The Big Ideas: Process Trends and Challenges

This year, the world of business will be marked by growing standardization of processes in service industries, improved linkage between business strategy and monitoring of actual performance through a combination of analytics and process. Here’s a round up of what some exhibitors at IQPC’s recent Profit through Process Summit saw as the big ideas shaping business process improvement.

Big Idea No. 1: Increasing complexity and globalization demands greater standardization

"The demographics of our leadership and how our organizations are impacted have shifted on a global scale. So you need to be able to communicate from North America to Asia and have a consistent way of operating within the organization. You need to have a supply chain that can interact. You need that consistency. And what used to be ok when things were made locally, acquired locally, distributed locally, it was fine to have a tribal knowledge approach to how you do your processes, but on the scale that we’re now working, that’s no longer acceptable." Larry Oglesby, Managing Director, Process & Innovation Performance Service Line for Accenture Management Consulting in North America

Big Idea No. 2: Strategy will drive performance in day-to-day operations

"You see lots of surveys about what are the next technology trends for 2011 or beyond. But I think what’s more interesting is: 'What are the top trends for the CEO or COO?’ Clearly, at the top of their agenda is driving improved performance – whether you call that BPM or another acronym. This requires a combination of things: Do we understand what we’re doing? Do we have a clear way of defining our strategy and communicating it? Do we have a clear understanding of what our business processes are from the top all the way down to the bottom of the organization? It’s great being the CEO and saying ‘I want to be more customer focused’. But for a call center employee, what does that mean? Does it mean I need to smile when I answer the phone? Does it mean that I need to give a discount? Actually maybe more customer focused from a call center perspective means using a slightly different script, actually having better access to various deals or entering slightly different information into our customer system so that we can get better analytics. These are actually quite detailed things…and if we want people to work in a different way then we need to make sure we give them the tools, the support and direction at that lower level." Ian Gotts, CEO & Founder, Nimbus

"The process excellence space is going to move into more integration. One thing you find in many businesses is that few businesses have strategy that is well communicated to the organization and given today’s climate where you see a mindset towards greater productivity, I think you’ll see more companies moving towards creating formal strategies that can communicate it, balanced scorecards which will force organizations to be more aligned. And once they create those Balanced Scorecards, there will be more strategically selected process improvement projects to work on that will add greater value to the company. Currently you see people deploying Lean Six Sigma – they pick a pet project which may or may not be strategically aligned to the organization and get some interesting results but may not be on the areas where you’re really trying to grow your businesses or cut costs." Dan Feliciano, IBM Global Business Services Strategy and Change, Strategy and Change Lean Six Sigma Consultant

"I think people in the industry are tired of just using tools and initiatives. They want a system that dovetails and drives excellence across their organization. I think the ones that are doing better handling the recession are the ones with performance management systems in place and other companies realize that they plateau and they can’t loop past it." Laurie Haughey, Director of Educational Services for Milliken Performance Systems

Big Idea No. 3: Companies will move beyond accumulating data and reports into producing meaningful information

"We need better business intelligence – and to achieve that organizations want to get business intelligence, metrics, scorecards, analytics, and business process all on the same page. Then we can start to make some decisions about how we change things. Analytics without process is like looking through the rear screen to work out where we’ve been. Analytics combined with process starts to give us some insights to what we should be doing moving forward." Ian Gotts, Founder and CEO Nimbus

"Data must be meaningful – what are the three most important things you need to know today about your business? That’s what a Balanced Scorecard should get to – not reams and scores of data. Data is not even information. That can be as a result of better use of Lean Six Sigma – the KPIs out there." Bill Kane, Partner with Deloitte in the Operational Excellence Practice


Big Idea No. 4: Focus on end to end improvements in the supply chain will move from efficient supply to customer service

"It’s very clear that those companies that understand the customer know what continuous improvement is all about in the end-to-end supply. Companies who are customer focussed and translate that customer focus into improvement are going to translate that understanding into the right improvements in the supply chain. We’ve all surmised that. What’s going to drive improvement? I think it’s leadership - strategic leadership of continuous improvement – end to end continuous improvement versus just improving pockets of say manufacturing or supply chain. It is all about the process and all about the people. Companies are starting to realize it, leaders are starting to realize it because the supply chain connects the customer with operations. I think for a long time, what’s happened is that traditional continuous improvement has focussed on efficient supply and it’s going to move to efficient customer service. And that customer service translated back into the supply chain is why the supply chain end-to-end is going to be the focus." Roddy Martin, Global SVP for Supply Chain, CCI

Big Idea No. 5: Companies will head to the cloud but only if it works for them

"Cloud computing is an enabler, and everyone will jump on cloud computing – but trends are just that…they’re just trends so every year we’re going to talk about trends and people are going to jump on these different band wagons – but I think maybe that we’d get a little further if we started looking at foundations instead of running to the next thing that we think is going to be hot…so I think the trendsetters need to look back a bit and ask what are going to be the foundations that are going to enable companies to take the next step to the next level of their process improvement initiative. You can look at all the trends, but the trends aren’t going to get you there. It’s the foundation – that’s what’s going to get you there." Jan Freyburgher, President and managing director of iNexus for the Americas region

"We’re going to see more and more companies going up and seeing if the Cloud makes sense – can users still have the same rich experience in the cloud as they do with a PC application. Is the speed there yet? Not everything can move to the cloud." Jennifer Atlas, Business Development Group, Minitab

Big Idea No. 6: Social media and e-learning offer news ways of developing internal capacity

"The biggest trends I see are in the way people learn. We’re getting away from the traditional classroom and moving towards something like blended learning where you level set your students with an online class, bring them into the classroom that can then become a fast moving, fast paced kind of activity. The people that are coming into the workplace now – the iPod generation – are the types that aren’t used to sitting in class. They want something to do. The companies that are really onto this are using the social networking and the informal ways of training to actually get their message across." John Best, VP Lean Six Sigma, The Quality Group

"There’s a lot more interest in internalizing the entire Six Sigma movement and making it part of the culture rather than just hiring a consultant or a part time thing. So I think you’re going to see more of a movement towards that. I don’t think there’s a decline in the excitement because there’s still a whole lot of money to be saved and a whole lot of improvements to be made to gain the competitive edge and I think if a company wants to remain in business, they’ve not only got to implement a process of Lean Six Sigma – the whole internalization of it – but then move forward into the future with it." Walt Tillman, Vice President of Operations and Consulting, HKPO