Youre a BPX, its Monday morning and youve arrived at a brand new client. You have a limited engagement of one week. Your mission: to produce documented recommendations for new technology supporting an existing business process requiring some redesign. How do you get the job done?
This scenario is a common occurrence to the Business Process Expert who functions as the hired gun. It is not uncommon for the BPX to be called into situations which require high- to mid-level analysis and a quick, but comprehensive set of recommendations as output.
To accomplish this task, the BPX must deal with the following factors:
– quickly developing a relationship with the client, to establish trust and credibility
– sorting through the business issues, often with little or no understanding of the clients business or particular circumstances
– analyzing the technology in place and understanding the future of the landscape (i.e., upgrades, etc.)
– designing (at a high-level) various alternate solutions
– creating thorough recommendations (and the corresponding document).
How does a BPX quickly establish a relationship with a new client?
To establish trust and credibility, it is important for the BPX to become a trusted advisor to the client as quickly as possible. Sometimes the client is aware of the BPXs profile and history; however, regardless of the clients prior knowledge, it is still imperative that a face-to-face relationship be established to increase the productivity of interaction between the client and BPX.
Clear communication is key between a BPX and any client, but particularly essential in a short-term assignment which results in ultimately influencing business change. Some of the tactics of a BPX for creating a relationship should include:
– listening attentively to the client (often they drop hints about the pains in their culture; sometimes they may actually be explicit)
– active listening: asking questions for clarity
– demonstrating forthrightness: be clear that you do not have a hidden agenda, and that you are working for them
– briefly outlining your own experience in two minutes or less, focusing on other occasions where you were a trusted advisor
Typically, this openness will precipitate a comfortable, receptive relationship which facilitates your getting the information you need to create your conclusions.
How can a BPX sort through business issues when he/she knows nothing of the clients business?
This can be a tricky situation and often requires reliance on two things: your past experience and intuition. However, thats sometimes easier said than done.
It is easy to feel like a fish out of water in a foreign environment, however one of the surest ways to gaining an understanding of the clients business environment and issues is by listening for similarities to your own past experiences. Often situations, although radically different in exterior application, can be very similar in nature at their core.
By actively listening to the client and asking clarifying questions regarding business priorities and areas of greatest pain, a BPX can quickly get a sense of where the most urgent concerns exist. Generally, this will naturally become evidence to formulating recommendations.
It is critical to accumulate information that forms the bigger picture which includes the clients culture, technical environment and political landscape. Having this bigger picture can direct the recommendations to solve very specific issues.
Analyzing the technical environment
While seemingly straightforward, it is often necessary to dig deep into the system landscape only to ensure that nonconforming systems are indeed identified in any formal architecture discussions. No one likes surprises at the end of an assignment where he/she discovers that there was a complete application built for one area of the business outside of the main landscape, which executed the exact requirements of the consulting assignment! Know all the players involved, even if you must unearth clues through your listening.
Also, ensure that a complete technical landscape is provided to you, inclusive of the go-forward plan for technical upgrades. This can impact the timing of implementation of your recommendations or can drive to a phased implementation approach.
Now that I have the information I need, how do I design the solutions?
This step typically involves your own personal style. Generally speaking, the recommended solutions will begin to become apparent throughout your discussions with the client. As the client unfolds their circumstance and explains their issues, the possible solutions often naturally fall out of the analysis.
Again, the development of solutions is reliant on your own knowledge and experience, and in cases where some information may not be available, a healthy dose of your own intuition may be required. More often than not, implementation of similar solutions follows a similar path at its most fundamental level. Intuition, then, can be useful in making a best guess on high-level timing of a project or an approach to phasing-in a solution.
And, finally, I have to write the recommendations document: what should I address?
Typically, a comprehensive document should include the following sections:
– Introduction (why is this document being created) – Scoping Summary (when the exercise and occurred and what the general outcome was)
– Detailed Business Process Information of the specific scope reviewed
– Alternative Recommendations (a text description of the recommended solutions)
– Organizational Impact Assessment (how will the organization be affected)
– Interfaces (a brief description of any foreseen technical interfaces into the new solution)
– Security, Authorizations and Roles (how the new solution will impact who does what in the organization, both from a business and a technical point of view)
– Integration Points (what other parts of the business and technical landscape may be affected by the new solution)
– Training Requirements (at a high-level)
– Description of Improvements and Business Benefits (a brief summary)
– Resource Estimates of the main actions to be taken to implement the solution
– Proposed Timing of the Activities
– Issues (any issues within the organization which have been identified and must be addressed as part of the project)
– Key Success Factors (what will it take to make the project successful)
– Project Assumptions (what was assumed to create the recommendations and resource estimates)
The expectation of the client is that the BPX has the knowledge, expertise, ability and confidence to hit the ground running. This can be a tall order in politically difficult situations, however by sticking to the basics of analysis and design as discussed above, the BPX has excellent odds of being successful under most circumstances. These tactics have worked for me and for others. Honing ones skills through repeated exercise is the key for owning the process of quick situation analysis.