Frameworks: Business Continuity Through Process

As employees transition to working remotely, one key piece of advice has been to establish a routine. However, process management provides organizations and their employees with more than a routine to fall back on. Process is the foundational bedrock organizations can rely on not only in good times, but also in in times of crises and turmoil. Process management helps provide consistency in delivery and the ability to assess our processes to understand:

  1. Which processes are vital for continuity?
  2. What’s the status and inherent risk of critical processes?
  3. How can we manage and reduce the inherent risks?

Resources are in a state of flux right now and many processes may not be the best fit for the current environment. That said, reliance on processes can not only help see us through these times, but also triage and adapt how work gets done in an organization.

Process Provides Stability

Process documentation is the codification of how an organization accomplishes its work. The types of documentation vary widely from simple checklists to complex process maps that also include business rules, roles, systems, and even inputs and outputs. However, documentation is more than the mere capture of how work gets done. It is invaluable in times like these because it helps:

  1. Continuity and consistency. Process documentation provides step-by-step guidance on how to execute work, so people can step into roles as needed.
  2. Prioritization. Process categorizations often happen during documentation and help us understand what processes are critical.
  3. Fast track automation. Given the potential resource constraints and need to change an organization’s processes to maintain social distancing, it is likely that organizations are going to fast track some of their digital and automation efforts. Process documentation and frameworks helps an organization fast track these efforts because the current state is already captured.

Solving the Right Problems: Process Risk Analysis

The second big role for process is the ability to conduct process risk assessments to help the organization understand which processes are at risk and develop contingency plans or solutions.

Analyzing Risks

Risk analysis begins with categorizations (e.g., a risk analysis table) usually focused on two variables: likelihood and impact. With a list of potential at-risk processes, the organization can gauge the significance of the risk. This is where likelihood and impact are evaluated.

For evaluation of the risk for likelihood, consider:

  • Frequency—how often might this risk occur?
  • Predictability—can the organization predict when it will occur (seasonal, peak sales, etc.)?
  • Forewarning and onset—how gradually or suddenly will the issue become critical? Can the organization react in time?

And for impact, consider:

  • Duration—how long will the event last (finite or until an action is taken)?
  • Consequence—what is affected (product quality, time to deliver, equipment, customer satisfaction, etc.)?
  • Existing and required redundancy levels—what is the cost to implement and sustain redundancy?
  • Potential dollar loss—what is the potential monetary value at risk?

Once you have discussed the identified risks to estimate their potential, determine the likelihood and impact with a simple rating scale (Figure 1).

Quantifying Risk Table

Figure 1

To create a table, identify the likelihood of the risk along the vertical axis. The degree of likelihood may require input from subject matter experts and process managers using the questions above. An organization can assign standard percentages, such as:

  • 5 percent for remote possibilities,
  • 10 percent for unlikely,
  • 25 percent for possible,
  • 50 percent for likely, and
  • 75 percent for almost certain.

Then identify the impact of the risk. For example, in assessing the impact to a schedule, an organization may regard no additional time as negligible, one day as minor, three days as moderate, a week as major, and any longer as critical. The key is to create standard definitions for the four impact questions above.

The organization then plots the value of risk for each process in consideration in a spreadsheet to assess the potential areas of risk.

Role of Frameworks

Process frameworks in combination with discussion and historical performance data, can be used to determine which processes are in scope for the risk assessment and used as the format for a risk assessment spreadsheet (Figure 2).

Process Risk Sheet: Illustrative Example

Figure 2

Typically, organizations will typically first focus on the “red” or level 5 risks and then work through other risks until the risk exposure seems acceptable. The organization should then follow organizational protocol depending on the likelihood and potential impact of the risk. The organization may brainstorm possible mitigation and contingency actions before determining the desired response, be it altering or suspending a process.

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Holly Lyke-Ho-Gland

Holly Lyke-Ho-Gland

Holly Lyke-Ho-Gland is a research specialist at APQC, with over ten years of business research and consulting experience. Her focus has predominantly been on best practices in business processes, corporate strategy, and R&D. She can be reached via email at hlykehogland@apqc.org and on Twitter at @hlykehogland.
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