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A study published by Gartner (Gartner: Michael James Melenovsky / Jim Sinur / Janelle B. Hill / David W. McCoy, “Business Process Management: Preparing for the Process-Managed Organization”, 2005) defines Business Process Management (BPM) as follows: “BPM is a management practice that provides for governance of a business’s process environment toward the goal of improving agility and operational performance. BPM is a structured approach employing methods, policies, metrics, management practices and software tools to manage and continuously optimize an organization’s activities and processes”.
My learning experience on business process management started in the early years of my career when I worked as programmer and subsequently a project manager with a local software house (See CV Aug 1981 – Aug 1994). I spent many years working in the development, implementation and management of an insurance package for a number of insurance agencies in Malta. Working closely with insurance personnel to understand their pain areas and their business requirements gave me a very good knowledge and insight on the insurance business, and helped me develop my interpersonal and communication skills. Analysing their working practices, identifying areas of improvements and making recommendations for automation developed my analytical skills.
This experience was further reinforced when I attended a one-year study course with examination (See CV – Training – 1985 to 1986) for the attainment of an analysis and design diploma and a graduate membership with the Institution of Analysts and Programmers.
Good formal training on internationally-renowned systems analysis and design methodologies, held in the nineties (E.g. SSADM, DSDM, BPR), further strengthened my skills and knowledge in process modelling and business analysis. This also taught me how to intelligently select a variety of techniques and approaches to be used in tackling different kinds of situations. I consider this training as a turning-point in my career because, through it, I discovered a profound interest in structured methodologies, which I continued developing over the years and still at it after thirty years.
The in-depth knowledge in structured methodologies acquired in the previous years also turned me into a highly structured individual with good organisational skills who can organise himself and others.
In 2005, as Information Systems Strategist at Air Malta, I proposed the setting up of a business process improvement function within my sphere of responsibilities. This recommendation was accepted. Over the next two years I worked on two assignments, namely, the reorganisation of the Airline’s Commercial Division, and the Tour Operator Contract Management business process (See AOL1 – Project Management Pg 2).
A few months ago, in my role as Head of IT at APS Bank, I made recommendations to set up a new BPM unit in order to initiate a number of change programmes that would focus on improving the Bank’s working practices and introduce further automation. The recommendations were accepted and a change programme set in motion.
In this AOL, I will demonstrate the use of my skills and knowledge in the creation of a business process management function at APS Bank and my experiences on the first change projects.
My knowledge on business process management has developed over the years throughout a mix of implicit and explicit learning, formal training and on-the-job working experiences.
The following is a diagram depicting my learning trail in business process management:
Diagram 1: BPM Learning Trail
Skills and Activities
The following is a table highlighting the skills and relevant activities covered in this AOL:
Gaining Organisational Adoption
Establish Bank’s BPM readiness
Research best practices
Gain buy-in for adoption of new idea
Setting up a Business Process Management Competency Centre
Establish the organisation structure and services to be offered
Select a methodology and toolset
Establish a programme of works
Deliver a BPM programme
Execute a pilot project
Execute the first project
Promote first achievements and good results
Formation of a BPM Competency Centre at APS Bank
Gaining Organisational Adoption: APS Bank is relatively small in size and client base when compared to other local banks, but has a niche market and a rich banking history spanning over a hundred years of successful operation.
My direct involvement in the preparation of the Bank’s IT strategy and its business strategy (See AOL 2 – IT Strategy Definition), gave me a fairly good insight in its business model and working practices. When I looked at the evolution of the Bank over the past hundred years; its transformation into a commercial bank a few years ago; its fast growth rate; and the findings of a situational analysis; it became apparent that this fast change and constant evolution created operational silos and inefficient working practices. To me, these factors clearly indicated that the Bank needed urgent re-engineering to streamline and standardise its business processes; to realign the organisation structure; and to introduce automation to support this change. It was the perfect site for the adoption of Business Process Management (BPM).
As Head of IT I firmly believed that reengineering a business process prior to automating it would be extremely beneficial, because the resultant computer-system would represent a streamlined and efficient process – legacy working practices, duplication and redundant steps would be eliminated before embarking on systems development.
I decided to research and explore the best possible approach to use in order to build up business process management capabilities within the IT Division.
