously, was the Gartner BPM conference in September as well as the events by IRM and Management Events in the UK. one of the things that did come out of gartners research this year related to BPM was the fact that in the economic downturn few companies are actually cancelling BPM projects. This must mean they are obviously seeing the long term benefit of running something that will improve efficiency and cut down waste (hurrah!). For coverage of the Gartner conference the best blog is Sandy Kemsley's Column2.

What's in store for 2009? I'm sure the market will continue to recede as it is doing at the moment. Companies will continue to look for ways to increase their efficiency, decrease their costs and increase their sales. BPM will become a major part of that. Companies will also have to decide whether having some sort of large BPM tool with lots of whistles and bells is better than actually doing something simple such as looking at their processes with a view to appropriately managing them? I am of the opinion - as has been expressed in these pages before- that if all you have is a hammer then every problem is a nail. This means that companies without BPM or EA tools will start to look at their problems in light of what tools they have.This is not necessarily a good thing.

GCP Consulting will - in the new year - launch a brand new offering to the world. This is tentatively called the Small Business Review and is aimed at businesses which are mature businesses with 10 - 100 employees. The primary function of a Small Business Review (SBR) is to identify and remedy issues that are causing process management to be overlooked, ignored, or badly managed. Basically this is looking at the creation of a process management capability within an organisation. Initially this will be released in a workshop format with attendees being talked through a detailed workbook that will identify their key business processes, the issue surrounding them (badly designed processes, inadequately documented processes, no process owners etc) and then identify a set of tasks needed to remedy these issues. This will result in an action plan at the end of the workshop that each attendee can take with them to start moving down the path towards having a process capability. The principles of the workshop are all linked into the concepts behind The Perfect Process Project, my ebook which was release last year.

Keep an eye out for more information about this workshop offering early in the new year. If anyone is interested in helping promote this, or even wants to work with me to fine tune the workshop session and the workbook, then please get in touch with me. I'd love to hear from you.

Finally I would like to wish you all a good new year and let's hope 2009 is better then 2008!

3 tips when implementing a process management capability

In my book "The Perfect Process Project", I focus a lot on the building of a process management capability. The concept is simple: unless you have resources who are trained and dedicated in managing your processes you will never be able to get the best from your organisation.

So how do you get a process management capability? Here are three tips to help you on your way. (I would also recommend reading "The Process Ninja" series of quick tips on how to be a Process Ninja)

1) Get someone senior to run this.
Ensure that as you build your process management capability within the organisation that you have support and leadership from a senior level. I have been in organisations where we did not initially have this support and - whilst it is not impossible to build without this support - it is extremely difficult to get the right sort of traction for the work you need to do. Ideally the top person operating your process management capability should be senior enough to cross several organisational boundaries - as good processes are not silo based. Whatever happens don't give this to Janice in accounts or Bob in Sales and Marketing. This needs to be at a much more senior level than that.

2) Allocate time and resource to get people trained
With all the best will in the world it is extremely difficult to start a functional group and get them up to speed and productive immediately. Time is needed both to find the right resource and to get them trained in the right areas. As far as training is concerned make sure you identify who you want trained on what and train them until they are happy with what they have to know. Skimping on training or 'training on-the-job' is not appropriate in this circumstance.

3) Get someone working on a project to analyse and update processes
As soon as you have your resources allocated and trained it is important to then start adding value to the organisation. One way of doing this is to start viewing the processes that the business has and create something like an Enterprise Process Model. The problem with this is that it takes time and the immediate value is not apparent. The next best thing is to start putting these process resources on existing projects and make sure they spend time analysing the processes that will be touched by the project.

Creating a process capability in your organisation is not an overnight thing. It can take months and sometimes years. The key to remember is that action - however small - is what is needed. Go for the low hangng fruits. And keep moving forward.

(Picture courtesy of clspeace. Released under a creative commons attribution licence)

Reminder: 'The Perfect Process Project' is still available. Don't miss the chance to get this valuable insight into how to make business processes work for you.

Click this link and follow the instructions to get this book.

For more about me check out my "About Me' page

All information is Copyright (C) G Comerford

Enterprise Architecture - A Simple approach to a complex problem

(The following is an extract from a Whitepaper which will be released next month)

Enterprise Architecture is one of those annoying concepts. It can generally be perceived as being either too complex ("You want to know everything to an excruciating level of detail!") or too simple ("It's a spreadsheet with a list of our apps on it - what's the big deal?")

The real truth about Enterprise Architecture is actually somewhere in the middle of that continuum. Of course you can define your enterprise to an excruciating level of detail (and that is, indeed, the philosophy extolled by practitioners such as John Zachmann with his Zachmann Framework for Enterprise Architecture), but even Zachmann himself will admit that when you start looking at some of the more esoteric cells in his framework he only has a theoretical knowledge of what goes into them.

The investment in EA may not be realised if there is too much focus on IT-related issues and not enough on business issues. Many companies have used their EA to guide management decisions in change programmes covering M&A, outsourcing, shared services, rationalisation, cost-cutting.

So the problem then arises of "Given the huge diversity of entities that can be managed through an EA, how can you successfully create an EA that is neither too detailed nor too light?"

Having considered this for some years, it is my experience that EA, basically, comes down to documenting and understanding the inter-relationships between four key sets of items:

  • The Business Processes and models;
  • The Data and associated models;
  • The Applications and their uses;
  • The Technologies in use.

Let's see how this would work in practice:

In any business environment, the key driver for change (and therefore the key driver for enterprise architecture) has to be Business Needs. Whether this is a new product or service line, the implementation of a new type of ERP system, the purchase of a new company, or the integration of new legal or statutory requirements, it is all a' business need'.

The Business Needs feed into the business process architecture.

Business Process Architecture
Business Process Architecture identifies and understands the business processes that are needed to support the business needs. This is also where we model organisational functions as well as processes. Functions are set up to manage clusters of related business activities. Business processes are not an alternative to functional structures, they complement them and so both need to be modelled together. In all cases it is paramount to understand that business process is the keystone to successful implementation of the business needs.

Data Architecture
When the business process is known and understood (or more accurately when the impact on the business process is known and understood), the underlying data to support that business process can be identified (using UML models, for example). This can be defined within your business process and recorded for use later. Now that the data need is known and understood the data architecture can define the detail behind that data.

The money is in the data. By that I mean that the competitive advantage your organisation can gain through applying an enterprise architecture will manifest itself in your data. Think about it: As an organisation you modify and update your applications frequently. You install new technology and you change business processes. But how often do you actually discard your business data? It's generally the only thing that is transferred across from one system to another as part of an implementation project and – especially if you are a company such as Google or UPS – there is immense value in your historical data.

Application Architecture
Knowing the types of data that need to be kept, it is than a matter of identifying the type of application that can manage, store and manipulate this data.

