Continuous improvement is one of the most talked about phrases in the world of BPM, yet it is the most ignored idea when it comes to implementation. Continuous improvement prefers smaller bangs over a big bang or quick wins over big wins.
Unfortunately in order to make a wider base of users happy, BPM CoE tends to go for the big bang or the big win approach by adding more and more requirements to the scope. A process implementation project that takes more than 4 to 6 months before it is made available to users, should be re-evaluated for scope. Such projects should be split into multiple smaller phases.
Advantages of continuous improvement
This phased approach of implementing bigger projects in smaller chunks has quite a few advantages:
- Process Familiarity: Not all users are familiar with the new process, user interface or the BPMS. So, a small set of requirements helps them get acquainted, relatively quicker, with the new process and environment that they will be working with.
- Feedback: During requirement gathering sessions all users are not involved, so the sooner the process gets into production and becomes available, the sooner all intended users will start using it. When users start sending valuable feedback (like missing requirements, difficult user interface, etc.), then those can be incorporated into future phases to improve the process.
- Monitor/Optimize: It is a huge plus to monitor a process that is being used by real users instead of simulations. It provides additional metrics and insight into the process, and helps identify areas of the process that can be further optimized.
- Funding Cuts: Even if funding cuts occur, which are quite common, a significant and tangible piece of the process will be available for users to use. If it has been implemented correctly, then there is a very good chance that the process users will rally for the funding.
Here are a few steps that can break a big project into several smaller – manageable – phases:
- Look for higher ROI (Return of Investment): One of the most important success factors is ROI, so choose activities that contribute most to the ROI of the process. This would include activities that reduce cost and cycle time, while increasing resource utilization.
- Prioritize: Properly prioritize activities, and select the ones with the highest impact for a sure win.
- Swivel Chair: Not all activities need to be automated on day 1. The ones that might be too complex, or take a lot of time and effort to implement, and may or may not contribute as much to the process, can be left for later phases. So, leave some swivel chair activities.
My recommendation would be to implement a process automation project in phases and go for quick win/smaller bang in the first phase. Quicker time to production will help in getting valuable feedback from users who actually do the job, which can then be used to improve the process in future phases along with remaining requirements.