I was concerned about the Bank’s readiness to accept this culture change. I was aware that introducing and practicing BPM would bring about significant changes and possibly resistance to change. Having researched the subject, I discovered Gartner’s ‘Enterprise Personality Profile’ (EPP) method to assess the Bank’s readiness for this change (Gartner: Elise Olding, Bill Rosser, “Getting Started with BPM, Part 1: Assessing Readiness”, Pg 3, 2007). On evaluation, I concluded that the Bank could be classified as a ‘Cultural Moderate’, whose definition by Gartner is: “Cultural moderates operate in a more stable but sometimes disjointed fashion; they tend to seek parity with other enterprises”. I could relate to this definition, because of the Bank’s: (i) operational silos; (ii) conservative outlook and low risk appetite; and (iii) tendency to follow market leaders and rarely venture forward into becoming innovators. The Gartner study also recommended that “Moderates are more likely to respond to projects that will offer competitive advantage such as improved customer service”. I used the results of this assessment to mould my next steps in obtaining organisational adoption. Subsequently, I also used this new knowledge whilst preparing the annual programme of works.
The experiences and skills I had acquired in my previous jobs with MITTS Ltd when I set up a Rapid Application Development Unit (See CV Jan 1996 – Aug 2000); an Information Management Unit; and an Enterprise Architecture Unit (See CV Sep 2001 – Aug 2004); were extremely helpful. The aggregation of positive and negative experiences encountered during these assignments gave me a proved and tested approach to use in the creation of this new unit.
My next step was to research approaches used in similar situations by my peers in the industry. I used Gartner research material and found tons of information on the subject. It was comforting to see that my approach was pretty close to the mark.
I collected all the information I required and prepared a PowerPoint presentation that provided the rationale behind my recommendation to set up this new function. I then started my usual ‘lobbying’ grand tour of influential people within the Bank.
The first difficult milestone was to convince the CEO, who is a very thorough person whose focus on efficiency, discipline and achieving business results are high on his agenda. I therefore focused my presentation on the current situation and the added value that the new unit would bring. The CEO was interested in this new concept and instructed me to bring it up for discussion at the Executive Management Committee.
I used the same presentation at the Executive Management Committee, but the results were different. Some heads felt that BPM was an invasive and meddling exercise in their methods of working – they had difficulties accepting external parties telling them what’s wrong and how to do things. Other heads questioned the need for any improvements to the current business processes. Others were concerned at their required level of involvement during a BPM project. In short, I realised that I had made a mistake – I had rushed into this without having carried out the appropriate level of lobbying with the individual heads before meeting them collectively in a group – I had not used my experience and intrinsic learning I had previously acquired. In the following weeks I had to make some corrections and therefore changed tact. In other meetings that followed, I emphasised on some key areas to try and convince the heads that this was good for the company, because: (i) the BPM Unit is to be considered as a consultant that provides re-engineering services to the Head and his division – it is not an internal audit; (ii) the Head and his division will rarely ever have the time and opportunity to dedicate weeks of effort to reassess their working practices – the BPM unit can do that for them; (iii) every decision or proposed change will be carried out with the division – the BPM unit are only facilitators; and (iv) any move to change has to be fully authorised by the Head of the division. This painful but important exercise, that should have been carried out previously, was relatively successful – the Executive Management Committee cautiously bought into the concept. My recommendation to set up the new BPM Unit was adopted by the Bank and placed as one of my targets in the new Business Plan. It was now important to tread carefully in the first one or two BPM projects in order to ensure full buy-in.
Setting up a BPM Competency Centre: Two years previously, I had set up a unit within the IT Division (i.e. Client Services Unit), to act as a buffer between IT and its internal business clients. This unit is staffed by ex-business personnel who understood the Bank’s working practices; could speak the same language as their business clients; and who could therefore show empathy towards their business colleagues. Reviewing, understanding and proposing changes to working practices required a good doze of knowledge on banking. I therefore found it suitable and logical to set up the new BPM function under the umbrella of the above mentioned Unit. The objective was to ensure that BPM personnel inherit the mindset of customer care and relationship building. I did not want to start big, so I recruited two bank personnel who had a good mix of banking knowledge, as well as, a good IT know-how.