Technology Architecture
Once the application requirements are understood the underlying technology to support this can be identified. Will you be using web-based applications – in which case what technology infrastructure will you need to support that? Do the applications run on Wi-Fi hand-held devices? What is the infrastructure needed for that?

These four key facets are the basic building blocks for an enterprise architecture, and generally this is the sequence they are reviewed in and build on each other. But in all cases it is paramount to remember the following:


(There is, however, one exception. This is when a new technology comes along that can be game-changing in terms of it's impact on the business. Look back over recent history and understand how items such as the internet, mobile phones, social media and tablet PC's can give a company a competitive advantage. If these are added to a technology architecture they can then be fed (as a business need) back into the process, resulting in change.)

I am firmly of the opinion that “If all you have is a hammer then every problem is a nail”. By that I mean it is very tempting to try and use tools that you already have for things they were not designed to do. The same thing applies to your enterprise architecture. It is all too easy to look at what you currently have in your arsenal and try to apply that to the enterprise architecture. Sometimes this will work, sometimes it won't. Gartner Group identifies two broad classes of EA tools: those which are modelling-based and those which are repository-based. The former focus on visualisation and the latter on decision-support. For effective EA both support categories are needed, such as those offered by MEGA, Troux Technologies and EVA Netmodeler from PROMIS AG. However, many potential users of such tools consider them to be too expensive, overly complex and difficult to apply. But the beauty of a tool such as this is that it will allow entry of information – and most importantly – reporting on that information to answer all the 'what-if' questions you may receive: “What if we decided to restrict internet access in these countries”, “What if we decided to remove this approval step from our manufacturing processes?”, “What if we wanted to relocate our Spanish office from Seville to Madrid”. With a well constructed and carefully maintained repository you could quite easily identify the relevant parts of the EA to answer these questions and determine what would be the right thing to do.

Creating an EA is usually a fairly detailed and time consuming effort. Unfortunately this is the way with Enterprise Architecture. It is useful to reference the following as a means of focusing your efforts, though.

Start with your business need. Identify the processes needed to support that need. Identify the data needed to support that process. Identify the applications needed to support that data. Identify the technology needed to support those applications and, finally, identify the appropriate toolset to capture and manage all this information.

You don't need to go into the excruciating level of detail that you may have thought you did. Use common sense and this roadmap and your efforts should pay dividends quickly.

(Want to read more from this whitepaper? The document this is extracted from includes a model to illustrate some of these concepts. Check back soon to hear more details about this document and how you can get a free copy of it.)

Reminder: 'The Perfect Process Project' is still available. Don't miss the chance to get this valuable insight into how to make business processes work for you.

Click this link and follow the instructions to get this book.

For more about me check out my "About Me' page

All information is Copyright (C) G Comerford

Chicken Little and the economy

(Image courtesy of Macroninja Released under a Creative Commons Attribution license)

The world is ending!

Unemployment is up! The economy is down! Companies are failing left, right and centre! Pink slips are being handed out willy-nilly! Consumer confidence is low! The Christmas rush is leaving many retail outlets with a let down feeling! Sales are down! Income is down!

Oh doom and gloom - the sky is falling on my head!

Chicken Little

The 'Chicken Little' school of economics has been rampant over the last month or so. The US financial markets, the bail-out of the big three car makers, the general 'credit-crunch' (as we call it here in the UK), overall dropping of consumer confidence and doom-laden headlines have started to make everyone believe that the world as we know it is coming to an end.

Well I'm here to tell you that it isn't.

Don't get me wrong, I'm sure it will be difficult. I'm sure that the companies who are laying people off are doing it for the right reasons (business is a business after all and not a charity), but I think that a lot of where we are today is a matter of our reaction to events rather than actuality.

The Burger Seller
Let me tell you quite a well known story, that goes something like this:

A hamburger seller had a prime selling spot on the beach. From morning until might he used to ply his trade. People came from miles around to buy hamburgers from him. Every week he used to decorate his stall, get the best ingredients in and serve whoever came for the food. One day a friend of his came from the nearest city and saw what was happening.
"Hey" said the friend "You really shouldn't be taking all this trouble and spending all this money. Don't you know there's a recession going on?"
The burger seller thought about this for a while. The next week he didn't put up fresh decorations on his stall. He didn't buy the finest ingredients, electing instead to buy cheaper ones to conserve money. He cut down his opening hours to save on running costs. Lo and behold his income dropped. Customers stopped shopping at his stall. The guy from the city came back a couple of weeks later and asked him how things were going.
"Oh, don't ask! Sales are down, customers aren't buying. I'm starting to lose money here. You were right" the burger man said "There is a recession!"
The story is a silly one but it does illustrate one point which is that attitude has a lot to do with how people weather this storm. Remember the last big worldwide recession was the starting point for a lot of today's biggest companies. Apple and Microsoft were both founded at that time and Google was a benefactor of "the dotcom bubble".


This is actually a time of great opportunity. The ability of someone to leverage this situation and launch a great idea for a product or service is phenomenal. Sure there may be a couple of rough years as the business is launched, but these will serve as an excellent foundation for when 'the good times' return.

But the other side to this situation is that businesses are currently in a prime situation to start looking at how they do things and improve that. In times of plenty, inefficiencies are allowed to creep in and are not removed. (For example when money is tight, one of the first things that people do is stop company travel, or at the very least restrict it to economy/coach class only. Why is this? Are they saying that at other times of the year they are allowing people to spend the company coin profligately? Surely ALL company travel should be important and therefore a diktat like this should be unnecessary?) Focusing on these inefficiencies is one way of reducing overhead or increasing sales.

Business Processes

This happens through Business Process management. Consider this: If you think that your company is working to the best of its process ability, that all processes are fully documented and that every process is fully optimised, owned and measured, I would warrant that you are in a very small minority.

I have yet to encounter a single company that could not be improved through the judicial application of some staple process analysis and review techniques. Ask yourself the following questions and see how many you can answer 'yes' to:
  • Does every process in your organisation have an owner with authority to mandate change to that process?
  • Is every process appropriately documented and managed by that owner (or people working with him)?
  • Do you measure the effectiveness of your processes and feed that measure back into the process to affect change?
These three questions are fundamental to the appropriate management capability of a companies processes, and not one of those questions actually addresses any individual process to understand if it is working appropriately.

For some real-life examples of what companies do that can reap dividends of fixed processes refer to these two posts about "The way it's always been done" (post 1) (post 2)

There is no doubt in my mind that things are going to be tough over the coming months or even years. I submit, however, that focusing on the right things - in this case streamlining and reviewing your business processes - is the best way to ride out the storm and set your business up for success as it comes out of the other side.

Reminder: 'The Perfect Process Project' is still available. Don't miss the chance to get this valuable insight into how to make business processes work for you.

