Moving from Small to Large Scale BPM: Interview with Emlyn van der Wal, ABN AMRO

When companies are first getting started with BPM they often start small - in a focused business area or on a particular process - before expanding in scope. But what kind of challenges can you expect as you move from small scale implementation to a large scale BPM Programme?

In this PEX Network interview, Emlyn van der Wal, Head of International Process Design at European banking group ABN AMRO, describes the key challenges companies often encounter when moving from simple improvement projects, and gives insight into how you can create a seamless process management infrastructure for superior operational excellence and delivery capabilities.

Editor’s note: the following is a transcription of a video interview with van der Wal conducted earlier this year. To see the original interview, please see Moving from Small to Large Scale BPM

PEX Network: We often see that when people are just getting started with BPM or really any continuous improvement methodology, they tend to start small with focused projects before gradually expanding in scope. What do you see as some of the key challenges that companies face or experience as they start to make that transition from small scale to large?

Emlyn van der Wal: There's nothing wrong with starting small. With a small company in particular it’s the best way to have all people involved and make sure that best practice is actually put on the stand to make sure that you are using all best practices and available knowledge within the company.

But on the other hand, if you work in a large company, you will almost always have an impact on related systems, related processes, related business lines; so you must make sure that if you are actually starting an automation project, you need to have all people involved. And then we are getting to a business process framework where you can actually put all processes in line, and if you are actually starting new initiatives, you make sure that you are able to show the impact on the related processes - not just the process within a business line within a department. It's all part of the bigger process framework.

PEX Network: So that explains why that transition from small scale implementation is necessary. It sounds like that, by running small scale projects; maybe you’re not exploring those complex interconnections as processes cross departments and business lines. How would you use BPM to really help provide that framework to help manage that transition [from small and focused, to large and cross-departmental]?

First of all, the process framework should not be used to only reduce operational costs; it should actually give a good overview of the impact [of the processes] on the customer experience. That must be the main priority and challenge for all companies that are business process minded. For example, if you talk about [cost] reduction, we always think in terms of optimising certain processes. But in the end, the important thing is to ensure that everyone is in line – from end to end - to make sure that not only operational costs decrease, but also that the customer experience improves. That means that a business process framework should not only include operational elements, but you need to break down the complex machinery of all elements that are in force within the organisation: operations, customers, target groups, and, new initiatives.

PEX Network: It almosts sounds like a BPM Balanced Scorecard approach to make sure that you’re not just focusing on one element?

Yes, because if you are tweaking on one side you will have an impact on the customer experience – either positive or negative. So it's not only about measuring the costs to income ratio, it's also about measuring the customer experience. For example, if you add a new product to the product matrix, it should be processed. You can easily see if you’re actually adding a product the impact on the customer experience because you usually get an increase of turnover - extra products will be sold. But on the other hand, if you are able to have an efficient process, you can actually see that it's more profitable. And the normal way is you introduce new products to the market and then, in the end, you try to see how you’re able to improve the operational setting behind it. And if you do it before hand, you’re able to have the end process fully scoped.

PEX Network: Are there any approaches or structures that you find help to manage process improvement work that crosses those departmental silos?

The "silo thing" is something we cannot get rid of but it's my belief that if we believe in a business framework operating model, you will think across silos. And the best way to get rid of silo’ed thinking is to have the customer at the table - instead of all stakeholders with their own agenda focused on their owns silos and individual processes. You must make sure that if you have a business process framework in place everybody in the company is represented.

The way to do this is to have all the people in one group from all relevant parties make sure that they are able to make adjustments with the process without having multiple discussions with other people in their own silo, but make sure that they are able to sit at a table and also have it measurable.

You want to ensure that you don't get out of scope because what happens most of the time is that when you’re having discussions you meander onto different topics – "oh, we can change this", and "we can change that" and "that's not working well". Make sure that you break down the whole process into smaller elements you can actually measure, because then you will have something to celebrate in the end.