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Does This Make My Process Look Fat?

Contributor: Deborah Miller
Posted: 06/19/2011
Deborah Miller
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How the people side of change impacts business transformation results

People are the hardest part of business change, writes Deborah Miller from Global 360. If you want to increase the chance of success of change efforts, you need to emphasize not just the quality of the technical solution, but also the role that stakeholders play in the process change itself.

Despite automation gains, industry processes are still heavily people and paper-oriented. So it stands to reason that changing the way business is done for the better means finding new ways of handling information, revamping manual processes and motivating workers. To include the people side in our process, change initiatives will require "fit to purpose" tools that address the user perspective.

Process improvement needs leaner "fit to purpose" tools

With continuing pressure from the global economy, organizations face an increasing demand for lean tools to get more done with fewer resources.

As Clay Richardson of Forrester Research [i] writes in his blog, "The shift away from ‘IT-centric’ inflexible solutions such as CRM and ERP will give way to more dynamic business-centric solutions that deliver the same process improvements with greater flexibility and adaptability for the business."

Business process (BPM) and case management meet this demand as "fit to purpose" technology.

To illustrate, consider a customer enrollment process. Here there is a need to involve and balance people, paper and automation. Human judgment is also often required for exception handling or contextual decision making.

A purely rules-based automation technology to define an enrollment process makes it difficult to do anything more than track the status of a particular application using an attribute. This limits visibility into the actual process.

The electronic forms capabilities of most traditional content management solutions doesn’t quite fit either because enrollment isn’t about the document itself but rather about the customer and all their supporting information housed in many other systems.

Indeed, most traditional packaged application solutions often ignore paper and focus on the process steps, glossing over the challenge that the content itself presents.

However, business process and case management fit the less structured, collaborative needs of the enrollment process and many other core processes quite well.

Managing and controlling processes is what we are ultimately trying to achieve. To do this successfully will require our understanding and inclusion of the human factor.

Processes don’t do work, people do

As Keith Harrison-Broninski aptly reminds us in his landmark book [ii] Human Interactions: The Heart and Soul of Business Process Management, "After all processes don't do work, people do."

In today’s knowledge-based economy, the fact is that most work processes, including the hardest ones to control, are carried out by people rather than computer systems. That is why leading organizations are including user work study and a focus on user interface design in their business improvement strategies. We can use this information to improve and amplify human-driven processes and to better serve the critical needs of our knowledge workers.

For maximum results, solutions should have an obvious and direct impact on each individual stakeholder. McKinsey advises leaders at companies starting a transformation to put a priority on finding efficient and scalable ways to engage employees.

In a digital era characterized by increased collaboration, organizations are shifting from a purely IT-centric strategy to create dynamic, business-driven process solutions.

A critical element in that shift is the renewed emphasis on designing user-centric environments and controls. User-centricity requires the availability of context-driven content and the ability to support knowledge worker decisions via the integration of all the pertinent data, tasks, milestones, discussions, events, policies and processes.

Part of the growing trend is the move to support more complex processes with ad-hoc and less-scripted workflows by leveraging case management disciplines and technologies.

Case in point is Univita Health. Business process and case management are critical to supporting their long-term care group, one of the premier suppliers of outsourced services in the industry. Univita traditionally had maintained long-term care coverage as its base but had switched to a different model—home-based healthcare – and needed to be more efficient in managing their knowledge work.

With their solution in place, Univita automatically routes documents to a knowledge user who is responsible for the related line of business. The document is evaluated and classified based on the request type. The user can add the document to an existing client file or create a new work case depending on the request. The solution is integrated with the client information system that is used to validate the customer information. Once this vetting process is complete, the request is routed to a work queue based on the request type where a knowledge user can select the work request.

As a result, Univita is able to prioritize work and match work requests with user skills. Once the process is complete, the documents are automatically archived but remain available in the event there is a customer inquiry. Univita now has a workbench for their knowledge workers and a single point of reference for customer correspondence.

The truth about people and change

Whether you follow Lean, Six Sigma, or a combination of disciplines, one truth we all recognize is that people are the hardest part of business change. I have learned from experience how important it is to consider the users’ point of view. This is especially true for less prescriptive processes, where work is centered on and driven by the process participants. Perception is reality – if the process change is perceived as unfavorable then it will be so. To be successful then we need to design the user experience to serve each participant role, including focus on the all important customer role.

And, if you want to increase the chance of success and accelerate the implementation of change efforts, you need to emphasize not just the quality of the technical solution, but also the role that stakeholders play in the process change itself.

One of my favorite examples is the business transformation at Irish Life, They are one of Ireland’s largest and most successful financial organizations and the market leader in the provision of life, pension and investment products. Irish Life was drowning in paper and, without a standard process, turnaround times were excessive. There was no visibility of where work was in process and the #1 customer complaint was response time.

Irish Life chose business process and case management to remove paper and streamline their processes and balance workload, resulting in improved customer turnaround time and consistency, management visibility into all work statuses, and a 35% improvement in productivity.

To achieve their goal, Irish Life included the process participants and stakeholders in the improvement initiative. By focusing on the user, Irish Life changed how their work gets done. In effect, they improved the workers experience, rather than merely speeding old and potentially ineffective ways of working.

From a people perspective the system has made a huge impact. While the environment is more controlled than before, employees recognize the improvements in the way they work and the results of that work are being driven by the BPM solution. A key example is how they deal with ‘problem cases’. The teams now have the correct information and the necessary time to process the cases within the SLAs, which is clearly a source of satisfaction for the workers.

In fact, with the improved visibility at an executive, management, and team level, it is not unusual to find employees now being proactive; asking questions like ‘can we also do this with the system?’ With improvements implemented throughout the business, Irish Life’s motto is now ‘today’s work done today.’ The Irish Life success is all about driving adoption rates and enthusiasm from the grass roots as well as top down. Evidence the CEO’s comment, "It’s been the best thing IT has ever done for the business."

The lesson learned is that in order to drive operational efficiency and productivity improvements, we need to focus our efforts to consider how people will embrace, accept and adopt change resulting from those efforts. Being user-centric and attuned to your stakeholder motivations and solution needs will enable faster time to business value with change that is also sustainable.

Author's note: Looking for more information about how to succeed with BPM and case management? I recommend the "7 Steps to Process Mastery" eBook series as a good read for those just starting on the journey and a useful reference for those who are well on their way.

References:

[i] Forrester Blog Posted by Clay Richardson on March 21, 2010

[ii] Published by Meghan-Kiffer Press ISBN 0-929652-44-4

[iii] What successful transformations share, a McKinsey Global survey, January 2010


Thank you, for your interest in Does This Make My Process Look Fat?.
Deborah Miller
Contributor: Deborah Miller