BPM: Theory to Practice

Tim Huenemann

Hours, not Days!

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One of my managers years ago used to proclaim, "Hours, not days!" in challenging people to resolve issues without waiting for the next scheduled team meeting. Today, this sort of speed is more desirable than ever. You can extend that thinking to how all work is performed in an organization. To get work done sooner - for customer satisfaction, for quicker revenue, to solve problems and reduce cost - organizations need to structure their operations and processes to support immediate (or almost immediate) action on tasks.

Here are two common barriers to results.

Batch Operations

Too many organizations have pockets of batch operations. Work methods, cost considerations, and old IT systems (and who knows what else) led them over time to have processes where work is held up until a scheduled interval occurs, when a whole batch of work is initiated or processed. This can come from a weekly or daily cycle mentality, which is natural. Or it can come from IT systems design and limitations. That can obviously be difficult to change, but sometimes it's just a design choice and not a true constraint.

Batch operations can lead to messy parallel processes - the standard batch process, and the emergency "can't wait for next Monday" process. The same work is accomplished, but the rush job forces its way there with extra cost and hassle.

Often batch operations from an IT perspective imply a closed operating window when some types of work can't be done. That obviously is a hindrance if you need to move to a more global or 24x7 operation.

Education, management direction, and often IT investments are needed to overcome batch thinking and transition from batch operations.

Large Buffer

Some organizations operate at a good pace, balancing demand with process throughput; their rate of work balances the input with the output effectively. Yet there is such a large amount of pent-up work that things wait days before being started. It seems illogical - if they could just catch up and get through the backlog, from then on the speed would be great! But it never seems to happen. It's like the very first day the company started operations they had a one-week delay and have never caught up.

How do you clear out this buffer? Often it's not the actual amount of work that is the problem; you can chip away at that over time. It's more the overall management and process design. Sometimes there is deterrent to clearing the backlog: it might result in idle employees at some points in the process. So there can be a trade-off between utilization and cycle time. I have seen this become a perverse obstacle to quicker work.

You need to tweak the processes, roles, and staffing to get immediate action, with little lag, while still being efficient. This is an area where newer technologies and solid process thinking can make a big difference in managing, routing, and quickly performing work.

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This blog offers a true “practitioner’s perspective,” with issues and commentary based on real-world experience across many industries.

Tim Huenemann

Tim Huenemann is the senior principal for business architecture and process management at Trexin Consulting. He has more than 20 years of experience in process management and business-focused IT. In his consulting work, he helps organizations execute business strategy by implementing effective process management and IT solutions. He regularly translates BPM theory into practice, and practice, and more practice. Contact Tim at tim.huenemann[at]trexin.com.

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