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BPI Focus Phase – Storyline

Blog: Biz-Performance, David Brown

BPI Focus Phase – Storyline

The purpose of the Focus phase is to identify the major opportunities for performance improvement that are associated with existing processes, technology and human resources. This identification comes not only from appropriate analysis of the existing environment, but also from a full understanding of the direction that the company is taking and the external environment (political, economic, social, etc.) in which it competes. The communication of these opportunities to the client serves to sensitize management to the scope/degree of changes being considered and allows for the prioritization of the design activities that are to follow in subsequent phases.
Organizational vision statements are ineffective if they are not supported by tangible actions that are required to realize that vision. The articulation of Critical Success Factors calls for the identification of customers (and stakeholders), their expectations concerning what constitutes ‘quality’ service, as well as the ways that the organization must excel to meet these expectations. Key Performance Indicators and Stretch Targets together provide the quantifiable parameters required for gauging project success.
Shared Values and Guiding Principles address the characteristics of the ‘human side’ of organization, which will be needed to support the organizational vision. This series of statements endorsed by senior management outlines key aspects of the future corporate culture (i.e. work atmosphere and practices that will remain the same, as well as new management styles to be adopted). With the prospect that all familiar work patterns may change around them, it is important that employees be told which aspects of their work environment will be preserved, regardless of the business solution adopted.
It is imperative that information such as the Confirmed Business Vision, Critical Success Factors, and Shared Values and Guiding Principles be clearly articulated across the company through the development and execution of a Communication Plan. This plan (which is refined as required at each phase of the BPI program) identifies overt sponsorship activities, the main audiences to be targeted, messages to be communicated, the sponsors who will do the communicating, the frequency of communication, and the media to be used. It serves as a formal company document listing the activities that are to be executed daily by members of the organization to initiate and drive the change campaign.
Once the business direction of the company has been firmly established, Focus Areas can be identified. These represent the broad areas of the company where performance improvement efforts should be concentrated. The common understanding advanced during the creation of the Holistic Business Model allows the organization to clearly pinpoint the ‘value chain’ processes that need improvement. Depending on the client’s schedule, resources and degree of risk-tolerance, the basis for this selection decision can range from mere intuition to a full cost/benefit justification (e.g. ‘Activity Based Management’), based on the impact these areas have on previously-established Critical Success Factors.
Upon the selection of Focus Areas, the identification of opportunities for performance improvement is facilitated by the analysis of the current environment resulting from the ‘As-Is’ Process Assessment, As-Is Technology Assessment, and ‘As-Is’ Human Resource Assessment. It is further supported by the articulation of the specific Requirements of Process Customers, which provide the standard against which the current environment is measured. This represents another point in the program when ‘breakthrough’ ideas commonly occur, inspired by Best Practice Comparisons or technology enablers.
The ‘As-Is’ Process Assessment highlights, from beginning to end, the chain of activities required to respond to customer requests and the current level of performance that is obtained. The mapping of existing processes reveals to employees how their day-to-day work duties interrelate with activities of colleagues to produce a product or service as well as which tasks do or do not add value. The ‘As-Is’ Technology Assessment documents the current network, application and data architecture in place to support the organization, along with the skills of the management and staff of the information technology (IT) function. Similarly, the ‘As-Is’ Human Resource Assessment identifies the current level of support provided to personnel in areas such as internal communications, training and development, rewards and recognition.
When mapping and measuring the current state/performance of ‘As-Is’ processes, technology and human resources, caution must be exercised to limit the project team’s time and energy to only that required to form an understanding of major problem areas and opportunities. Spending too long analysing the ‘As-Is’ can lead to a loss of momentum and cause the project to stall. This methodology has adopted a ‘just-enough, just-in-time’ attitude towards the logic and level of detail ‘As-Is’ analysis.
The attainment of ‘breakthrough’ performance improvement is founded on the notion that all existing elements of an organization people, process, technology, policies, etc. must be opened up to challenge. This is why, taken together, the assessment of processes, technology and human resource issues establishes a comprehensive performance baseline that can point to Priority Opportunities.
The identification of these opportunities, often fueled by the now well-understood strategic preferences of senior management, will profoundly influence the direction of the BPI program in the phases that follow. As gaps are uncovered, issues are identified, suggesting high-level priorities. The priorities must be tempered by known dependencies such as new technology requirements and the organization’s ability to absorb change.
Opportunities identified are quantified at a high level (+/- 50% accuracy), so that senior management can elect to ‘remove from the table’ any solution being pondered that it deems unacceptable (i.e. unaffordable, unworkable, etc.). At this point, management may opt to assign specific improvement targets to each process to be redesigned (i.e. setting more radical targets for certain processes than for others).
In addition to the Priority Opportunities that are identified, a list of potential Quick Wins (easy-to-implement opportunities) is built up throughout the early phases of the BPI program. It is important that any feasible solutions are put in place swiftly, so as to generate and maintain the momentum for the large-scale changes that are to come.
Design Charters are developed to serve as the ‘terms of reference’ guiding performance improvement initiatives for the Focus Areas and Priority Opportunities that have been selected by senior management. The leadership team’s consent to move forward and explore a specified range of solution options establishes a set of ‘process design principles’ which guide design sessions during the Design High Level phase.
Upon completion of the Focus Phase, senior management will have a clear strategy of where they are taking the company. Core team members will have a common understanding of the company’s current performance, associated opportunities and constraints to implementation, as well as the degree to which management is willing to support the solutions being contemplated. Affected employees will be fully aware of the BPI program why it is necessary, what aspects of the company may be impacted, as well as whether they will personally play a direct or indirect role in the various phases of the program. Priority Opportunities are isolated and, for the first time quantified, to a
+/- 50 percent level of accuracy (confidence). This effort, when carefully managed, adequately resourced and remaining under full sponsorship of the chief executive can be accomplished in three to five weeks.

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