Recognizing what they know and building on it!
My submission in this three part lengthy blog is that
- a) by crediting whatever little business managers know about processes, a BPX may be able to build on it and enable them to fully understand business process models;
- b) it is the viewer who must finally concede that a model built to represent a reality does so and if a viewer is not able to interpret a model it may be the model that would require a review, not the viewer;
- c) business reality being complex, a model may have to provide for knowing as well as doubting with provision to apply the business manager’s wisdom and such models may be more acceptable than the one which assures all solutions.
“Taking these points together, companies need to remember that their long-term success – beyond the current financially troubled times – is dependent on appropriate business model innovation which calls for process excellence;which, in turn, almost by definition can only be achieved by knowing one’s processes well.”
– Puneet Suppal , ‘Café Innovation – 2009 can still be your year of innovation!’
I have been thinking on the points mentioned in the above blog for quite some time, especially the question, why for many established companies it is “difficult to pull off the new growth that business model innovation can bring “and the answer according to the authors of the article “Reinventing Your Business Model,” that these companies do not “understand their existing business model well enough,”.
As I accidentally happened to leaf through some of the back issues of SAP Info, the conversation articulated by Robert Soeldner during an interview for SAP Info, way back in November 2005, too appeared to resonate with the above observation:
The business gang would say, “Just give me a working phone, voicemail, and a laptop and let me do my thing”
The IT folks would say “Those business guys don’t know what they want, so let’s just take a swing at it”
-‘Technology and the 21st Century Plant’, SAP Info, November 2005
My thoughtful view is that managers know about processes. But it is likely to be limited.
Recognition of this, either as an assumption or as a fact, a BPX may be able to facilitate understanding of business model by the business managers.
An attitude of ‘Just a foot hold is enough!’ may help. This assumption itself may be considered as one such!
Subsequent task may be to extend their present knowledge about process to successfully make them understand the necessary basics and thereby the whole business process model.
In a manufacturing industry, an operator knows about inputs, process steps, outputs, outcomes and the impact of his/her work within his/her shift time zone.
A supervisor is aware of the activities in his/her section and their linkages and interactions.
A shift-in-charge knows the interdependencies of various sections.
A manager knows the linkage between shifts, sections and with others outside the plant.
We can identify the existence of process knowledge in this manner to persons of any level in an organization.
In the process industry, namely chemical, mining, petroleum etc., the production process automation is well known to involve collection of data by instrumentation, feeding it to the computer with built-in logic about ‘limits’ to the process parameters and automated corrective action for deviations, with display in real time on a console, exceptional deviations attended by human intervention.
There are certain business processes also which encompass the whole company and most of the managers are aware of it and they also play their assigned role in it.
Internal audit is one such business process. It has owner, it is carried out as per a documented procedure, it is organized, it is reviewed, it is revised as required, it has KPIs, it yields improvements, it is regular and it is also audited by an external agency, well computerized too, except the field work.
In their self interest and in their zone of influence each one knows the relevant processes.
This would also become evident if we recollect day-to-day conversations when a set-back is pointed out to an individual when they tend to point out the defect either in input or deficiency in requirement specified or on testing at the end of the process!
Managers have the complete view of a production process by means of a field visit, a flow chart, a physical model, a computer diagram, and at a console of process control or any other means.
The features of business process could be understood by them in comparison with these processes. There would certainly be similarities and differences between IT enabled production management and IT enabled business management. A comparison may be useful for their understanding.
I wish we could establish many more evidences that process knowledge may not totally absent in an organization. It would be present, but to a limited extent due to various reasons.
One probably has to identify these reasons.
In order to enable managers to appreciate business models and thereby move to towards adoption of BPM, that is, shift to process-centric thinking from functional and territorial thinking, it may be tactful to assume that process knowledge exists in organizations and build on it further.
Subsequently it is the ‘limited’ understanding that must be expanded, extended, linked with other processes, show the complete process and see acceptance to adoption.
By this approach, the department would be recognized in the beginning for what they know more than the BPX, and in the end, the department would know to make it better and then both would know more than what they started with!
Both would hopefully succeed in their mission.