Maria O’Neill, SVP, CIO, American Bureau of Shipping
Companies often ignore business process improvements and business transformation opportunities when they embark on modernizing or replacing existing order to cash and workflow systems. That can be a costly mistake. Merely studying the old system and replicating its functionality on an upgraded technology and application platform can be a complete waste of money if you don’t first study your end-to-end business processes.
Recently our company was planning to upgrade an aging workflow system. Our CEO, being a man who appreciates the importance Digital and the opportunity it presents to transform our business model, insisted that we first study the business process and determine how to do something dramatically different to improve our service offering. We hired a lean consultant to help us study the end to end business process. A key finding was the current business process had become a slave to the old system. When the users were asked why certain business processes were practiced, the response was that the system required it. Making substantial improvements to our service offering was going to require designing a new business process and developing new business requirements for a new systems application.
It is a business capability that should be valued and made an important part of a continuous improvement program for any smart organization
Studying a business process end-to-end is important because it helps you weed out inefficient or unnecessary steps. It is also important to step back and study the value that the collective processes bring to the business or its customers. This requires having the right people in the room. Ask questions like, what value do you get from this process or service offering? Who does it benefit? Is it time to improve it, eliminate it, or expand it? How can new technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) or robotic process automation (RPA) improve your business process in a substantial way to benefit your business and your customers?
Business process management and review forces you to continuously study your business model. As the world changes and as technology improves, products and services that may have made sense five years ago may no longer have value. However, business process management should not just be done with the objective of cutting out inefficiencies and useless processes. Business process management should include an ongoing review of customer needs and expectations. It may require studying internal and external data, but this analysis can offer significant opportunities to develop new business models, products, and service offerings.
A review of business processes requires analyzing each step end to end, modeling how each process works in different scenarios, making necessary improvements, monitoring the new processes, and continuously optimizing them and automating them, to the degree possible. It requires ownership of someone to spearhead this ongoing effort and it requires support from management to enforce changes. Depending on how complex the business processes are, it may require the assistance of consulting specialists, and perhaps, business process management software.
The value in practicing business process management is that it will never allow you to get stale, stagnant, and stuck with business processes that no longer make sense or add value. It is a business capability that should be valued and made an important part of a continuous improvement program for any smart organization.