Click this link and follow the instructions to get this book.

For more about me check out my "About Me' page

All information is Copyright (C) G Comerford

Alltop - here we are...

The Process Cafe is now on Alltop!

Alltop, all the top stories

Alltop is an aggregation service which gathers together the best blogs on any given subject and categorises them for easy viewing. I'm pleased to say that The Process Cafe has been included into this august group.

Welcome to anyone who is reading this after clicking a link from Alltop. If you are, may I recommend the following popular posts..

You can also subscribe to The Process Cafe in a feed reader or by e-mail. Click the icons in the column to the right to do so.

Thanks for popping by. I hope you find something of interest here.

Reminder: 'The Perfect Process Project' is still available. Don't miss the chance to get this valuable insight into how to make business processes work for you.

Click this link and follow the instructions to get this book.

For more about me check out my "About Me' page

All information is Copyright (C) G Comerford

The competition has winners!

Recently the Process Cafe and The Process Ninja have been running a joint competition.

If you sign up and confirm your subscriptions to both our blogs you will be placed in a draw to win 1 of 10 copies of my ebook "The Perfect Process Project"

Well, the competition ran throughout the month of November and - after reviewing the entries - Craig at the Process Ninja and myself have chosen 10 subscribers to receive the book.

If you have won the book will already be in your in-box.

Congratulations to all the winners.

Promote your company!

In related news, the Process Cafe is teaming up with a Swiss multinational EA organisation to promote EA/ BPM and "The Perfect Process Project". I have written an article which will be included in the next newsletter produced by this group. The newsletter goes out to over 6000 decision makers in medium to large organisations. It will include a link to my eBook. On this revised page you can see that I have added a number of testimonials I have received about the book. If you wish your name to appear in the testimonial section (along with a link to your site/company/product) all you have to do is write a few words about "The Perfect Process Project" that I can add in the testimonials section. Send it - along with the appropriate URL - to me at G_Comerford (at) GCP-consulting.com. I will review it and - if appropriate - add it to the web-site. In order to determine if this is valid testimonial (i.e. it comes from someone who has actually read the book rather than someone just trying to game the system), you will also need to provide the following piece of information from the book:
One page 28 of the book (In the section entitled "If everyone owns the process no-one owns the process") there is a quote in white text in the blue sidebar on that page. What is the number that appears in the quote?
I hope to hear from you soon.
P.S. If you want to buy a copy of the book so you can check the answer click here. Only £5.99!

Lessons from the Somali Pirates

You may have heard about the Somali pirates who hijacked a huge oil tanker and are holding it to ransom. (The story is here on the BBC website).

Anyway I saw this great article about why the Somali pirates are actually great models for business. The author states 14 lessons your business can learn from the illicit but profitable Somali pirate trade. These include such great entries as 'Dominant Market Share', "Low Overheads", and - my favourite - "A repeatable business process"

You may not agree with what the pirates are doing (and in this day and age, the fact that there are still pirates operating is a worry) but a group that - so far this year - has hijacked 90 boats, must be doing something right.

Of course the question is "Are they good, or are they lucky?"

Are there any missing from the list?

(Photo courtesy of Geatan Lee. Released under a creative commons attribution license)

Reminder: 'The Perfect Process Project' is still available. Don't miss the chance to get this valuable insight into how to make business processes work for you.

Click this link and follow the instructions to get this book.

For more about me check out my "About Me' page

All information is Copyright (C) G Comerford

5 Take-aways for business process work...

Amber Naslund over at Altitude Branding has produced a post based on an interview she did with Scott Monty from Ford Motor Company. The subject of their discussion was Social media and how Ford are approaching it. Amber came up with 5 takeaways from their discussion. I recommend reading the post alongside this one.

The reason I'm pushing her post is because I can see a large number of parallels between her take-aways and the world of business process management (lower case letters, rather than 'BPM' in upper case)

Let's go through them:

Strategy First.

As Amber says:

The tools don’t matter a fig. They’ll change, ebb, flow, and go away. But you have to approach social media from a holistic viewpoint: how is this going to touch and affect what I’m doing across the board, and what do we want to accomplish? (Don’t forget that goal-setting is part of strategy).

I believe the same can be said for business processes. Yes, you probably need some sort of tool to help you manage your process definition and evolution, and yes, Visio may well be what you end up using (although you know my thoughts on "Visio - the Devil's tool"), but at the end of the day it is the strategy for your process initiatives that is more important.
  • Why are you managing your processes?
  • What do you hope to achieve through doing this?
  • How are you approaching the whole area of governance and capability?
These are the questions that you need to be answering before you can even start to think about the tools.

Individual faces matter.
It is a sad truth today that in many organisations the big command from corporate "Thou shallt follow this diktat" is likely to alienate more people than it converts. It's worth remembering with business process management (and with pretty much any sort of human facing change) that adoption of the change is a human process. Faces matter in this case. You need to put a face at the head of the effort. Someone who is approachable and will listen to what people need to say. Not necessarily someone who will completely kow-tow to whatever is asked, but at least a face that people can talk to.

Business Process requires commitment.
A good business process programme will touch many areas of the business. As such it will require good management buy-in. The benefit of getting the management buy-in is that you can then start to focus on commitment from other parts of the business. I've worked in companies where business process change was pushed through in a bottom up approach rather than a top-down approach. Believe me, the difference is phenomenal and huge. it is much easier to push things forward with the right commitment at the top.

Keep your feet on the ground.
Amber says :
It’s very easy to get swept up in the idea that everyone and every business ought to be using the latest and greatest shiny new tools. But those aren’t always the best, or the most practical, especially considering that most customers are operating in the mainstream and have never heard of some of our more fringe tools ..
This is even more apparent when you come to something like business process management. This tends to work on a 'hype-cycle' basis (see this from Gartner regarding the hype-cycle) - where people tend to get caught up in the fever of what can happen and then expect it to deliver more than it will. The ability to keep one's feet on the ground and link your efforts to a reality rather than a dream are paramount to making things like this work effectively.

Measure based on your goals.
I've written before about the issues with measuring processes. I've also written about Comerford's Three Laws of Metrics. So it's easy to understand why I have an affinity for this particular take-away.

It all comes down to the simple question of "Why are we doing this and can we prove that it is adding value?". If you can't measure whether you are being successful in what you are doing, you can't measure whether this is something that needs to be continued. Nobody wants to be in a situation where you are actually removing value from a value chain, or adding overhead unnecessarily.

Again, as Amber states:
The entire point of measuring is to learn. Analyze how you’ve done against your goals, but don’t stop there. Figure out what’s next. Where to keep fishing, where to cut bait. And don’t discount the anecdotal evidence of what you’re doing. It matters, too.:

Sage words, and ones we would all do well to listen to....

(Photo courtesy of Plindberg. Released under a creative commons attribution licence)

Reminder - The Competition is still running...

