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Process Power

Process Power

Many companies use their process models as a kind of wallpaper, leaving the CIO to wonder whether there are any real benefits to be gained from the exercise.

"We like to say it's like finding a room that has been closed to you thus far, and now you open the door and there is definitely something of interest for you. If you look across functions, you definitely find potential for improvements," he says.

Rosemann's postgraduate students try to help organisations adopt a more holistic approach to process thinking. Rosemann says their experience demonstrates the clear benefit that can come from adopting a more comprehensive picture of organisational processes. And that means not just examining the organisation's IT-related interfaces, but also its organisational interfaces: such as where person A does not know what person B is doing, or where application A holds certain data and application B holds the same data unnecessarily.

"Our aim is to increase the awareness for the importance of business processes, help organisations to understand their business processes, and then together with them ask what can be improved. Some ideas are purely HR organisational ideas, and some of them include the reconfiguration of an ERP, or the development of new applications."

Relying on Intuition

When it comes to successful BPM efforts, Rosemann says it is important that the BPM framework be adapted to the organisational culture, rather than trying to distort the culture to fit the framework. To achieve this, the organisation must remain in the driver's seat, must adopt an intuitive approach and must ensure that involvement of employees extends from the operational level right through to the CIO.

He says there is substantial value in aligning your Balanced Scorecards with those business processes. There is a tendency when it comes to process modelling, he believes, to develop endless process descriptions. Many companies use their process models as a kind of wallpaper, leaving the CIO to wonder whether there are any real benefits to be gained from the exercise. But when business process analysts develop models and comprehensively analyse their processes, CIOs want to know how that work will support their business objectives. Will the process be faster? Will it be cheaper? Are there areas where the organisation will become more customer oriented?

Using Balanced Scorecards makes it easier to describe cause and effect relationships and determine how one objective is likely to impact on another. Graphically demonstrating the relationships between Balanced Scorecards and process models lets the CIO see the big picture and better communicate objectives and strategies, and makes it easier to navigate between business processes. It gives the CIO a very concrete way of thinking about achieving that alignment, Rosemann says.

"The CIO doesn't want to see 200 process models. The CIO wants to have a 10,000 feet picture: So okay, here are your core and enabling processes, here's the linkage to my Balanced Scorecard, but if you want, I can take you the whole way down to the detailed business process description."

Rosemann says the early phase of the BPM work - where project teams analyse the current processes, shape their ideas and specify requirements - is the most significant phase of the business process life cycle, and has the most influence on costs. "This is where I shape my future business," he says.

Yet he says too many organisations willing to spend huge amounts at the end of the exercise stint at the beginning. Many companies seriously underestimate the number of processes they have. When they try modelling their processes in Visio or PowerPoint they find themselves pushing the software to its limits, until the tool itself becomes a limitation on their work. "Go to the top 50 companies in Australia and 49 of them are in that situation," he says. "We really see this learning curve."

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