Could Infants Reach the Summit of K2?
Large ICT and implementation projects require large amounts of resources and are often associated with a high risk of failure. Their level of complication is most often considered to be the cause of this issue. Research suggests that the probability of success for a project with a $1M budget amounts to 75%. In contrast, the probability of success for projects with a $2M budget falls to just 50%. The chance of success for projects with a $10M budget is next to zero (~2‒5%).
In the realm of business process management implementations, this has been demonstrated in the course of attempts at implementing Business Process Reengineering. “Justifiable” projects with large budgets nonetheless ended in failure. Their diagnoses have shown that the main causes behind such failures were tied to the culture of a given organization. In simpler terms, some organizations turned out to be not enough mature as to accept the presented solutions and ‒ in effect ‒ even good ideas were dismissed.
In light of the aforementioned facts, it would seem obvious and understandable that one cannot run a marathon straight out of an infant’s cradle.
With the widespread use of process automation software, a growing numer of consulting firms and, surprisingly enough, a growing number of managers as well, are starting to believe once more that this is indeed possible. In keeping with this mindset, they start planning implementations in which companies with a functional organization, which operate as information silos, are expected to become very effective, flexible, and process‒driven in one decisive leap. Soon, they might as well realize that active knowledge management is also an option.
However, instead of introducing IT‒based solutions to their core process with the use of external forces, companies should perhaps start by:
1. preparing process maps and models and communicating their structure to employees. It is also worthwhile to connect processes to the descriptions of the roles, documents, fundamental data, products, as well as the essential business risks and opportunities within the organization,
2. unifying and standardizing used documents and defining metadata and indexes for all of the basic document types,
3. as well as implementing and securing the consistency of basic management and transaction systems (multiple catalogs of contractors in CRM and ERP systems or different material indexes in ERP, MRP and e.g. estimate payment systems are, unfortunately, still an ongoing concern).
My personal experience suggests that in the course of planning a BPM implementation one should reserve at least half a year for this phase. Further steps should be undertaken only in the aftermath of providing coherent sources of information, standardizing documents, and providing knowledge on the processes operating within the organization. The next step should not consist of automatizing all processes straightaway. Instead, companies should :
4. harmonize day‒to‒day workflow with their identified process models and communicate all of the processes operating in the organization to particular employees and the management, who should then approve them.
5. introduce document management (including a central document repository) and document workflow management, starting with solving the most simple, time‒consuming issues,
6. as well as introduce data management for information gathered from existing systems in an automated fashion.
Our experience shows that depending on the current state of implementation of IT‒based solutions, this particular phase might last from 3 months to even an entire year. It is essential that employees work in accordance with goal‒oriented processes on a routine basis, even if such goals lie outside the boundaries of a specific business unit. It is also crucial to gather, share, and verify data and documents, which, after all, are a shared resource by definition. A successful introduction of the following changes will form the basis of future success:
7. the automation of static processes. Individuals using new methodologies of implementation (such as Rapid Process Methodology or dynamic BPM) are advised to start with the automation of nonessential internal static processes. Because the livelihood of the organization depends on the effectiveness of the core process, it is crucial that processes aimed at raising the effectiveness of the core process are rationalized on a routine basis. This will prevent the implementation of suboptimalizations which, despite supporting a specific business unit, harm the organization as a whole.
8. process automation and management on the basis of implemented software components (coherent databases, central document repositories, accepted and accessible process descriptions) and, what is even more important, the gradual change of the organization’s culture.
Divided into distinct, manageable projects, such a BPM implementation enforces actual changes within the management system by eliminating silo management in favor of process‒oriented management. Furthermore, such an implementation facilitates the creation of human resources disposed to working with a Business Process Continuous Improvement model.