Craig at The Process Ninja is still running the competition to win one of 10 copies of "The Perfect Process Project". Click here to see how to enter.

NOTE: For those of you who have already entered, please make sure that you have followed the instuctions carefully. In order to be considered in this competition we have to have your
express approval to share your e-mail details between both blogs. In
order to gain this approval you should have entered 'The Process Ninja' into the "Surname" field on the subscription page. A number of people have not done this.

This means either:

a) You do not wish to be entered for the competition and do not wish your details to be passed to The Process Ninja Blog
b)You ommitted to add the correct entry but did intend to be entered for the competition and did want your details to be passed to The Process Ninja Blog

If it is a case of b) above please resubscribe to the Process Cafe with "The Process Ninja" in the appropriate field and I will ensure your details are forwarded and you are entered into the competition.

Welcome to the new subcribers.

The Process Ninja reviews "The Perfect Process Project"

Craig over at "The Process Ninja" has published a nice little review of "The Perfect Process Project".

We are also working together on a chance to win a copy of the book by signing up to our blogs.

Check out his post for more details. While you are there, read a couple of his other posts. He has a distinct take on process which you will find refreshing.

Thanks for the review, Craig.

For more about me check out my "About Me' page

All information is Copyright (C) G Comerford

Oops! - Business Continuity?.....

So I'm sitting here in the dark. Not by choice, but because there is a large power cut in the area. Everything appears to be out. I'm trying to work out how extensive the outage is, but for my purposes I'm totally without power.

Which also means I'm without heat. My heating system - although gas powered - relies on electricity to run the timer and to provide the initial spark. So as long as the guys sort out the problem within a reasonably short period of time I should be alright. Otherwise it could get cold.

Luckily the Macbook is all powered up and I can make a few notes ("when life gives you lemons...") although I can't post this immediately because my router is not working.

I figured now was a good time to break out the candles so I can actually see where I'm going. I fumbled my way to the kitchen using the light from my cell phone and found the candles in the drawer. Hah! Now.. matches.

No matches!

I'm not a smoker so I have neither matches nor a lighter. Never fear I'll use the gas ring on the cooker to light one. ... except that the cooker - like the heater - runs on gas but relies on electricity to provide the initial spark. Damn!

I've found a torch in the meantime. It's a small 'penlight' torch which works off a single LED bulb. Very bright but, unfortunately it doesn't throw the beam too far because the batteries are running low.

The other 'big' torch that I have near the front door ready for emergencies is still awaiting the four very large and incredibly expensive batteries it needs to operate.

So, basically, I'm stuck in the dark and the cold using the screen from my Macbook to see by.

Which got me thinking (as these things do) about business continuity planning. I, quite obviously, have an excellent disaster recovery plan (candles, torches etc.) but this has never been tested. (To be fair the house is prone to power outages but this usually occurs during the day when light and heat is less of an issue). As a result I am in the same situation that a lot of businesses are in when it comes to their BCP.

I'm stuck.

A business continuity plan is a set of tested instructions (a process, no less) for managing during a disaster of some sort. The key in all of this is that BCP's have to be tested.

In my case it's no good having a power outage only to then find out that I have candles but no matches, torches but no batteries, and heating but nothing to start it with. In the big scheme of things this isn't a major issue for me. I can sit for a while, wrap up warm and wait for the utility company to sort things out. If nothing is fixed within a couple of hours I can drive to somewhere with heat and power and stay there (assuming this isn't nationwide - and as the trains are still running I have to presume this isn't the case)

But if I was a company, with customers, orders, employees and deadlines something like this could be terminal. BCP's are meant to be plans to allow your business to continue (the clue is in the name). If it comes to the crux of the matter and you can't run your business in a disaster than you are in big trouble. (O.K. in a disaster of Hurricane Katrina levels the last thing on your mind will probably be restarting your servers and raising invoices, ... but still).

Most businesses only find out that their BCP's are not working when they come to use them for real. They find - like me - that they don't have all the resources they need to continue, that the plans they have set up to take over various functions rely on items or people that are not available and that they are now officially in trouble

When was the last time you tested your BCP? Do you even have one? Are you concerned? You should be. Otherwise you might find yourself sitting in the dark trying to find a match.

Marrying social networking with business process transformation

Marrying social networking with business process transformation is all about making the process work with the technology rather than the other way around. So says a new article quoting Cisco Systems.

This article from the Seri Atina blog discusses the issue around this. A key quote from the article is that "to be truly transformative social networking alone won’t cut it: business process transformation is a key factor" The article goes on to say "While the technology tends to get the attention,..... it’s the business process change enabled by social networking, when properly managed, that drives productivity gains. Just 10 per cent of the effort that goes into a successful social networking implementation is technological"

Being an old fashioned process person, the question I now have is "Should we change the process to leverage the technology?" Traditionally the answer on this has been "No", and I still maintain that if you design your process around your technology then whenever the technology changes your process will have to be re-designed. This is not good process management.

However, I believe that what we are saying in this case is that the process is being defined by the technology - which is a different thing altogether. I believe that the process as it is defined would probably not exist without the social media needed to make it happen. In this case I think there is a case to be built for using social media to leverage the process and to define it accordingly. However this still calls for ensuring that the process is not solution dependent (i.e let's build this process to work around Friendfeed or Yammer, rather than saying let's build the process around a generic social networking application that allows messaging and link sharing). At the point you get to the procedure, it is then appropriate to detail the application that will be used to make this happen.

Some interesting thoughts in the article. Well worth a quick read.

It also fits very nicely into my series of posts discussing the interaction between social media and business process management.

New Course Helps Executives Improve Corporate Processes -- Starting at the Top

I'm always in favour of anything that can help businesses (and senior management in particular) understand the need for process mapping in an enterprise

With its recently introduced Strategic Process Management for Executives course, Scottsdale's Business Enterprise Mapping, Inc. is addressing the need to improve processes in all areas of an organization.: Here is the link

As the course is described:

The objective of the Strategic Process Management for Executives
course is to help company leaders begin looking at their organizations
holistically from an enterprise point of view, thinking in terms of
developing a process-based organization that starts with improving
executive processes such as strategic planning, risk management,
resource and capital management, leadership review, enterprise wide
improvement and other areas that are vital to the success of the

My only isue is that courses such as these are not available elsewhere - this one is available in Scottsdale, Arizona and Dallas, Texas (although on-site courses can be scheduled on request).

Anybody know of any other similar courses like this?

Why Some Business Innovations Can't Get Off The Ground

I want to draw your attention to an excellent article by Andrew McAfee from the Harvard Business School about the interaction between IT and business process.

Andrew gives a great example of a business process that has been altered, implemented, and failed all as a result of the lack of user involvement and ability to manage the change. As a result the situation is exactly the same as it was before the change but now with a higher overhead.

