variant of a famous quote by George Santayana states “You can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been.” This idea is a fundamental principal when doing a Business Process Redesign initiative. 

Before embarking on an organizational improvement project you must not only understand your current state, but should take it a step further by documenting your current state understanding

Documenting the current state will increase the odds of success by helping communicate issues and provide a concrete baseline to measure strategic improvements. To successfully reengineer a business process there is a lot of work that must be completed before the actual process is modified. 

  • First, the problem must be defined to set the course for the optimal solution.
  • Once the problem is understood, the current state must be assessed taking into account the three key business components - people, process, and tools.
  • After establishing a baseline, comparing the current state to peers will help benchmark your position, and may provide insight to revolutionary improvements.
  • This holistic approach at analyzing the current state will help ensure all variables of the business are taken into account minimizing the likelihood of failure.
  • When the problem and current business environment are understood, outlining the goals and scope of the initiative, ensuring the project’s ambitions align with the corporate vision, will provide the initial boundaries for the project. 
  • Once the project is scoped, an execution plan should be constructed to estimate the timeline and it’s relation with cost and the extent of the initiative.  
  • After the scope and execution plan are completed, the work should be sequenced according to the business vision, culminating in a strategic roadmap. 
Still, a successful outcome is not guaranteed.

If management support is not strong, or the project is mismanaged, the likelihood of success is severely diminished. 

Similarly, if the redesign is thrust upon staff or their management without their support, gaining adoption will not only be difficult - it may cause failure. Furthermore, if the solution does not adequately fulfill the business requirements or the technology does not integrate or strategically align with the current enterprise architecture, a win is unlikely.

A successful BPR project must have a strong champion, strong management team, a thorough current state assessment and strict adherence to a redesign methodology, all while being cognizant of potential pitfalls. Keep in mind, to improve operations you need to thoroughly understand the 'business as usual' environment.  To gain consensus on business as unusual, processes need to be documented and reviewed. 

Master.Map.Business.Process.Optimization.jpgThe Master Map

The best medium to document business processes when analyzing them for a redesign is to use business process maps

Business process maps are graphical, step by step depictions of an end to end process expressing the work flow, routing rules, and tasks involved. Often these are completed through interviews with process associates or through process shadowing. 

To go a step further, conducting a time and motion study captures the process, the time to complete a task and the ‘at rest’ time of the process end to end. Important to keep in mind:

  • Once the maps are created they should be reviewed with process owners and actors to ensure consensus.
  • When creating process maps it is good practice to create a high level master map that shows the entire business process end to end to put individual functions in perspective to the overall operation to help actors understand where they fit in 'the big picture' of the process.
  • Creating a master map will also help drive out any dependencies and interdepartmental relationships that will need to be considered during any improvement initiative.
  • The master map should be detailed enough to understand the processes and their relationships, but simple enough that the entire business can be understood.
  • After the master map is created, the core processes should then be elaborated.  Because this step is pre-work to help decide where to start the redesign effort it is important that a minimum set of data is captured about each process and sub-process.

Business Process Management

A process improvement initiative is generally time sensitive, so over engineering the current state discovery and trying to capture every nuance and insignificant detail can stall the project. Instead, focus on making sure activities are captured in the proper sequence, and the actors who perform them, the time and effort associated with the process or task. 

Additional details like pain points, functional technology gaps, workarounds, and other relevant attributes should also be captured, without going overboard.  This will provide the basis for identifying and prioritizing areas of high impact. 

To avoid failure, support at all levels from executives to line managers is required, but ultimately success will be dictated by the employees. A strong change management plan will help engage and motivate your employees, and robust communication updating the company of the project’s wins will go a long way to promote the awareness and drive required for a successful reengineering effort.

A Strategic Approach to Business Process Redesign