Last week I wrote about three essential ingredients for sustained enterprise-wide process improvement:
"The essential elements are cultural change + more sophisticated social structures + increasingly, an enabling process platform that glues it all together and makes it 'the way we do things here'."
My inclusion of 'an enabling process platform' sparked a surprisingly skeptical challenge, and from people whose insights I respect. So here's my justification for why an enabling process platform is essential - and some hard evidence.
It's not that it's impossible to achieve sustained enterprise-wide process improvement without an enabling process platform. It's just that it's far easier with one, and far more likely to succeed in the long run.
It's possible to navigate a cruise liner around the Caribbean using pen, paper, compass and a sextant. It's far more efficient to use GPS. [probably helps the passengers sleep easier too]
There are examples everywhere of 'knowledge platforms' that facilitate collaboration across complex, silo-based and dynamic endeavours.
A timetable is at the heart of operating any railway. A screenplay is the key to the collaboration of the many people and skills involved in creating a movie. The menu is the platform driving the collaboration of the chefs working in a top kitchen.
More exactly, perhaps, as it's a fast-moving scenario: imagine running a rolling TV news channel without a scheduling platform. It would be possible to coordinate the reporters, the VT editors, the guests, the presenters, using fax and phones. But it's far more efficient to use a scheduling system that pulls it all together and enables effective collaboration.
It's true that timetables, screenplays, menus and studio schedulers don't focus on process. But ultimately process is the language for effective collaboration across the enterprise.
It's possible to try to deliver sustained enterprise-wide process improvement without an enabling process platform. That's where most organizations are right now. They may have a myriad of ungoverned process fragments in Visio or Word; or they may have enterprise process models understood only by an IT cognoscenti; typically they have both, and more. And in Phil Gilbert's phrase, they manage most process 'using Excel over email'.
It's far more efficient to use an enabling process platform that gives line of sight between strategy and operational reality; that enables effective collaboration across the extended enterprise, providing a single source of truth on process but with different views for the different stakeholders; that is made real by end user adoption and linked to real-time KPI performance metrics; and all wrapped within a governance framework that is robust but easy-to-use.
Many organizations recognize continuous improvement - the goal to which they are striving - requires cultural change, and needs new ways of thinking and structure. But few organizations (dare one say it, even analysts) see yet how an enabling process platform can accelerate implementation of a target operating model, and embed a culture of continuous improvement.
For platform skeptics wary of fancy ideas, there is hard evidence and real ROI.
Nimbus clients and global leaders such as Nestle and Chevron are investing in an enabling process platform as a vital underpinning for their operational excellence initiatives. At the Profit Through Process conference in Orlando this week, Best Buy announced $80m in savings and revenue growth, achieved through a relentless process focus that is enabled by a process platform leveraging Nimbus Control. Nimbus clients such as Royal Bank of Canada presented recently on the savings and other benefits achieved through adoption of an enabling process platform which wraps risks and business controls into the 'live' end-to-end business processes.
Cost reduction, speed to implementation, customer satisfaction: the hard evidence is accumulating to endorse what intuition suggests - that an enterprise process platform is a critical enabler for sustained enterprise-wide process improvement. Not essential - you can go a long way with 'Excel over email' - but efficient.
You probably have far better analogies than the ones I've suggested. Do please comment with your own ideas. If this is all one tenth as important as I'm saying, then the sooner we agree on a definition, and get on with making it happen in the real world, the better.
7 Jan 2010 Operational Excellence, Happiness and BPM
4 Jan 2010 BPM Truths We Hold Self Evident
17 Dec 2010 The Tube Map: Process Made Easy