His contention is that IT is an enabler for business process implementation in as much as it allows changes to be made which don't stretch the user base enough to cause non-compliance - in this case adding an extra layer of segregation to airline passengers at the gate.

So let's play with this a little: Is he saying that business process change can only occur through the use of IT? I don't think so (at least I hope not). Whilst it is obvious that using IT as a means of enforcing a business process change is generally a sound thing to do, there are occasions when only the human intervention will suffice. This is the time when the human touch is needed to ensure good customer service for example. This is the time when following process is wrong. This can also lead to process glitches occurring.

On the other hand it is also worth remembering that a large majority of process improvement through product innovation occurred as a result of implementing systems to speed up production.

Ultimately the use of IT to support a business process relies on understanding the potential impact of the process change on the customer and end user to ensure that negative results do not occur.

Business Process and Social media [...continued]

Following the previous post on 'Business Process and Social media - Good Bedfellows', I was somewhat disappointed at the lack of uptake in this topic.

It seems to me that there should be an opportunity to merge two key capabilities together to create something which is greater than the sum of the individual components. Perhaps now is the time to start looking at how we leverage social media in the organisation to make business process definition and implementation more streamlined and easier. This will reduce overhead, decrease costs and increase efficiency.

However of the various discussions that occurred around this topic the only one that was written as a comment on the previous post was from David Stephensen from Australia who said
I have to admit that Twitter seems like a bit of a stretch for doing actual projects unless your client is someone who naturally uses it (then it would be interesting).

I firstly want to use SN as yet another method of driving traffic to my site and getting a reputation as an expert, but that would apply to marketing any business.

I shall ponder this further as I play more with it.

When I think about it, it is true that the power of something like Twitter is in driving traffic (or at least having conversations) regarding various topics.

I'm more interested, though, in whether social media/social networking tools can be considered a tool in the process management arsenal. How can we leverage the power of a tool such as Twitter or Friendfeed/Plurk etc. to help better define and run our internal processes..?

People, obviously, are involved in business procedures - which I see as a lower level of detail to basic business processes - so their perspective on this would be very interesting.

Any further thoughts?

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Business Process and Social Media : Good bedfellows?

(Hopefully this will be the first of a series of posts regarding the interaction of social media with the world of business process).

Ken Evoy (CEO of Sitesell.com) has stated that he can't, yet, see a valid business case for using Twitter to promote your business. Or rather he has yet to see a valid case study where someone has successfully built their business using Twitter. Personally I'm not sure that's still the case. Hopefully someone will let me know if there is one out there.

But I want to be a little more parochial now and focus on business process and how the use of social media might help that in some way.

What is social media?
In this context when I am talking social media I am referring to applications on the web which enable social interaction between the great mass of internet users. Typical tools include Plurk, Twitter, Friendfeed, Facebook, Myspace etc. They all work on the basis of having a 'pool' of contacts or friends that you interact with on either a one-way or two-way basis. (On Twitter, for instance I follow about 70 people, but I am being followed by 3 dozen. What I try to do is make sure that the people who are following have a wide reach)

So: Business Process
Looking at business process and social media I can see at least 1 major interaction: The inclusion of some sort of social media interaction within a step of a process.

  • Use Twitter, for example to communicate the status of a piece of work
  • Use Friendfeed to review this status (especially using their new 'auto-refresh' functionality)
  • Use Twitpic to send a photograph or scan of a document to someone else for review

However this is effectively using SM as a substitute for Instant Messaging (or similar). In itself this is not using Social Media in the way that can provide the best value: as a mass communication vehicle.

I would be interested in other ways readers might feel that this could work. Is there an example you know where something like this is being done? Are you working on something similar already? What about items such as Facebook? Can that be part of a business process?

What other ways could the worlds of SM and BP interact to add value and reduce complexity?

Next Steps
As I said at the start I would like this to become a series of posts about Social Media and business process therefore if anyone would like to take this theme and post a further entry about their take on SM and BP I would be happy to host that entry here on the Process Cafe as a guest blog. Alternatively if you have similar posts already and want to link into them in the comments, please feel free to do so.

I look forward to an interactive and interesting discussion.

Reminder: 'The Perfect Process Project' is still available. Don't miss the chance to get this valuable insight into how to make business processes work for you.

Click this link and follow the instructions to get this book.

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All information is Copyright (C) G Comerford

Your Business process projects are STILL failing! - survey says....

A new study from Logica Management Consulting and the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) indicates that nearly one third of business process change projects fail to improve process or corporate performance.

One third!

I originally thought that was a little high, but when I remembered that recently a survey indicated that over 50% of business processes are not working it now seems a little on the low side.

Putting some financial figures to the survey numbers, the global cost of failed business process projects is reaching around £7.8b, with the UK alone accounting for £1.7b. In the current financial climate these figures are very disturbing.

Looking at the study in more detail,
James Campbell, management consultant at Logica Management Consulting stated “The spate of mergers and takeovers in the financial sector for example, over recent months has led to wide speculation about companies making redundancies in order to achieve savings. The key to delivering such savings, however, will be a complex transformation programme which will require significant investment in both people and technology. Such a programme of change will likely have several key elements, including alignment of business processes and supporting technology; real estate rationalisation and the disposal of non core businesses. Each of these elements brings both challenges and opportunities.

A key finding indicates that companies who are successful in this arena tend to
be more ambitious when planning change projects. They are much more likely to run cross-regional,
cross-departmental projects than unsuccessful companies. They are also more proactive
when planning change projects, don’t wait for problems to arise such as customer complaints or lost market share before implementing change reactively, but plan for change in order to improve business performance and involve customers and partners in that planning.

Of course running projects such as these does create other problems and these are discussed in my ebook "The Perfect Process Project", but overall it is clear that business process change is now more crucial than ever before, but also more likely to fail if not done correctly.

The 2008 Securing the value of Business Change report outlines findings from 380 executives in Western Europe, and assesses how companies evaluate the impact of business process change projects on process as well as corporate performance.

The Leonardo Da Vinci approach to process

How would Leonardo Da Vinci approach process modeling? Would he be a good business process analyst?

Leonardo da Vinci was born April 15, 1452 in Vinci, Italy. He was an Italian polymath, having been a scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, painter, sculptor, architect, botanist, musician and writer. With this impressive list of credentials behind him, it would be interested to understand how he would have approached the business of process.

Leonardo's approach to science was an observational one: he tried to understand a phenomenon by describing and depicting it in utmost detail, and did not emphasize experiments or theoretical explanation. This puts him squarely in the field of a process thinker.

Whilst he never learned more than a rudimentary amount of Latin he possessed, to a prodigious degree ,other skills of much greater significance; notably the ability to perceive, to record, to examine, to think and to speculate.

