Monitoring your business processes

By this point, you’ve analyzed your “as is” processes and implemented changes—or built new business processes from the ground up. Congratulations! Take a minute to pat yourself, and your team, on the back.

Good?
Ok.

Now it’s time to start Phase 2: monitoring and optimizing your processes.

Business process management isn’t a “set it and forget it” type of project. It’s not something you do once and then you’re done. BPM about making incremental improvements through a series of changes. And it takes a lot of time and monitoring. We’d like to think that all changes will help move towards progress, but sometimes you won’t know how something affects other things until you put it into practice.

Key performance indicators (KPIs)

BPM by NovacuraAs we discussed earlier: when you’re determining which processes to focus on, you need to think about your Key Performance Indicators (or KPIs). Most likely, you chose to work on processes that aren’t measuring up to your standards, and you’ve determined they weren’t measuring up to those standards because you looked at the KPIs.

Some of the KPIs you might want to monitor, depending on your updated processes, include:

  • time to complete the process (and/or different tasks within the process)
  • increased/decreased amount of product defects
  • increased/decreased amount of scrap
  • increased/decreased customer response time
  • increased/decreased production, shipping or staff costs

Keep in mind: your workers are there to carry out the business processes. If they see an issue with the new process, take their comments to heart. They want the process to be simple, easy and valuable too.

Initial monitoring

In the first days and weeks after implementation, you’re going to want to pay close attention to how people are responding to the new process. In addition to monitoring your KPIs, consider the following:

  • How many questions have workers asked about the new process?
  • Have errors increased or decreased as workers start using the new process? (and do errors decrease after the initial roll-out?)
  • How many workers are actually using the new process? It’s likely, and common, for some workers to keep doing things the “old way” until they’re forced to change to the “new way”. It’s important to figure out why they’re resistant to change: is there a problem with the new process, or do they just prefer doing things the “old way”?
  • How much overtime has been needed to get work done? After rolling out new processes, there is usually a dip in productivity as workers get used to the “new way” of doing things. But if workers keep needing overtime to catch up after switching to the new process, there might be an issue with the new process.

Despite our best efforts in the analyzation and remodeling stages, and despite testing new processes before they go live, there might still be hiccups when implementing new processes. We can only account for the variables we know about: we can’t account account for unknowns. Monitoring early and often will help you catch and fix those previously unknown issues before they turn into real problems.

Risk management

Change and risk go hand in hand. But you can mitigate the risks of new business processes by planning for common scenarios in advance. Here are a few common issues you might have when rolling out a new process:

Problem: Testing and/or training takes longer than expected, and slows (or even stops) implementation.
Solution: Good communication at every stage of the project, but especially in the early stages. Make sure stakeholders are involved in both mapping the “as is” process and brainstorming solutions for the new process. Ensure that requirements are discussed, and agreed upon, early in the project. Provide regular status updates and discuss changes/issues when they arise. And most of all: beware of scope creep. Planning things out at the beginning of the project will save significant time at later stages of the project.

Problem: Workers don’t use or understand the new process.
Solution: First, it’s important to know why workers are having issues with the new process. Is it a lack of training? Lack of communication? Something else? More training may solve the issue. It’s also good to involve your super users in training, communicating and assisting people with the new processes. Finally, you may want to assign a dedicated person or team just to immediate post-rollout bug fixes.

Problem: Stakeholders don’t feel like they’re “in the loop” about BPM activity and talk about rolling back to the old processes if they don’t see immediate improvement.
Solution: People like the status quo. We don’t want to change unless we see a real benefit to doing so. That’s why you need to have a strong change management plan (as we discussed in the implementation stage) to ensure your new processes are successful.

So. You’ve analyzed your “as is” processes, created and implemented new processes, and you’re actively monitoring the results. You’ve completed your “BPM project” now, right?

Wrong!

The world is constantly changing and evolving. If you want your business to be successful, both now and in the future, you need to continuously improve your business processes too.