Nine Process Management Killers

Avoid these obstacles and you'll also stay away from false starts and wasted time and money.

Michael Biddick, CEO, Fusion PPT

December 4, 2008

4 Min Read

Insufficient Commitment From Leadership
A bottom-up approach can jump-start the process, but without the support of leadership, the overall initiative will fail.

Full-scale process improvement takes a significant, long-term commitment from the leadership team. Organizational change, investments in tools and training, and culture adjustments are all significant undertakings.

Leadership that's only partially committed to change might not have sufficient information about all aspects of the project. Arm leaders with all of the costs, risks, and benefits, and then seek a clear directive to move forward.

Lack Of Practical Training
Hundreds of companies offer process training. Many organizations will specialize in ITIL or Six Sigma, and while these can provide a common vocabulary, most organizations stop there. We hear many stories of companies that have spent good money to train their staff, but then are frustrated when the company doesn't change after all that training.

Training is a critical element of the puzzle, and a common understanding and vocabulary is the foundation of process improvement. However, few training organizations use the opportunity as a workshop to not only discuss the terminology but also to work with the company to discuss specific challenges.

Choose your training provider wisely and work with the provider to customize content for your organization. This next generation of training is more time-consuming for providers, because their business is usually driven by cookie-cutter training classes. Even if you select a more uniform training approach, try to extend the class, cover some specific use cases, and work through scenarios in your organization. This will garner rewards well beyond the basics.

Stagnation Of Planning And Documentation
Like documentation, planning is important, but if there's no way to incorporate it into the organization, planning isn't much use. We see far too many dusty process documents sitting on office shelves. Typically, outside consultants or internal groups wrote them with the best of intentions, but they were never internalized or implemented.

Because there are so many elements involved in process improvement, many organizations spend far too much time anticipating all possible issues and kill much of the momentum initially developed for the project.

Effective planning must focus on quick wins that have an immediate impact on the organization. Try to keep the energy and excitement levels up by rapidly moving through the planning stages, and provide the flexibility to adjust as the needs of the organization grow and change.

Tools Of The Trade

Business process management tools: Look for products that can scale for complex processes

Vendors: Appian, Lombardi, Metastorm, Pegasystems, Savvion, Tibco

Process automation tools: Look for products that integrate into your existing management toolset

Vendors: BMC, CA, Hewlett-Packard, NetIQ, Opalis, Stratavia

Process mapping tools: Look for products that can clearly depict complex, multiorganizational process problems

Vendors: ConceptDraw, iGrafx, Mind Technologies, SmartDraw

Project portfolio mapping tools: Look for ones that can manage deployment of your process initiatives and can track overall success

Vendors: CA, IBM, Microsoft, Planview, Primavera, Serena Software

No Workable Process
Processes can be extremely exciting (for some), but you must guard against conforming to a single best-practice framework too rigidly. Some of the most successful process implementers start with a best-practice framework, and then blend elements from other frameworks and unique business drivers into their overall approach. While this may sound like heresy to some purists, best-practice frameworks evolve and incorporate the best of what's done in the field.

These frameworks should be treated as guiding principles, not rigid methodologies, because their success depends on the organization's willingness to adopt them. Don't try to force a methodology on a business when there isn't a good fit.

Hands-Off Outsourcing
There are a lot of companies out there that would love to improve your processes. This option may sound very appealing, but make sure you do it the right way. You need to own the processes at the end of the day, and you know more about your business than anyone else, so take a mentoring approach rather than a total outsource. And be sure you allocate enough time to work with the outsourcer.

When negotiating a contract, ask for certain training levels and references. Instead of signing up for a complete project, take certain elements of the organization and see how well they execute in that area. If time is critical, try two different organizations and see which one gets the job done more thoroughly.

Getting expert advice is critical. Just be sure to do it the right way.

Photo by Jupiterimages

About the Author(s)

Michael Biddick

CEO, Fusion PPT

As CEO of Fusion PPT, Michael Biddick is responsible for overall quality and innovation. Over the past 15 years, Michael has worked with hundreds of government and international commercial organizations, leveraging his unique blend of deep technology experience coupled with business and information management acumen to help clients reduce costs, increase transparency and speed efficient decision making while maintaining quality. Prior to joining Fusion PPT, Michael spent 10 years with a boutique-consulting firm and Booz Allen Hamilton, developing enterprise management solutions. He previously served on the academic staff of the University of Wisconsin Law School as the Director of Information Technology. Michael earned a Master's of Science from Johns Hopkins University and a dual Bachelor's degree in Political Science and History from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Michael is also a contributing editor at InformationWeek Magazine and Network Computing Magazine and has published over 50 recent articles on Cloud Computing, Federal CIO Strategy, PMOs and Application Performance Optimization. He holds multiple vendor technical certifications and is a certified ITIL v3 Expert.

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