Journey Towards Process Excellence
There’s a storm a-brewin’. You saw it start to form the minute you were chartered with optimizing processes to increase productivity and reduce costs. For not only do ERP systems require quite an investment to implement and maintain, costs go up when they must be customized beyond their standard “best practice” set. There is pressure from the organization to limit customization to a minimum, even avoid it entirely to keep costs down. So, just how do you approach process improvement when important parts of your processes have a “Don’t Touch” sign on them? How do you steer around what could be a Dorothy-style tornado heading your way, and effectively get to safe ground so you can implement the process optimization necessary to be successful?
The fact of the matter is, this situation doesn’t have to be as bad as you think and can net some great results. The opportunity for optimization lies in any process, even those that are automated. The fact is, almost all major business processes will have human tasks involved, and there is potential for improvement of cycle times just in the hand off tasks and interfaces to other systems. When ERP is involved, the biggest challenge to identifying where there are opportunities for process optimization is ascertaining what parts of a process are truly automated and what are not. Leaders of process improvement projects frequently lack insight into how exactly the ERP processes work, not to mention any potential change to the system or system interfaces is outside their domain and requires IT resources to manage them.
True, it’s tempting to focus only on processes that are not entwined in your most complex and expensive to change IT systems – but if your goal is to go after process excellence, you can’t ignore a large and potentially critical part of your business operations that could benefit from improvements!
For process improvement to be most effective, you have to look at end-to-end processes as they apply to your business, not just as they are defined by the ERP vendor as packaged best practices. Here’s how to bring it together.
Once these relationships are documented, they need to be maintained to reflect the current state of the organization so that your improvement initiatives can actually be…continuous. BPM systems used should include a hook into the ERP system to allow accurate synchronization of the ERP process structure. Once you’ve created the BPM environment that models the interaction between manual and automated processes, the Measure and Analyze phase of any and every subsequent Six Sigma project is accelerated.
Process optimization initiatives can and should span processes that are supported by automation since ignoring strategic processes in favor of easier pet projects will do nothing but undermine the value of process improvement teams and projects. Understanding and capturing the relationship of automated processes to end-to-end business process will open up process improvement opportunities, accelerate future projects and facilitate discussions between business and IT around optimization efforts. You can navigate around all of the hurdles that come your way, and arrive at your final destination unscathed – process excellence.
Need a little help?
iGrafx is a leading provider of process management solutions and technology that help organizations a achieve competitive advantage through process excellence. iGrafx provides specific solutions for companies using SAP®, including integration with SAP® Solution Manager.
If the concepts outlined in this article are of interest and you would like to learn more, visit www.igrafx.com or call 1.503.404.6050.
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