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6 Requirements for Successful Process Management

Too often organisations think that successfully rolling out process management (‘PM’) means simply providing their team members with a process mapping tool, some basic training, and expecting it to just get done. This approach will invariably result in either nothing getting done, or processes being mapped but never followed or updated.

While PM might not be the most complicated initiative that you undertake, it still requires some thought and planning to ensure that it not only gets done, but also delivers the value and impact that you expect.

To ensure that your PM hits the mark, below are six key considerations that you need to make.

  1. Aligning PM with Strategic Objectives

If you were to ask an average member of your organisation what PM means to them, their answer is almost certainly going to be some variation of the word ‘bureaucracy’.

As such, it is important to clearly explain how any PM initiative aligns with the existing strategic objectives that your team are already familiar with. This will help ensure that it is not seen as just another time-consuming side project, but as a tool that will enable us to succeed at what we are already trying to do.

In communicating this message, first and foremost consider the common benefits, which include:

  • Standardising the way that work is done
  • Understanding the dependencies between different departments and breaking down silos
  • Identifying and eliminating waste from processes
  • Discovering opportunities to digitise and automate processes

Next, you need to determine how these benefits will enable you to achieve the existing strategic objectives that are familiar to your team and explain this link.

For example, if one of your strategic objectives is ‘to make ACME Inc an organisation where team members can develop the skills needed to achieve their career objectives’, you could explain how eliminating waste and automating the repetitive elements of their processes will enable your team to have additional time to allocate to stretch projects and, in doing so, grow beyond their current role.

A point to note here is that this approach of aligning PM to your strategic objectives helps to avoid the risk of your wider organisation seeing this initiative as the first step to head-count reduction (and thus something that will hopefully fail) by introducing it as a clearly positive initiative.

  1. Sponsorship

The next requirement of success is having strong sponsorship from the executive through to line management. PM needs to be aligned with one or more strategic objectives of the business, and this link must be explained and communicated to the business by a sponsor in the executive. Additionally, the executive sponsor needs to create a sponsor coalition network in order to help the other senior leaders understand the benefits of process management to their business units and prioritise it within their teams.

As important as the executive sponsor is, your line managers will ultimately implement the solution.  The way that we allocate our time is at the bequest of our direct line managers, so, if this cohort fail to appreciate the importance of PM, nothing will get done. Conversely, if our line managers have fully bought into the initiative they will clearly articulate to their team how this initiative will benefit their team and them individually, as well as ensure that their team are dedicating sufficient time to the required activities and hold them to account.

  1. Capability, Capacity, and KPIs

Once everyone has bought in and is excited to get going, we need to ensure that sufficient capability and capacity exists to perform the necessary tasks.

Capability may seem somewhat obvious, we can’t ask our team members to map, manage, and improve processes if they have not been trained how to do so. Capability however extends beyond these hard skills; as described above, the role of line managers can’t be underestimated so training also needs to be delivered to this group on how to effectively position, sell, and monitor PM in their teams.

Capacity is an element which is often overlooked. Frequently organisations see PM as something that can be simply ‘absorbed’ (i.e. the business can continue to do what they are doing, plus take on their new PM based responsibilities). Unsurprisingly this approach often results in failure. A more realistic approach needs to be considered where we estimate the amount of time it will take to map, maintain, and improve processes and then ensure that the people to whom these responsibilities have been assigned have sufficient time allocated. Where insufficient capacity exists to absorb this additional work, this needs to be addressed which may include:

  • Adding headcount to the line of business teams to accommodate the additional workload
  • Removing other projects and BAU activities to open up time within the existing team
  • Establishing an internal process Centre of Excellence or engaging external consultants to reduce the burden on the line of business
  • Reducing the scope of the process management initiative to align with the existing capacity

Finally, this needs to be formalised within the organisation’s KPI/ OKR system. Ultimately, we spend our time delivering the outcomes on which we are measured and so, if process KPIs/ OKRs are not introduced this work will be the first initiative that is de-prioritised and subsequently forgotten.

  1. Have a goal in mind to avoid the trap of ‘happy mapping’

Once mapping momentum starts to build, it’s easy to fall into the trap of mapping for the sake of mapping. It’s important to remind ourselves that creating a collection of process maps will not do anything. It is what is done with these maps that matters. So, ensure you ask yourself ‘what’s the outcome that I’m hoping to achieve’?  and then, when the time is right, take a break from mapping and start using the maps that you’ve created for their intended purpose.

For example, if your primary goal is standardisation, have a kick-off event where you release your processes to the business and outline the expectation that moving forward they should be doing their job as per the documented process; or, if your objective is to drive efficiencies through automation, you should start reviewing the processes that you’ve captured, prioritise the opportunities for automation that have been uncovered, and start working on your automation backlog before starting to map again.

  1. Define a Rollout Plan

Far too often organisations expect PM to just happen but without a rollout plan it won’t. Your plan should establish:

  • The PM methodology (e.g. scope, prioritise, and map the as-is, and then seek to improve via standardisation, optimisation and/ or automation)
  • The order and timing in which processes are going to pass through PM methodology
  • When training and communications are going to be delivered and to whom
  • The go-live strategy (big-bang or phased) and the key dates

A top tip is to remember that you shouldn’t be waiting until you’re 100% done before you go-live. Whilst going live too early will likely result in failure if there are insufficient processes to add value to the business, the pendulum can swing too far in the other direction if you keep postponing your go-live date. As part of your rollout plan you need to decide which processes need to be mapped to have a sufficient critical mass to go-live and, where unsure, err on the side of going live too early rather than too late.

  1. Selecting the Right Tools

Whilst PM is not about the tool that you use, the tool that you use can make or break the initiative. Very often initiatives are attempted to be driven using processes documented in Word, PowerPoint, Excel, or BPMN style mapping tools such as Visio. The problem with documenting processes in these formats is that they produce processes that are hard to engage with – they’re hard to find, hard to follow, hard to share, hard to update, and ultimately are ignored.

Fundamentally, PM has to be a people driven initiative that encourages involvement from every member of an organisation from the CEO to the intern, or in other words not for a select few.

At S A Partners we have partnered with Nintex as their Process Manager software has been designed with this in mind, it allows you to centralise your processes into a single platform making them accessible online or via a mobile app, and facilitates the documentation of these processes in a format that is simple and clear to follow, whilst providing the detail a new starter requires to perform their processes without seeking additional assistance. Furthermore, by having feedback functionality and change notifications built in, Nintex Process Manager also helps you to drive and embed continuous and strategic improvement projects.

There are a number of platforms available on the market place but If you are interested in learning more about Nintex Process Manager or how S A Partners can help you successfully roll out P in your organisation please do let me know.

Ishan Sellahewa

Digital  Transformation Business Manager


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