Get IT teams on board with business process management.
It’s a very familiar story. Recently we had a client select Nintex Promapp as their process management platform of choice after more than two years of going back and forth with tenders, changing requirements and internal uncertainty.
At the heart of the problem was a struggle between the IT department, who oversaw technical tools, and the business teams that were tasked with developing process management and improvement.
We’ve seen this same battle play out in numerous organizations in various ways, but it always comes down to the same issue: business teams identify a need for an effective business process management tool, and the IT team sources a solution that doesn’t meet their needs.
This conflict centers on the difference between the business team and the IT department’s criteria for such tools. Unfortunately, it’s usually the IT solution that moves forward, as they are responsible for implementation.
The accumulated frustration doesn’t diminish, and expensive technical tools end up on the shelf, not employed because of the barriers they create to everyday use across the business. The time and money invested in finding and introducing them goes down the drain and process management goes nowhere.
In this instance, our client was well along that downward spiral when cooler heads finally prevailed. One or two key champions recognized that core to everyone’s needs was an effective process management solution that engaged teams. Choosing a platform that does that well helps everyone.
Too many procedure manuals and Visio charts gather dust or are buried in files while processes evolve and emerge independently of the documentation. Without a culture of continuous improvement these discrepancies are almost impossible to pick up until they are audited.
Effective BPM tools can capture these ever-changing processes, often in real-time, but they need to be accessible to teams across the business in order for that to happen.
Often the tools an IT department favors are those with high technical functionality. While they are capable of managing complex data, they have a steep learning curve and can be hard for everyday business teams to use.
This was the challenge our new client faced. They desperately needed a tool that had the ability to engage their business teams, allowing continuous improvement to become a part of BAU, with process ownership residing within business teams rather than with technical specialists.
Unfortunately, the tools the IT department were leaning towards didn’t suit the front-line operators. The tech specialists didn’t really understand the fundamentals of BPM, so had copy-pasted a set of requirements from a generic process management report without considering their unique environment and the needs of those who were driving the request.
Business process management is a team function, and the right solution will recognize this. An effective process platform puts process management into the hands of those who know and use the processes on a day to day basis, rather than isolated specialists, ensuring that the procedures are both accurate and relevant.
Doing so reduces the risk of expensive catch-ups when audits are due, or potentially disastrous non-compliance as a result of processes that don’t connect with the people who use them. When IT departments don’t understand this, they can’t be expected to source tools that will facilitate engagement. It’s up to process champions to help them understand the importance of team-based tools.
Create a process culture.
We regularly see organizations approaching process improvement as a technical challenge rather than a cultural one. While IT are the best people to evaluate the suitability of a tool for security, stability and resource allocation, process management is an issue for the entire business to engage with.
Continuous improvement is a thread that needs to run through the whole organization, not just one department. If the tools employed limit engagement rather than encourage it, business process management ceases to become effective and the business as a whole suffers. Accessible platforms and opportunities to use and improve processes provide teams with avenues for innovation, while increasing accountability at the ‘coal face’ of the business.
Process experts need to coach their IT teams in this regard. All the analytics in the world can’t help an organization if 90% of people aren’t involved in the continuous improvement conversation. When the technical team understands that the best tools invite collaboration, they can start to assess the potential solutions from that perspective, rather than setting their own criteria.
This doesn’t mean IT doesn’t engage with business process management. It just frees them from having to bear full responsibility for it. Complex and technically demanding tools leave the IT department assigned to the role of scribes and gatekeepers, trying to keep up with the wider business’s process changes.
When process management is instead handed over to business teams through tools that invite contributions from every level and department, IT can focus on capturing their own processes well and monitoring the framework, while the wider organization takes responsibility for building great procedures for themselves. It’s a win-win situation.
One of the biggest barriers to effective business process management can be the complexity of IT-centric tools. Most require a considerable investment in training to use effectively, and the steep learning curve makes them unsuitable for most users outside of the technical team.
When an organization invests in platforms with such challenging user requirements, the ‘specialists’ will either be swamped with requests to write up new processes, or changes and innovations will simply be lost because the people that identify them aren’t equipped to capture them.
Upskilling the wider teams on the tool is usually prohibitive too, both in terms of the cost of training, the resultant loss of productivity while the technology is learned and the complexity of the tools.
Tools with high user proficiency requirements also court trouble when staff move on. Without a process management strategy, process information walks out the door every time someone leaves the organization.
However, any investment in proficiency with specialist tools is similarly lost when team members leave, meaning new people need to be trained up to replace them. Continuous improvement stalls while the skillset is re-established, and that’s counterproductive to effective, ongoing business process management.
A simple, easy-to-use process platform reduces the training burden and diminishes the risk of vital procedures being locked up in complex tools when key people leave.
Business process management is an organization-wide responsibility. Choosing the right platform to coordinate and enable it is vital to process excellence. Helping IT teams recognize what teams need from their process management tool - and the trap they are setting for themselves with unsuitable platforms – saves everyone considerable trouble.
Process management is a team effort, and when the whole team (including IT) is engaged, everyone wins.