Business Process Management (BPM ) Best Practices
Banking on BPM: One bank's long journey to successful process improvement
By Peter Schooff, Contributing Editor, ebizQ
Editor’s Note: In this Q & A, BPM specialist Abdul Azeez Sadeqi speaks with ebizQ’s Peter Schooff about lessons learned from real-life BPM implementations at a major bank. Sadeqi is head of BPM for one of the largest banks in the Middle East and also serves as deputy head of process reengineering for that bank. This interview, excerpted from a longer podcast,has been edited for length, clarity and editorial style.
ebizQ: What impact did BPM have on your bank? How long did it take?
The first thing I want to touch on is the culture—and not just at the bank, but in general in this area, the Middle East. The second thing would be the history of BPM within this organization.
The culture—as most people know, and a lot of researchers have done research in this area—it's more of an authoritative culture, with hierarchy within any type of organization. Of course, they’re always known for uncertainty avoidance.
This brings me to the history of BPM [in this organization]. From this culture, you should know how difficult it was to implement a department that coincides with continuous change within an organization. BPM started in the organization a little bit over five years ago. It was the brainchild of a couple of Western managers within the operational group.
Now the bank, at that moment, was going through a very large core change of their systems. Because these managers in operations had a background in BPM and BPR [business process re-engineering], they saw the importance of this department, especially with this project.
So what they did is purchased BPM software [suite]
. One main focus was just to basically map out processes to help the IT people, and some businesses, to understand the changes that are going to be happening within this core change. That happened for about two years. The main objective was just to fill up our repository full of these prophecies for the bank.
Not until recently—I would say [the past] two years, two-and-a-half years—has the analysis part of BPM started to blossom here. It’s still in the process of blooming the whole way. The reason for this goes back to the culture. Acceptance is a very hard thing to acquire within the different units of this bank.
Short [term], we've received very good impact from BPM within certain units and departments within this bank and the impact for them has been great. These guys have been continuously asking for our help and coming back to us with more and more ideas. The thing is, there are some other departments that still feel sketchy about us, so we're still working on it.
So have we implemented BPM fully within this organization? No. We still need a couple more years to fully implement it within this bank.
ebizQ: You’ve said that, with this culture, there is a great resistance to change. How exactly is the best way to deal with this?
You know there are many, many ways of dealing with change and resistance within any type of culture and there's many, many researches done on different types of cultures.
One of the biggest things that I focused on was the acceptance of process mappings through risk and audits. [In this culture,] because of the uncertainty avoidance—and it’s very high—they rely heavily on risk and audit. When it comes to risk and audit, instead of them recommending stuff to the business and the business taking on that recommendation, what happens here a lot in the Middle East, and especially in this organization, is they just take that as an order: “Okay, whatever risk says, we have to implement it.”
Now how efficient is it? It’s probably the worst type of efficiency I've ever seen. I've seen so many processes that have several checks in them and it takes too much effort from employees to do them, if it’s not even a system that has to do it.
To them, of course, they just want to lower the risk to the bank, but efficiency-wise, it’s not the greatest process. This is what we have to struggle with.
So I used the culture and the situation. Instead of selling it to the business, I went to sell BPM to [the] risk and audit [managers]. Once I got their acceptance, what happened next was that they would not accept any type of requests from business without seeing a process mapping associated with it. Once this happened, people started seeing the importance of process mapping and what comes after the process mapping, which is the analysis and any other aspects, depending on what the scope of the project would be. This was one way that I tackled it.
Another way was communication—getting the acceptance from different departments and different people. Sometimes people in BPM and BPR feel like if you just present the numbers, people will accept it. That might be a correct assumption in different areas in the world, maybe the Western countries. But here, even if the numbers are showing a very positive outcome of a new process or a new change within that department, still they would not accept it. The reason for this is not because they don’t like the change; it's because they don’t trust the person that is presenting this.
So one of the biggest things you have to do is [not just] prove the importance of the process, but prove yourself first. Then once you’ve proved yourself to them and they've trusted you and they've accepted you, after that, anything you tell them, they will accept—within the means of your numbers and stuff like that.
ebizQ: What are some other key lessons you've learned from doing a BPM implementation in a bank?
One [key lesson] is persistence. What I would recommend to people is, whenever you have an idea or a new theory, don’t just present it and then, if it's not accepted, drop it and go to the next project. You have to be persistent.
Look for a different way of communicating this idea. Maybe you need to communicate it in a different format. Instead of a presentation, [consider] a report or maybe a one-on-one discussion, or take a guy out to lunch or something like that. Maybe the timeframe [needs to be] different. Maybe the audience needs to be different.
ebizQ: For a bank right now in anywhere in the world that's thinking about possibly implementing a BPM solution: What’s the one takeaway, the one most important aspect of assuring BPM success?
The people within the organization are the most important asset that any organization would have.
One thing that we are still continuing working on is basically [establishing a] continuous learning organization. This is one of the most important things; continuing to educate your employees is very important.
A second thing would be that the organization’s focus should be on process. A process-centric organization
is a very important thing for a BPM department or concept to work. If the organization is not process-focused or process-centric, then why do you need a business process management department there?
A third thing would be governance. If you don't have that in place, you will be facing many, many problems.
So these are three aspects I would believe would be a very important to any type of BPM department within an organization: continuous learning, process-centricity and then governance.
About the Author
Peter Schooff is a former contributing editor for ebizQ, where he also managed the ebizQ Forum for several years. Previously, Peter managed the database operations for a major cigar company, served as writer/editor of an early Internet entertainment site and developed a computer accounting system for several retail stores. Peter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.More by Peter Schooff
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