Buzz from Orlando: State of the Industry

Do we want best practice or next practice? That was the question posed by Charles Bennett, SVP with the non profit BP Group, on the opening day of IQPC’s Profit through Process Summit.

"Most of our organizations, most of our economies, are under greater stress than ever before," said Bennett in his opening State of the Industry address. "That’s not going to go’s only going to increase."

How companies learn to deal with the pace of accelerated change will determine the winners and losers of tomorrow, he said. Just catching up with what everyone else is doing means that "we’re as good as the people acknowledged to be the top.

But will that be good enough?

There are three key areas, according to Bennett, that businesses need to take a careful look at in order to get ahead of the competition: corporate structures, the customer, and process improvement tools.

Corporate structures are too old, too complex

Bennett argues that misalignment in today’s corporate structures are negatively impacting the bottom, claiming "that around 95% of our organizations are probably sitting on about 25-50% redundant cost and untapped business opportunity."

Many of today’s companies are complex and that makes them slow to respond and the rapid change that we have been seeing in recent years. "The biggest enemy of changing thinking is complexity", Bennett said, reciting Edward de Bono.

Customers are more fickle than ever before

The Internet has given customers the ability to shop around, compare prices and brands like at no other point in history. A shop is no longer competing against other shops in its local area but against potentially an entire internet that allows customers to find out where to get the best price and what the best brands are.

As a result, customers are generally more knowledgable, more picky, and more discerning about their purchases than they have been in the past. Customers know what they want and they now have the means to get it.

As a result, companies must move beyond thinking about their own internal competencies and move towards understanding the real drivers behind the customer’s needs.

"Starting to think about the things that are driving the needs, it brings us towards the things that are happening outside our companies," Bennett said.

The rise of the Internet and especially social networks has also meant that one bad experience with a company can have a lot bigger impact on the companies reputation. A decade ago, we may have told between ten and fifteen people if we had a bad experience with a company. Now, with the Internet, one bad experience an be shared within seconds with millions of people.

Process improvement tools: are they fast enough for today’s challenges?

It’s not all doom and gloom. Process improvement and the ability to harness the accelerated pace of change will be criticial for success in the future. But are the current tools and techniques up to the job?

Bennett says that we need to move towards a much more customer centric approach. At the end of the day, a business exists only with customers and as a result everything the business does should be aligned to providing more of what customers want at better quality and better prices.

"Are we doing the right things or are we doing things that we don’t need to do?" Bennett asked delegates at the conference. "If we’re doing things that we don’t need to do, then what’s the implication? Cost. Complexity. Don’t need it."

More importantly, we need to always be asking ourselves, "Is it enough?"
Stay tuned to Next week we will be publishing special reports and podcasts from the Orlando summit. Find out the biggest trends and challenges for 2011, why some businesses are increasingly interested in BPM, and listen to interviews with some of our award winners.