Which leads me nicely to the first point:

He was a big picture thinker - that's good. As a scientist, he greatly advanced the state of knowledge in the fields of anatomy, civil engineering, optics, and hydrodynamics. A lot of vital process information is missed because people don't think about the big picture relating to process: They think "If I remove this quality check in my part of the process it will speed up my throughput". But what they don't understand is that it will also create issues further on in the value cycle when that quality check results in rework during manufacturing

He was an illustrator - That's good too. People react differently to pictures. The saying 'A picture paints a thousands words' is never more true than when looking at processes. The ability to take a complex set of words and distill them down into an image or set of images that can explain the process to the masses is a skill that many process modeling companies have siezed on as key to their approach

He was a theorist - That's good as well. Process improvement is about the ability to be able to theorise what a change will mean to an existing process. Consider this. In any process the key questions to ask are 'What are the inputs and outputs', 'Where do the inputs come from?', 'Where do the outputs go to?' 'Who uses the deliverables?'. With an existing process it isn't too difficult to answer those questions - it's a matter of observation or following a trail. With new processes this is far more complicated. Having the ability to theorise what will happen when a process is implemented is key to understanding how that process will work

He was both an artist and a scientist. This, I think, speaks more closely to Leonardo's ability. Sure he was an inventor with a scientific twist (he conceptualised a helicopter, a tank, concentrated solar power, a calculator, the double hull and outlined a rudimentary theory of plate tectonics), but this is also the man who painted the 'Mona Lisa' and 'The Last Supper'. What he was able to do was to take both sides of his personality (the artistic and the scientific) and meld them together to create the perfect role. This resulted in items such as 'The Vitruvian Man' - an artist representation of scientific measurements whereby the proportions of The Vitruvian Man correspond to known scientific measures. Often creating or defining a process is part science and part art. You have to know when to make the scientific decisions in the process ("The quality approval step goes here") and when to let some art play into it ("Gain understanding of the customer problem and document it") It is, fundamentally, the difference between a prescriptive process step and a less prescriptive one. Both work in the right place an at the right time.

So would Leonardo have made a good process analyst? Probably one of the best. However his range of vision and ability to inwardly digest large amounts of information and turn them externally to himself in order to apply them may have caused many people to doubt his ability. After all he did design a 'machine that would fly' back in the time when flight was considered impossible.

Maybe he would create a perfect process, but the world wouldn't be ready for it...

Reminder: 'The Perfect Process Project' is still available. Don't miss the chance to get this valuable insight into how to make business processes work for you.

Click this link and follow the instructions to get this book.

For more about me check out my "About Me' page

All information is Copyright (C) G Comerford

When following process is wrong

I was watching 'Office Space' yesterday. For those of you who don't know it, Office Space is a cult movie from the guy who brought you "Beavis and Butthead" - but don't let that put you off! It's a satirical look at office politics, management and employee dissatisfaction - sort of a real life 'Dilbert'.

The reason I bring this up is because of an incident that occurs in the opening 5 minutes of the movie. Peter - the 'hero' arrives at work and is confronted by his boss. The boss is a typical 1990's senior manager - red braces, blue shirt with white cuffs and collars, and a pot of coffee perpetually to hand. Every conversation starts as follows 'So, what's happening? Aahh, now, I'm going to need you to go ahead and......'.

The reason I mention this is because the first exchange in the movie refers to some mysterious 'TPS Reports'. The boss wants to know why Peter didn't put the new style cover sheet on the TPS Reports. Peter said he forgot. The boss wants to know if he got the memo. Peter said he did, he just forgot but the problem has been sorted out already. The boss says "I'm going to go ahead and make sure you get another copy of the memo".

Moments later another of Peter's bosses (he has 8) passes by and has a similar conversation. "Didn't you get the memo?". Etc. . . . .

So what has this got to do with process?

Well, very simply it's a case where the process is broken and doesn't need to be followed. Let me explain. At no point in the discussion is anyone concerned about whether the TPS reports are accurate (or even if they have been produced to the correct standard), all everyone is concerned about is the fact that one guy didn't put the correct cover page on the report. The process probably says something along the lines of 'Add a cover page according to the defined format'. As such you would imagine that following the process would be paramount to someone like me, a business process consultant. But in this case I would say that the process is wrong. Or more to the point, the focus of the process is wrong. Having two guys approach you to tell you that you didn't put the correct cover sheet on a report is focusing on the wrong thing.

The flip side of this, of course, is that the cover sheet may be an integral part of the process which allows later stages of the process to work appropriately. It may contain, for example, a routing slip for the report, or a quality approval signature. In this case putting the wrong cover on the report would be important.

But this is where common sense needs to take over. The implication from the initial discussion is that there has been a 'new' cover sheet for the TPS reports. The old one has been superceded. But what was wrong with the old one? Why was the change made? Was it crucial to the process that the cover page was changed? If it was then it is important that the process is followed.

Otherwise: 'Meh' (As the venacular goes nowadays)

Are you focusing on the wrong parts of your process?

(Photo courtesy of St3ve)

Reminder: 'The Perfect Process Project' is still available. Don't miss the chance to get this valuable insight into how to make business processes work for you.

Click this link and follow the instructions to get this book.

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All information is Copyright (C) G Comerford

What's "Best" in "Best Practice"?

How does "Best Practice" come to be? Is it just an example of "most common practice"?

It's a question I often ponder when confronted by "guru's" who talk about following "Best Practice". Oh, don't get me wrong, I think there are certainly bad ways of doing anything and, therefore, there are better ways of doing something. But does this constitute a "Best Practice"?

The problem I have with "Best Practice" is that it isn't always "best". Often times it's one company succeeding in a business then being approached by others wanting to know how they've done it. The company provides examples of their 'practice', it gets assimilated by the inquirer and disseminated to others. This becomes "Best Practice".

But let's review this. When somebody (usually your competitor) comes calling looking for "Best Practice", do you actually give them what they need? Do you provide them with your trade secrets? (When you're at trade shows how open are you? I know companies I've worked for have had strict 'non-disclosure' practices when not amongst internal people). You end up providing them with some stuff that shows how things work basically but doesn't give away the farm (as they say). So how can this provide "Best Practice"?

It doesn't.

ERP manufacturers (and similar) tend to try and define a 'set way' of doing things which allows them to define their software along those lines: Check out any CRM product for example and you'll see that it mandates a particular way of operating (within boundaries). Major accounting or order processing systems are also similar.

So is this really "Best Practice"?

I put it to you that "Best Practice" is actually a combination of sub-optimal process definitions married together with a predefined logic flow mandated by a program.

Consider this: Nobody actually has a "Best Practice". By definition it comes from the collected will of the participants. But even then there are usually many ways of doing something - so much so that it is actually 'common' practice. This will result in a best practice being an amalgamation of various ways of doing things. On top of that the way things are done will, oftentimes, be influenced by the software someone is using to do that thing. If this software mandates a particular methodology then this will influence "Best Practice"

Think of a situation where everyone was doing something one way - "Best Practice" - when it was discovered that this was the wrong way to do it.

