John Jarrett Talks Implementing BPM Enterprise-Wide: Part Two

John Jarrett

The statements, views, opinions and commentaries expressed herein are those of the participant in his personal capacity and do not represent those of AGF Management Limited or any of its subsidiaries or affiliates.

In part one of this two-part interview, John Jarrett, Director of Business Process Management at AGF Trust, a premier Canadian-based investment solutions firm, discussed the benefits of deploying Business Process Management (BPM) across an organization and revealed how to take the first steps in creating an enterprise-wide strategy.

In part two, Jarrett further discusses how to phase in an enterprise-wide BPM strategy, as well as how to ensure that an organization’s BPM platform is equipped to adapt to business changes.

If a financial services company is looking to implement a BPM platform enterprise-wide, how should it be phased in within the company? For example, should it start in areas with the most buy-in for instance? Or in those most urgently underperforming? Or in those where the opportunity for innovation is ripe?

Every organization is different, so I do not think there is a one-size-fits-all approach that is consistently the best approach. A good case could probably be made for starting off the platform using any of the above triggers as the focal point, and in each case there is a tremendous opportunity for success and hence buy-in over the long run.

Instead, I would come at the problem from a slightly different angle. I would try to carve out an area, team, or process that is fairly small and self-contained, but which could deliver the high visibility necessary to champion BPM as the lightening rod of change. I would try to showcase an area, team, or process which would benefit from BPM; however, the need should not be so great as to drive up complexity. A small and quick win can help generate buy-in for a larger, more mission-critical BPM program.

In terms of selecting the right team or area, here are some criteria to consider:

  • Focus on the strength of the underlying people in the potential target areas. You want people who are motivated and who have the right skills to undertake the complexities of going down the BPM path.
  • The group should also have a solid understanding over their work processes and ideally would have them well documented.
  • They should also be able to clearly articulate and decide with some confidence upon their business requirements. The reason that I share this point is that the group needs to have an end-state vision in mind, and they need to understand how their people will work with the technology to change the way in which they operate. There is great risk to the program if these components are not in place. The risk is that articulated requirements end up not being exactly what was needed or that once BPM is implemented, the outcome is different than what the business unit had in mind. This can significantly impact the successful implementation of the BPM platform.

To sum up, find an area that could generate a quick win. Some selection factors would be to assess the strength and process maturity of the potential candidate teams and weigh them against the lower complexity process opportunities along with where there is the most potential impact/visibility. I feel strongly that this approach will provide the greatest opportunity for success in order to get the BPM ball rolling.

  1. What does success look like with the BPM program? It would be great if you could talk about what quick wins are there to be had and how can momentum be sustained; how can progress of the program be tracked; and what are the key KPIs that the BPM platform should track.

Success with BPM can take on several forms:

  • One form is around cycle time and productivity improvements. For example, suppose you have a "pre-BPM" process that is very manual and time consuming for users. On top of this, the ramp-up and training cycle is very long before employees are able to be anywhere near accurate or productive in their work. If after BPM you are able to significantly cut down these cycle times while increasing staff productivity, then you have made considerable improvement. Some measures to try to track here would be training time, individual employee productivity, error rates or other related quality control factors.
  • Another area of success could be on the internal audit and risk management side of the business. The ability to clearly review a process and to make key adjustments in a timely manner is critical to a well functioning business. Policies and procedures should also be followed by users in a more repeatable and consistent manner. Therefore, audit results are great KPIs and indicators of BPM success.
  • Finally, perhaps the quickest and biggest win is simply greater visibility into the work itself. Managers can view a dashboard of the active processes in their group. They can instantly view how long tasks have been in flight, what state they are in, and which teams or individuals are working on them. Other systems may provide a view into some components, but typically, the manager needs to translate what they see into a mental picture of their pipeline, evaluate how they think they are doing, and weigh this against team capacity. Doing it the old way can take up much time and manual effort to obtain a good snap-shot around how the team is functioning. Here, KPIs may need to be a bit anecdotal with manager feedback before and after in the form of a survey or observational notes. Otherwise, if Service Level Agreement data or cycle time benchmarks are available, then these would also be good KPIs to track.

How important is the ability to "modify on the fly" and how does this manifest itself in the solution? How can you ensure that your enterprise-wide BPM platform is equipped to adapt to the changes to the business, e.g., recent M&A activity?

If an organization wishes to be nimble, this concept is critical. Even if this is not an immediate need, or if the organization is less fluid with its needs, there may be changes required for seasonality, volume or staffing level fluctuations, or other business drivers, which will fuel the need to make ongoing changes. The chosen platform should either be flexible enough to support an "advanced" business-user who can make changes, or it should be something that IT can deliver within a 30 day "maintenance release" type of cycle. If the system is not able to support business needs, then there is a risk that the business will find ways to work around it or despite it, which can ultimately undermine the whole concept of BPM.

What other challenges should financial services firm be wary of while implementing an enterprise-wide BPM platform? How can they get around these challenges?

BPM is not a big bang, but a journey. You are not finished after the initial roll-out, so plan to be in it for the long-haul. There will be another area of the enterprise to on-board, or the on-boarded areas will either need changes due to new products, volumes, objectives, or policy changes. Further, they may simply need additional adjustments to be made as they become more familiar with and learn how to better leverage the tool. Strongly consider opting for a regular system release cycle that is at least monthly or quarterly at most. Otherwise, you risk regressing into creative workarounds that undermine the goals of BPM.

If possible, once an area is targeted to go onto a BPM platform, select some key processes and model them on this platform as soon as possible so that they can be turned into a compelling demonstration for the affected team. Once they can see their work in action, their understanding of the system will change significantly, along with their view on what their requirements really should be. Any feedback received at this point can either be addressed so that adjustments can be made going forward, or the feedback can be talked through until there is better alignment (or both!). Without some initial process modeling, you run the risk of a big delivery that might fail to meet expectations, could miss the mark, or may have to be completely re-worked. This is a critical change management step that will help ensure better transition to the new ways of doing things. This is also another reason why the COE concept is so important in ensuring that those who are impacted by BPM have the opportunity to participate in the design and become fully immersed in the program.

Interview by Genna Weiss.