US dairy giant overhauls processes using wiki-style BMP tool

I came across this great little article recently which is a case study of a company investing in Web 2.0 to help define and manage their business processes.

The summary of the article (which is well worth reading) is that a dairy in Oregon used web-based tools to define and manage it's old business processes and improve the efficiency of the business.

Here's what's interesting about this:

1) The situation they found themselves it is something I think many companies could identify with.

It used more than 30 different legacysystems with customised interfaces.

It relied on "paper based business intelligence, plus spreadsheets or Word documents" but also "napkins, or any method of getting information back and forth between the business units"

The business had built up a lot of "tribal knowledge", with silos of information about the way business procedures were operated.

"Smoke clouds were going backwards and forwards between business units, and we did not really understand what the processes were, as they had been handed down over the generations."

Do any of these ring any bells with your company?

2) It chose a unique method of solving the problem.

It investigated Web 2.0 technology, to see how it could be used to identify, capture and optimise the firm's "tribal knowledge", and drive down inaccurate information.

The company examined several applications, including diagramming tool Microsoft Visio but eventually chose Lombardi Blueprint, a browser-based, collaborative, process-planning tool, designed for non-technical as well as technical users. The application itself is Java-based, built using the Google web toolkit. It was hosted and managed by Lombardi through Mosso, a cloud computing service provider owned by hosting giant Rackspace.

3) It found that the end result was:

The BPM exercise has meant that it has been able to revisit all of its processes, measure their effectiveness, and perform root cause analysis on problem activities.

It has also meant the firm could drastically reduce process duplication, inaccurate data, and its usage of older IT platforms.

But more profoundly it has allowed the business to consciously move away from the traditional hierarchical view of management, with the corporate team and chief executive officer at the top, to a structure which is much more horizontal.

Now none of this is actually surprising to me. What is surprising is that this is something we just don't see as much of as you would imagine. According to the article the IT director had been in place since 2001 and it was only when a new CEO came in that he was asked to investigate the possibility of BPM as a means of improving efficiency. We have discussed on these pages before about the fact that BPM is a profit centre not a cost centre and this has been proven with this exercise.

I commend the Tillamook County Creamery Association on having the chutzpah and the courage to attempt this and for being so successful.

(I was also quite amused to find that they rated Microsoft Visio as "too complicated for its needs". But you all know my views on Visio)

For an interview with the head of Tillamooks Business Process Management office done by Barton George from Lombardi, click 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.

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