  • How about trying to motivate people by paying them more. It was considered the way to motivate people until it was discovered that money is a hygiene factor not a motivator (i.e. they prevent dissatisfaction only when present instead of increasing satisfaction)
  • What about smoking? Look back at films, TV series, adverts and even literature of the last century. Everyone smoked. It was considered a "Best Practice" to be seen with a cigarette in your hand or hanging from your lips. This went on for years and years. Then someone discovered that it wasn't actually good for you and it stopped becoming a best practice.
  • Did you know, for example, that up until the 1950's it was best practice when driving a car to not wear a seat belt. It was thought that the best chance of survival was through being thrown clear of an accident.

So I put my initial question to you again

What's "Best" in "Best Practice"?

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Click this link and follow the instructions to get this book.

The poll results are in!

Well, I can't say I'm surprised at the results, but guess what: There are two winners of the poll!

"Lack of senior management buy-in" and "Resistance to change" came out equal amongst voters in the Process Cafe poll (Note: This poll is scientifically and statistically insignificant with the number of votes registered, but it's a good indication anyway)

So what can we deduce from this?

How about this:

A lot of people know in advance what the problems are going to be and they continue to let those problems rule.

Surely if there is going to be a lack of management buy-in to the change then the business case for the change hasn't been adequately proven. Remember the old IBM advert where the CEO asked the tech guy "Why should we do this?" and the geek responded, hesitantly "Every dollar you invest will save 2 dollars on your bottom line". Now THAT'S a business case that senior management can buy in to. If your project can't put up that sort of business case then you won't get the senior management buy-in and your project will fail.

Resistance to change would seem to be a bigger issue. But looking deeper down we find the same underlying reason.
There is no compelling reason for someone to change
If I said to you "At the moment you are comfortable driving around in your Toyota Corolla, using $30 of gas a week and having the reliability you need, but I want to take your Corolla and give you a TVR. It's much faster, handles better and makes a nicer noise" Of course you're going to resist. You know it's going to cost more to run, more to service and will probably break down (TVR's have that reputation). So you are going to resist.

However, if I came to you and said "I am going to give you a new car, run it for you for a year, pay all the costs and ask for your feedback at the end of it" I guarantee you'll get less resistance to change. There's more of the 'what's in it for me' being displayed in that option.

Fundamentally resistance to change and lack of management buy-in are the same issue

So what projects are you working on at the moment that are displaying either of those traits...?

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All information is Copyright (C) G Comerford

Competition - Win a copy of "The Perfect Process Project"

The results of the poll are almost ready to be posted and will appear here tomorrow.

In the mean time, and to get your thought processes flowing, I am running a quick competition.

This is your chance to win a free copy of my eBook "The Perfect Process Project"

It's more about timing than anything else - as well as the ability to follow a defined process.

The first 2 readers to follow the process steps below correctly will get the ebook e-mailed to them by me. In addition, the 8th, 23rd and 45th person will also get the ebook.

Here's what you need to do:

1) Find the link on the left to subscribe by e-mail.
2) Enter your (valid) email address and click the subscribe button
3) On the following screen enter the 'captcha' information (to prevent spam)
4) In the appropriate fields at the bottom enter your first name and (THIS IS THE KEY BIT) Enter the word 'Competition' in the 'Last name' field
5) Click the "Subscribe me' button
6) Go to your email and confirm your subscription

I will receive a notification of all new subscriptions. The first 2 to hit my in-box with the word 'competition' as a second name will win the ebook, as will the 8th, 23rd and 45th.

It's simple.

Have fun and I hope you win!

Small print:
1) My decision is final on this!
2) Order of receipt will be determined according to the official system time allocated to notification emails I receive from Feedblitz (who administer the mail subscriptions)
3) No cash substitute
4) Competition will close when the 45th subscriber is chosen, or September 20th, 12:00 BST, whichever comes first.
5) New subscriber 1, 2, 8, 23 and 45 (as determined by system date of notification email), who enter the word 'competition' as a Last name in the entry fields, will be the only winners of this competition. Entries without the word 'competition' will not be eligible to win.

Reminder: 'The Perfect Process Project' is still available. Don't miss the chance to get this valuable insight into how to make business processes work for you.

Click this link and follow the instructions to get this book.

For more about me check out my "About Me' page

All information is Copyright (C) G Comerford

Process improvement in product innovation: How changing your processes will save you money.

James Utterbeck's "Mastering the Dynamics of Innovation' is a book which expertly dissects some of the major successes (and failures) of companies that have leveraged innovation as a means of moving their companies forward.

His examples include the manual typewriter vs the electric typewriter vs the word processor, and natural ice vs shipped ice vs the refrigerator. It's a very interesting and well written book worth anybody's time.

But this isn't a book review! I wanted to focus on one part of the book where James discusses the light bulb and its innovations.

The story is quite simple. Illumination used to be provided by gas lamps. Thomas Edison set to work to create an electric lamp and succeeded through technical innovation. The race was then on to innovate through manufacturing processes to keep the cost down, the quality up, and the volumes high.

Over the years between 1885 and 1903 the following major process innovations occurred:
  • Use of a mercury pump reduced the time to create a vacuum in a light bulb from 5 hours to 30 minutes
  • A semi automated  'past-mold' machine was used to replace hand blown glass bulbs
  • A machine was used to seal in the wired lamp base
  • The process of adding phosphor to a bulb was perfected as a means of ensuring total evacuation of the oxygen.
  • A stem making machine was developed to assemble glass stems, lead-in wires and filament supports.
  • A tubulating machine yet again improved the process of exhausting air from the bulb during the manufacturing process.

Prior to this, a light bulb needed 200 manufacturing steps - most of them manual - but by 1903 the number of steps was down to around 20 and the cost of a new bulb had fallen from a dollar a bulb to around 15 cents. All this was accomplished using a design that was fundamentally identical to the original. Process innovations - both in the machines used and the method of using them - led to dramatically increased production volumes and reduced prices.

This is absolute proof that a process improvement can pay for itself in the short or medium term.

So, in todays environment, where are the process improvements you can make that will reduce your costs, increase your profitability, and improve our throughput?

More to the point, if process improvements are profit centres, why are you not heading down that road as we speak?

Reminder: '"The Perfect Process Project' is still available. Don't miss the chance to get this valuable insight into how to make business processes work for you.

Click this link and follow the instructions to see why you should buy this book.

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All information is Copyright (C) G Comerford

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The Poll is up. Vote now.

I wanted to add a poll to complement the recent post on process project failure. That post (based on a question at Linked-In) defined a number of reasons that process projects are unsuccessful. I really wanted to understand what readers think is the single most important reason so I've added a quick poll at the top of the page to allow you to vote.

