With Business Process Improvement (BPI) you identify your true business processing needs and compare these with the actual way things are done to form an idealised view of how the business would best operate. This can provide: dramatic cost reduction, improved quality, reduced cycle time, enhanced customer service. It challenges existing assumptions, paving the way for an improved design of business processes.
Improvement is achieved through identify and assess the impact of redesigned processes on the people, structure, culture, technology and physical infrastructure of the organisation.
A BPI programme is built on recognised principles of change management. Customers can receive short-term payback from “quick hit” changes identified early in the programme; they can also receive the benefit of uninterrupted sequenced longer-term change that becomes an integral part of their continuous improvement initiatives.
Another common way to achieve greater benefit from business systems is to bring in packaged software solutions. This has two main advantages. Clearly there should be significant savings in time, effort and cost – both to build the system and to maintain it. In addition, packages are normally the result of intensive research and development, pulling together a range of best business solutions for a range of businesses and industries. With the constant advances in the package marketplace, packaged solutions can now meet the majority of business systems needs in a majority of businesses – not only meet those needs but often they offer better solutions than would be achieved by commissioning a custom development to the organisation’s own specifications.
BPI and packaged solutions are frequently combined to bring about radical improvements in business processing. Traditionally, the idealised view of the business processing plus the detailed specific requirements are used to select appropriate packaged solutions. These are then modified and customised to build best-fit practical solutions.
We call this a “pure” approach to BPI – “pure” because the business processes are developed into an ideal form bearing in mind the technological possibilities and absolute constraints, but without being contaminated by assumptions or negotiable constraints.
Pure BPI often produces excellent results. There are, however, some potential drawbacks with this approach.
Getting the best value from a packaged solution usually implies that the business adopts specific practices already supported in the package. To implement unsupported processing requires modifications and custom development. Each modification of a package detracts from its value. Modifications cost time and money, then leave the business with a partially unsupported solution. This is often compounded when upgrades become available to the base package – it can prove costly if not impossible to apply them, and eventually the package supplier will cease support altogether on the previous versions.
No package solution will ever be able to support fully all the process designs unless those designs were made with the capabilities of a specific package in mind. The selection process will identify the best-fit solution – but it is unlikely to provide perfect results.
That is the rationale behind an alternative approach when BPI is used with packages – it is called “Channeled BPI”. With channeled BPI you base your idealised business process design on the known capabilities of a package. As no two packages are identical in their capabilities, this implies that a strategic choice of package needs to be made before the BPI is undertaken. That choice would be made based on the business’s vision and key needs. The choice of an appropriate package supplier will be fundamental to the success of the process. The BPI process is then channeled to exploit the strengths and business processing capabilities of the package.
Typically, a BPI exercise deals with a multi-functional, inter-departmental piece of the business. A package solution in such cases would normally call for a high level of integration across functional modules. Leading packages of this nature, for example SAP, Oracle and Microsoft Dynamics, have well developed business process options that are already documented and modelled by the supplier. The package’s detailed business process designs are used as a starting point for the business process modelling – typically using package-specific modelling tools.
Channeled BPI is conducted in a similar way to the pure approach, except that the capabilities of the package are used as a constraint on the design. This has two main advantages. Much effort is saved as the details of business processes are already fully documented by the supplier and only need to be selected and aligned with the specific business needs. When the solution is then built, the business process model can be implemented by configuring the standard facilities of the package according to the rules in the package-based process model. This dramatically reduces the amount of modification or custom programming required and should ensure that the final solution is a perfect match to the process design.