The next step was to research, select and establish a methodology and a toolset that would eventually be used to deliver BPM projects. I consider the use and knowledge of methodologies to be one of my core competencies. In the nineties, I attended a number of good training study courses in methods, such as Systems Development and Design Methodologies (SSADM) and the Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM – now known as Agile) (See Relevant Training Courses below). I have also acquired solid hands-on experience in the use of these methods, especially during the period 1990 to 1994, when I worked on large projects in the insurance and oil industries (See CV Jan 1990 – Aug 1994). Therefore, establishing and documenting an initial approach to be used for BPM projects was not a difficult task to complete.
In 1995, in my new job at MITTS Ltd (See CV Sep 1994 – Aug 2000), I was given the opportunity to set up a rapid application development unit for the Government of Malta, whose raison d’être was to deliver small computer-based solutions in a phased and rapid manner. This experience was an extremely positive learning experience because it taught me to: (i) understand the importance of setting a vision, which gave the team a shared and common direction to get there; (ii) understand the importance of heavily involving your personnel during the birth of a new unit – I found that this approach instilled a feeling of pride, bonding, comradeship and ownership; and (iii) understand group development, whereby teams go through four phases of maturity as stated by Bruce Tuckman (Tuckman, Bruce (1965), “Developmental sequence in small groups”, Psychological Bulletin 63 (6): 382-99), namely the forming-storming-norming-performing.
I therefore set out to use the above learning experience to create the new BPM function. I engaged the new recruits in the design of the BPM method, techniques and toolset through interactive workshops and proof-of-concept projects. At each step of the way we met, compared notes and discussed areas of improvement. We moved into a natural cycle of continuous improvement, whereby each step of the way was constantly being challenged and refined on the basis of each other’s experiences. This method proved successful, because the personnel were motivated and fully engaged.
Deliver a BPM programme: As already mentioned above (See Gaining organisational adoption), the Executive Management Committee cautiously bought into the new concept of a BPM function. Some Heads were not yet convinced of its benefits and some others were sceptical of the whole concept. I was given the chance to prove that this was the right thing to do. I therefore embarked on an exercise to establish a programme of works for the next twelve months. During the business planning exercise, that takes place each year, I invited my colleagues in the executive management committee to propose pain areas which they felt needed attention and assistance to sort out. I kept in mind the Enterprise Personality Profile assessment I had carried out earlier (See Gaining organizational adoption section above), whereby I had concluded that a corporate moderator would likely “â€¦ respond to projects that will offer competitive advantage such as improved customer service ” (Gartner: Elise Olding, Bill Rosser, “Getting Started with BPM, Part 1: Assessing Readiness”, Pg 3, 2007). Surely enough, the heads proposed four areas that would focus on customer touch-points (e.g. customer on-boarding and the call centre) – a very positive turning point and a show of trust. We now had a programme of works and some willing sponsors.
Before embarking on the first official project, we decided to initiate a pilot project with the aim to: (i) Test the selected approach and toolset; and (ii) Increase the level of skills and knowledge of the newly set BPM unit personnel – on-the-job training. We selected the IT service desk business process that included incident management, change management, service level management and service request management. We piloted the full BPM lifecycle and again used regular meetings to identify areas of improvement at each step of the way. This exercise helped us to fine tune the selected approach and gain enough confidence to proceed with the first official BPM project.
During the first project we tried to apply all the skills and knowledge we learnt during the proof-of-concept projects we had previously undertaken. At this point, the approach, techniques and tools were already well refined. We made it a point to use a totally participative and consultative approach across each step of the way.
We prepared a detailed project brief and plan and ensured the full involvement of key business personnel selected by the project sponsor (head). The plan and expected outcomes were authorised by the project board. The project proceeded well and the initial outcome was very encouraging. We had passed the first difficult test.
Relevant Training Courses
Business Process Management
Gartner Ireland Limited, UK
Dynamic Systems Development Method Practitioners Course (DSDM)
Dynamic Systems Development Method Practitioners Course (DSDM)
Business Process Re-Engineering
Parity Training Limited, UK
Systems Analysis &Design Methodology (SSADM V4)
BIS Applied Systems Limited
Systems Analysis &Design Methodology (SSADM V3)
BIS Applied Systems Limited
1985 – 1986
Analysis &Design graduate membership after having attended a formal course study and examination approved by the Institute
Institution of Analysts &Programmers, UK
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