Come on over and register your thoughts. I'm excited to know what everyone thinks!

Reminder: '"The Perfect Process Project' is still available. Don't miss the chance to get this valuable insight into how to make business processes work for you.

Click this link and follow the instructions to see why you should buy this book.

For more about me check out my "About Me' page

All information is Copyright (C) G Comerford

Indian Outsourcing - What a turnover!

I read an interesting article in the Indiatimes today.

It said that Indian outsourcing companies are experiencing a 23.5% staff turnover rate. This is high in just about any industry, but when you consider that the large majority of the outsourcing individuals in India are highly qualified graduates, it takes on a different meaning.

What is effectively happening (as the article quotes) is
"The BPO industry hires a large number of graduates who are bright and ambitious. From our analysis, the overall compensation structure design is not competitive when compared to general market practices. This means that BPO employees do not receive as much cash-in-hand as their peers in other industries. When you add unattractive remuneration to working shifts, lack of career development, and monotonous tasks, it is not surprising that employees leave when offered a small salary increase,"

So what is the impact of this? Well, as with any change of people, there will potentially be a drop in the service expected. Handovers may be loosely done and things may get 'dropped' as a result. This will, in turn, lead to a loss of confidence in the outsourced BPM function in India leading, potentially, to a withdrawal of western companies from using this function.

The irony of it all is that the very thing that is leading companies to outsource BPM to eastern countries (High education standards and low cost) may be the thing that causes the service to fail.

Indian companies will - in their turn - start to increase their salaries to aid retention. This increase will be passed on to the western organisations using the service. This will, in turn, decrease the attractiveness of outsourcing to Indian companies and the result will be the same.

With Gartner identifying a large jump in the need for BPM services, this is not good news for India.

What can they do about it? Comments, please.....

Reminder: '"The Perfect Process Project' is still available. Don't miss the chance to get this valuable insight into how to make business processes work for you.

Click this link and follow the instructions to see why you should buy this book.

For more about me check out my "About Me' page

All information is Copyright (C) G Comerford

Changing your business process: "Why do process projects fail?" A few answers!

I recently posted a question on Linked-In which asked "Why do so many projects that change processes fail?". This is, of course, connected with the subject of "The Perfect Process Project" and hopefully would unearth additional information for the next edition.

The responses came in thick and fast until - after about 5 days - I closed the question to allow me to review them. Overall I had 20 responses which ranged from "Us and Them thinking gets in the way" right through to a 500 word mini essay which included a copy of a media interview given by the respondent.

All the answers were interesting in their own way, and they all gave me food for thought. However, a number of the respondents didn't specificaly address the issue I was raising (which was probably because I wasn't clear in my original requirement). My question was specifically related to why processes implemented by projects don't work, NOT about why projects per se fail. A lot of answers addressed the second facet.

Of those that answered the first question there did seem to be a common theme. I had comments such as "Successful process change must be rooting [sic] in the real need for change", and "lack of a true commitment from Senior Management", and "Good communication is an essential element".

Other comments included
  • One is that change, in general is difficult for most people. The other is that very often the person suggesting or promoting the change is different to the person who needs to implement the change
  • The people designing the updated process don't take the time to learn the who, what, when, where, and why of the current process
  • It is important for us to remember that key players aren't necessarily those who hold formal power, but also those with informal power. It's great if a VP signs off on my project, but if a key manager from a different organization is not committed to the change the entire project may fail.
  • Lack of accountibility if the new process is not followed
  • The answer is sadly very evident -they're 'done to' projects. The people who do the work today are not seriously involved
  • Last but not the least: None of the managers have an end-to-end process view & they all have a narrow departmental view. So structure of an organization also plays a crucial role in process improvement projects
  • Few processes are isolated. Every process intersects other process. If one does not understand those intersections and their impact, a changes process will be useless
Thanks to everyone who contributed a thought or comment to the discussion.

The top answer I picked, however was from Lisa Matthews, Vice President at GMAC Insurance, who said
"A wise Coach taught me an equation that proves particularly true in this scenario: P (Process) x D (Dissatisfaction or Pain with the Current Process) x V (Clear Vision) > R (Resistance to Change).

It has proved true time and time again. One can always map back the lack of success for process improvement efforts to one of the three components against a company’s or team’s resistance to change. The resistance can show up in a myriad of ways from lack of governance to no buy-in to scope trot."

She then went on to talk about some of the factors that equate to points I raise in the book regarding ownership and measurements of results. In my subsequent e-mail conversations with her she mentioned a further issue which was
". . . the basic A.D.D. of corporations today. It is very difficult for large corporations to FOCUS long enough to see and embrace the positive changes the process may fulfill."

Thanks, Lisa for those insights. I will look at merging these into the next edition of "The Perfect Process Project" and in the meantime a complementary copy is on its way to you.

How do these issues link in with your experience of implementing process change as part of a project?

(Photo courtesy apesara. Released under a Creative Commons Attribution licence)

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10 Steps to a Successful CRM Implementation - A CRM Whitepaper

One of the key items that came out of my recent eBook "The Perfect Process Project" relates to the fact that projects do tend to suffer from common problems.

This white paper is related to a similar topic but it is focused on CRM projects. A CRM solution can have an enormously positive effect on your business's bottom line, but a lot can go wrong during a rollout if you haven't planned properly.

This White Paper addresses topics such as:
  • Budgeting realistically
  • Training employees
  • Managing the implementation
I, obviously, have a close affiliation with CRM given that it is, basically, a business process that needs to be managed appropriately. It is also (or has been recently) one of the key processes in the news.

This white paper is totally free and is definitely worth downloading. Click the graphic to download

(Note this is a third party white paper and is not affiliated with GCP Consulting or the Process Cafe. Registration is required and you need to be in the US or Canada to download)

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Rev Response

 RevResponse Review
There's a new referral site in town and I want to let you know about them. The main reason for this is because they provide free information which readers of this blog will find useful.

The site is called Rev Response and they have a huge list of periodicals and White papers on a whole range of diverse and interesting properties. For example how about a document from Microsoft detailing the latest in mobile communication (very appropriate after the Apple debacle with the new iPhone?).

Everything from this site is free and the range is quite astounding!

But here's where it gets really good. They are an affiliate programme which means you can sign up and put them on your web site! Just go to Rev Response and sign up. Add a couple of items on your site and whenever anyone signs up you will end up with a nice little commission.

Talking of commission the minimum commission on a sign-up is $1.50 the maximum is .. considerably more than $1.50.

From time to time I will be adding links to some of these items in the body of certain posts or in the sidebar. This will let you, the reader know that I have identified something useful - and free - to you and you should get over there quickly and check it out

Let's see where this goes, shall we?