Large projects and programs are complex, regardless of the initiative, and business teams often find that these programs that involve multiple systems can create immense complexity, tight timelines, and frequently changing requirements. To address a few common frustrations in these large programs that end up in escalating costs and a decrease in team morale, our Program Management Series has explored how to understand the source of these frustrations and turn problems into advantages, with previous topics of building strong test environments and master data management. For our final topic of the series, we will cover business process management. Especially for fast-paced businesses, business processes may not feel necessary and are instead viewed as more of a luxury. Additionally, understanding the difference between a business process and a business process management framework can be confusing. It can also be difficult to understand the right time to implement something that seems so overwhelming – so we will tackle these issues to help organizations and leaders better understand business processes and business processes management.
Business processes mark the start of the journey to successfully arriving at a final solution, especially as an organization grows. Business processes explain the fundamental steps that are needed to achieve an expected or preferred result by establishing the three key elements of people, systems, and data. Developing a business process is a tedious task that seems easier said than done, meaning that it may be pushed aside, disregarded, or unprioritized even though it is necessary for success. In many cases, employees for the same company or project may provide differing answers to the questions “What is the business process for this activity?” or “Could you describe the process?” which indicates that there is not a solidified, standard business process in place. This is why it is important to understand the benefits of business processes.
Business processes reduce the amount of time needed to complete an activity, as team members can clearly understand which people, systems, or data are necessary for each task in the process. By codifying and standardizing reproducible business processes, the error rate will be reduced, and repetition enables cost efficiency, saving time and therefore, money.
Processes vs. the Management Framework
Business processes attempt to help employees understand the scope, content, and expected output of a business activity. The business process management framework enables the development of business processes by providing guidelines and boundaries to improve standardization and consistency across an organization and defining the level of granularity required for each developed process. For example, one pharmaceutical company acknowledged the need to develop business processes to establish consistency and reproducibility in business activity for an immature function. This required a business process management framework to guide the project team in standardizing the outcome of each developed process. Without one, fragmentation would have been seen among different business processes, with a few potentially having more granularity in output than others.
Implementing Business Process Management
Business process management is the first step that should be taken in any new project. While jumping in to fix symptoms of a problem is human nature, this often results in temporary fixes to keep operations moving forward while ignoring the foundational root causes of a problem. If people have ambiguity about their role in a process or what the sequential steps are to achieve an outcome, this indicates that a team likely rushed into a project without establishing foundational processes. Whether an organization is taking on a new project or a new initiative, the right time to start developing business processes is during the forming stage of a project. Though development of a business process management framework may seem tedious and overwhelming, the outcomes it produces is worth its weight in gold to an organization, enabling efficiencies that can unlock resources to support future growth.
Making Business Process Management Achievable
Even with a team of experts, it is imperative to begin with developing a business process management framework before focusing on other elements of a project. To make business process management more achievable, allocate enough time upfront to align stakeholders on the goals and scope that will be developed, which will help stakeholders stay grounded in what’s trying to be achieved. It can also be helpful to focus on “small wins” rather than larger ones by slicing up the initiative into a series of smaller stages or categories. This helps employees feel more rewarded or confident after small wins, as demonstrated in business psychology. By categorizing business processes into phases or waves and focusing on the smallest, easiest wins first, business process management becomes more reasonable, focused, and achievable.
Clarkston Consulting has been managing platform level programs since our founding. Our meaningful program management processes will mitigate program complexities, standardize processes, and efficiently execute multiple operations that deliver a robust and resilient organizational model that can scale with a client’s needs.
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Contributions by Courtney Loughran