If the topic interests you, chances are that you are either a manager wondering what it takes to rethink, re-strategize, realign your operations or you are a practitioner in the job of convincing your clients why it is good for them. It is indeed a paradox that while all Business Process Improvement efforts focus on making processes streamlined, more efficient, leaner and simpler, there is so much terminology floating around (sample this: Business Process Analysis, Business Process Improvement, Business Process Re-engineering, Business Process Management, Business Process Optimization) that it makes the task for anyone trying to understand or explain what it is all about, anything but simple.
From an Operations Manager and from a Process Consultant perspective (and I have worn both hats) I have attempted to explain what different terms in the Business Process terminology refer to. It is by no stretch meant to be a Glossary but an attempt to clear some clouds.
First the basics
Business Process: Simply put, Business Process is a set of logically related activities that accomplish a specific task or goal in an organization. It is usually depicted in swim lane flowchart diagrams as a sequence of activities. A business process can be decomposed into sub processes, which have their own attributes but also contribute to achieving the main goal. A sample business process is as illustrated in the diagram below.
Activity: Activity is defined as the smallest level of sub-process that a process diagram is illustrated in. Conversely as discussed above, a process is made up of a set of activities. In the example below, each box is an activity. Since this is a high level process, most of these activities can be treated as sub processes and (in a lower level process map) broken down further into smaller level activities. Confused? Sample this example: In the below process map Book Order is an activity. However, Book Order can be explained in detail with different activities and steps and decision points involved. Book Order thus would become the process and all boxes in the process would be activities involved in booking an order.
Business Process Mapping: Wiki has a very clear and concise definition for this. It defines Business Process Mapping as activities involved in defining exactly what a business entity does, who is responsible, to what standard a process should be completed and how the success of a business process can be determined. As a functional manager or as a practitioner this is where you roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty. No matter how well you think you know your processes, if you are embarking on an improvement mission, you want to get your processes mapped. It is possible that you might not be surprised, but this gives you the framework and everybody involved a “reference point” as to what needs to be analyzed. If you have a consultant or someone from a process improvement team do this for your processes, it also gives you an outsider’s view and gives them a better understanding of your business and your processes so that they can talk your language.
Business Process Analysis: is the study of existing processes to understand the actors, their relationships, their activities and relevant metrics. It is the second phase in any business process improvement/re-engineering initiative once the processes have been accurately mapped.
Now the jargons
Let’s talk about the terminologies that confound many of us…
Business Process Improvement: essentially refers to focussing on incrementally improving business processes. Business Process Improvement is usually narrow focussed and repeated over the life of the process. In the Book order process example above, if the error rate is high, BPI would focus on identifying those errors and reducing them in various activities within the overall process. It would focus on one sub process like creating a customer profile and attempt at reducing error rate and then moving on to another sub process like capturing customer details. So you see how it is narrow focussed and improves incrementally and is repeated.
Business Process Re-engineering: is a term first coined in the early nineties. As originally defined it emphasized on starting with a blank slate and fundamentally rethinking and reconceptualizing business processes using technology as a tool to achieve breakthrough improvement in performance. In the example we are following, BPR could essentially aim to fundamentally change the existing process by offering a Web Portal or an Automated Response Technology to customers.
Business Process Management: or BPM refers to aligning processes with the organization’s strategic goals, designing and implementing process architectures, establishing process measurement systems that align with organizational goals. Ouch! I know! Let me attempt to decode. The important thing to understand is that BPM essentially organizes around outcomes and not tasks. It attempts to study, identify and change business processes in a way that they align with the defined organizational goals or a desired future state. BPM is a broad term and may not just re-define processes but also projects in line with the organizational goals.
Business Process Optimization: is a relatively new term and radically redefines the focus to existing requirements when an organization undergoes a major change. The aim is to “optimize” the existing processes to maximize gains from the change which in most cases is a technology implementation but can also be organization restructuring or reorganization. Process optimization not only involves analyzing the current state processes and modifying them to ensure they align well with the new change initiative but also handing out business simplification and process improvement opportunities.
How is it helpful
To quote my favorite quote, “If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always gotten!”
Processes are at the heart of the business. As such, business transformation can only have visible and lasting value if it is affected at the process level. A key challenge facing business in this competitive and dynamic world is how to remain agile while still ensuring continuous business improvements in terms of solution offerings and service delivery. Our Business Process Optimization services provide the mechanisms to effectively evaluate, improve and prioritize business processes within an organization. What appear to be minor changes in processes can have dramatic impact on cash flows, service delivery and customer satisfaction.
At Diabsolut, our team’s extensive experience enables us to review business processes with a unique focus on workforce management, providing insights and suggestions to potentially improve workload forecasting, planning and resource deployment. We take not only a micro view of processes handling individual customer transactions but also a macro view of how your business processes handle the entire planning process from longer term forecasting and resource management to meeting the customer demands of today. We pride ourselves as the leaders in field workforce optimization and our suite of services encompass end to end solutions for not only technology implementation but also affecting people and processes that make a technology solution viable and profitable!