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Life and Times of a Business Process Expert: Part 4

Previous posts provided some Life and Times of a Business Process Expert: Part 1 on our Business Process Expert group, what I view as our Life and Times of a Business Process Expert: Part 2, and some Life and Times of a Business Process Expert: Part 3 that make up my day as a BPX.

Value Provided

There are a number of ways that our team of BPXers creates value within our organization.  The most obvious way, as I’ve outlined in previous blog posts, is process improvement.  Improving processes lead to greater efficiencies which lead to cost and/or time savings and should also lead to better information in the hands of our decision makers. 

I also view our team as a sort of in-house SAP consulting group, which comes in handy when dealing with major projects or initiatives.  As our company’s SAP experts, we know how we have customized the configuration of SAP to meet our business needs, and when it comes time for a project, we can, in a lot of cases, do the work ourselves.  If it is a truly major project (such as an upgrade), our group is in a strong position to work with an outside implementation partner and be the ones leading the charge rather than taking a back seat.

This in-house consulting concept was demonstrated during our recent implementation of SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation (“BPC”).  After taking two training courses from SAP as well as another delivered by our implementation partner, I became well versed in the BPC product’s capabilities.  Already having a firm understanding of our company’s processes allowed me to actively participate in the design of the solution to best meet the business requirements.  Roughly halfway through the implementation we were able to significantly cut back consulting time (and thus dollars) due to the knowledge that I, and others on the team, had built.  By the time we went live, there wasn’t a consultant in sight as we could handle everything ourselves.

Challenges Encountered

The creation of our BPX group, as well as making it what it is today, hasn’t been without challenges.  One of our primary challenges has been, and continues to be, that we BPXers act in a help-desk role.  Being the intermediary between business and IT, and being the ‘Experts’ in SAP means that, in a lot of cases, we’re the most visible and knowledgeable SAP people that the business folks know, which means that when they have questions, they tend to come to us first when they should be calling either a super user or the help desk.  I believe that we need to initiate some ‘tough love’ and force them to go through the proper channels, but this is often easier said than done.

The fact that we’ve been relied on in the help-desk role has lead to another challenge that our BPX team has experienced – a lack of recognition by business leaders.  The business leaders know everyone in our group from our days spent working alongside of them, but after the initial SAP implementation, we lost a little visibility, and our value was not being fully recognized, as none of them knew exactly what it was that we did or were capable of.  With the help of some enterprise-wide initiatives earlier this year, where our group was at the forefront of making some significant changes to some of our key business processes, we’ve made good progress towards regaining some of that visibility that we lost.

Another challenge we’ve had is where we report up through organizationally.  We’ve bounced around a little bit in our approximately four years of existence – we got our start as part of the Center of Excellence (“COE”) that was built at the time of our initial SAP go-live, but that COE never functioned properly and about a year or so after go-live, we were moved to report up through our Corporate business unit underneath our Chief Accounting and Administrative Officer.  After about a year or so reporting up through the business, in 2008 our IT department hired our first Enterprise Architect and we were moved to report directly to him.  Earlier this year, our Enterprise Architect became the head of our newly re-formed COE, which our group is now a part of once again.  So, we’ve come full circle in our four-plus years, but it’s nice to finally feel as though we have a home.

The Future For BPXers

I think that the future is bright for our BPXers, both for our group, as well as at other companies.  For our group, specifically, I see our roles progressing right before my eyes.  We’re working less and less in a help-desk role and more in a consulting-type of role on projects and major company initiatives.  For example, this year members of our group lead the way towards consolidating our Accounts Payable departments into a centralized shared services model by creating a standard process.  In another major initiative this year, our team also helped streamline the way we account for and report on development costs in SAP Project System by moving from five project cost structures to a single standardized cost structure.

Three colleagues of mine and I recently attended an SAP Business Process Management TBPM10:  A Smorgasbord of BPM Education, and came away with a number of takeaways.  Based on what I learned, I have no reason to doubt that we’re going to play a major role in helping our company transform for the foreseeable future.  I think we have a lot to gain when we can standardize our business processes and then document them in a system such as Solution Manager.  We’ll gain even more insight into performance and execution of our business processes if we choose to use a tool such as ARIS and/or SAP Netweaver BPM.  The future is now for our BPXers, as our upgrade from ECC 5.0 to ECC 6.0 is looming, and to best be in a position to perform this upgrade, we need to get our business processes into the proper tools. 

Arguments For A Team of BPXers

As I’ve mentioned before, I feel that all of the Life and Times of a Business Process Expert: Part 2 and Life and Times of a Business Process Expert: Part 3 that I’ve outlined have to occur at every company running SAP, otherwise a) processes are likely not running very smoothly for your company or b) your company’s processes are running like a finely-tuned, well-oiled machine with no real need for improvement.  To me, b) is not likely as every organization can benefit from some form of process improvement.  If Forest City is so unique in that we have a team of BPXers assigned to this work, then my assumption would then be that this work must be split up across these organizations, perhaps a person or two within each department, or perhaps individuals shared across a couple of departments, or perhaps the work is split by function.  Whichever the case, to me, there have to be some dysfunctional aspects of trying to coordinate across areas in such a manner and that’s where you can point to the value provided to aid in the argument for forming a team of BPXers.

Alternatively, companies could have a team functioning in the role of BPXers, but not holding the job title of Business Process Expert.  For those individuals in those roles, I ask that you come forward and call a spade, a spade and ask to have your job title changed!

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      Author's profile photo Tammy Powlas
      Tammy Powlas
      I'm glad you mentioned the helpdesk role - I think that could happen too easily in a BPX world.

      I'd like to hear more about how you'll be integrating your processes into Solution Manager, how you possibly may use that as a spring board into testing, and how you measure the effectiveness of business processes.  Not to much to ask, eh?

      Great job!

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Thanks Tammy for your comments on this and other posts in the series.

      As we're just literally getting started with what I'll call our 'true' BPM initiative (we had our first prep meeting this week on Tuesday), I do plan to blog about how we're going about this project, and will be sure to include SolMan as well as how we plan to (hopefully ultimately a reality) monitor process performance. 

      I call it our 'true' BPM initiative because we've been documenting our business processes for years, but we have no standards, no one tool that's used and no real integration with any systems.