Linking Business Process to Strategy Execution
By Samantha J. Bureau-Johnson, VP Business Process Excellence and EPMO, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina
Shift Your Thinking
To realize the full value of Business Process Management (BPM), it must be a key enabler in the activation of business strategy. Traditionally, BPM offers a suite of business process tools, like Lean/Six Sigma, with the addition of process automation, which is leveraged to drive out further costs. Similar to this traditional approach, much of the literature on BPM is focused on tools, terminology and maturity models. Little is written on the opportunities that the next-generation process methodology presents to harness and activate business strategy. BPM can drive true business value through increased transparency, enhanced inputs to decision-making and tighter alignment among leaders, while providing clear process ownership and measurable performance against strategy.
Many business process teams use the common approach of talking to senior executives in their lingo. They talk about things like ‘value streams,’ ‘driving out waste’ and ‘quantifying process performance.’ The general thinking is that once you understand and lean out the process you can then automate it. Many executives perk up when they hear “automation” because it is here that they start to see cost saving potential. However, using BPM only for process automation processes fails to take advantage of the opportunity to drive strategic value.
It is common practice to focus on top-line business goals and metrics-net income, revenue, market share, and operational cost—to assess corporate performance. And although these are typical metrics, they rarely identify opportunities to enhance business performance or shift resources to gain more speed in executing the business strategy. As such, there is a risk that senior executives are not seeing a holistic picture of operational performance.
“Health checks also identify opportunities to fine-tune solutions to gain additional value”
If you leverage BPM solely as a methodology or as a set of technical tools, many executives may miss the real value proposition and walk away thinking, “Okay, so what will that do to my bottom line?” Or worse, “It doesn’t sound like it will be able to quickly drive results.”
Begin to Think about Making the Business Case
When you begin thinking about how you could make a compelling business case, ensure you and your team deeply understands your company’s strategy. Think about how you would use BPM as a way to activate that strategy to show results, or gain insight that was missing.
For example: You work for a Hospital System and your business strategy is to grow through acquisitions of physician practices. Activation of this strategy is complex and often one that can be executed differently each time. In this way, the variation can cause the vetting process as well as the close-to-value-achievement process to impede the activation of that strategy. But what if you could make the case that by using a Business Process Management approach, the executives would be able to:
• Gain transparency into any aspect of the deal phase, and where there are potential challenges and understand the main strategic barriers
• Assess real-time metrics like cycle time, adoption and patient satisfaction as well as drivers of process cost to be able to prioritize areas of improvement and optimize performance
• Know which are key stakeholders of each process phase
• Identify improvements to the businesses organizational design as well as identifying the potential skill set or capacity issues causing delays. This can drive holistic workforce planning.
• Determine which processes need to be more nimble and need more investment and evaluate which processes are fine and need to maintain performance
• Assess which process points can be automated vs. those that should remain manual (e.g., when human judgment is needed for a decision)
Assessing the Success of Activating the Strategy
Once you have a solid understanding of the current business strategy, shift to understand the current challenges your company is facing in executing the business strategy. This can be determined by how the company is performing, what management is concerned about, and what your customers are saying.
Encourage interviews across the company to get a good understanding of what the challenges are to supplement reported goals. That additional context provides you the human layer of the company and can also provide you with a better understanding of your company’s readiness to adopt the proposed BPM methodology. It will also help you communicate how BPM can align to activating the business strategy as well as determine who might be willing to be part of a coalition for change.
Once your business strategy assessment is done, next do a BPM maturity assessment of not only where the company is in process maturity, but include your team of practitioners. They are a key component to success as you shift your company to the value of BPM. Once you know the landscape, shift into the language of the business.
Work on a clear business problem statement. Using the example above, we will say that the strategy to grow through M&As is not performing as planned-only 1 deal in 18 months has gone through successfully and it is not currently implemented. Through your interviews, you have confirmed that the CEO, Board, and Senior Leaders all know that this is the strategy they need to have a viable business long term. You have talked with several of the key stakeholders and have a good sense of what the root cause is. Therefore you propose BPM by:
Potential Problem Statement:
We are not pacing to the corporate goal of three acquisition deals annually, which is perpetuating us to be fourth among our competitors and causing us to lose $100M of market opportunity in annual revenue. This is primarily due to three causes:
1. Identification of viable opportunities does not align to our expanded targets
2. Due diligence process is too lengthy for the competitive landscape, often 9 months, versus our competitors 4-6 month cycle
3. Implementation process is not understood and is too complex to meet the targeted cycle time of 3-6 months
Make the Business Case
When you propose BPM as a way to augment the activation of business strategy, speak in terms of how it will both help the business achieve the strategy and also resolve the systemic issues that are barriers to the strategy being executed to begin with. Take the time to really understand how BPM can activate your business strategy. Take a phased and realistic implementation approach that matches your company’s maturity. Work to ensure that it’s the right time to implement the next evolution of business process methodology so it will stick for the future.
Finally, timing is something unique to every organization. Seek out other peers and colleagues to test the timing and also to build a successful coalition of support.