Frameworks: Toolkit for Process Re-Engineering

If there is anything the last few months have taught us it’s that innovation, flexibility, and process are the hallmarks of business continuity. As we discussed earlier this year, process is organizations’ foundational bedrock in times of crises. And process management helps us triage and adapt how work gets done.

Not only did the changes in our working environment—moving to virtual—and new delivery channels or products require reworking our processes, it also shed light on our broken and outdated processes.

So, what does all this mean?

Incremental improvements are important. However, recent times require us move beyond tweaks to rethinking the purpose and fit of our processes. Or in other words, process re-engineering.

Business process re-engineering aims to change the way is work is done in order to achieve organizational goals such as reducing costs, improving customer and employee satisfaction, and increasing market share.

Tools for Process Re-Engineering

Given the wide variety of processes and end goals, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach for process re-engineering. Our research has uncovered 8 common tools that organizations use for their re-engineering efforts.

Re-Engineering Tools

Toolkit-for-Process_fig1
Figure 1

1. Customer Journey Mapping—depicts the key interactions between a customer and organization. Journey maps incorporate data about customer (including internal customers) behavior, feelings, and motivations for each interaction or touchpoint.

It’s best fit for any people-related challenges or processes. Journey mapping humanizes processes and helps identify insights that aren’t always captured by traditional tools such as process maps.

2. Design Thinking—is a human-centric, solutions-based approach to problem solving that enables organizations to ask better questions and generate more compelling solutions. Design thinking incorporates the core elements of emphatic design with the need for experimentation, speed, and viability testing to allow teams to quickly develop people-focused solutions. 

It’s best fit when you need to get to the root of complex or ill-defined problems.

3. Benchmarking—is an approach an organization uses to measure its internal processes and look externally to identify, understand, and adapt practices used by best-in-class organizations. 

It’s best fit for when you need to use performance data to identify and prioritize re-engineering efforts. Its also a good fit for discovering new ideas or processes that your organization can use in its re-engineering efforts.

4. Automation—is the use of software “bots” to mimic human action and connect multiple, fragmented systems together through automation. Process automation enables systems to carry out high-volume, multistep actions—without manual intervention by employees—to capture information, manipulate data, or trigger responses in other systems. 

It’s best fit for high-volume, transactional processes that have clear business rules and few exceptions.

5. Workshops—are group discussions where participants share experiences, discuss ideas, and ideally arrive at a shared understanding of a concept and plan of action. 

Its best fit for work that is narrow in scope, such re-engineering a specific process. Workshops are also a good choice when the organization needs to secure a high levels of employee buy-in or standardize across multiple groups.

6. Process Mining—is an analysis method which automatically generates process visualizations based on real-life data. Process mining tools integrate information from “event logs” in enterprise transaction systems such as ERP and CRM to generate graphic depictions of how work was done. 

It’s best fit for processes that touch major enterprise systems because it requires event logs, with at minimum, a case ID number, time stamp, and activity.

7. Simulations—are model-based representations used to simulate and test process change. Typically, simulations are used for technical processes in industries such as chemicals, energy, mining, and manufacturing.  It’s best fit for exploring changes in dangerous, costly, or otherwise high-impact processes.

It’s best fit for exploring changes in dangerous, costly, or otherwise high-impact processes.

8. Process Frameworks—are is a means of grouping processes into appropriately related categories. This creates a common language to discuss, benchmark, and organize the work that businesses perform. 

It’s best fit where processes are ill defined, have too many variations, or organizations need an objective perspective on what elements their processes should contain.

Dive into the Role of Frameworks

Process frameworks are a huge asset in process definition and management, which are vital activities for process re-engineering. A framework provides a baseline to get started. Frameworks are also a good foundation for enterprise-wide modeling efforts. Frameworks provide a consistent language to bring all the models together, and that language maps directly to the way that work is performed within the organization. This reduces the effort needed to develop and manage a variety of enterprise models and can help rationalize the impact of development or change across models.

Frameworks are also key for integrating benchmarking into process re-engineering or improvement efforts. If you want to compare performance across your organization or against other companies, you need to have a clear definition of what you want to compare. Frameworks offer a way to objectively benchmark within an organization and against other companies.

Pros

  • Standardization is the best foundation for improvement. The best practice is to understand, standardize, and document processes before beginning the work of process improvement. You can achieve small improvement wins without doing so, but broader improvement requires established governance and accountability to be sustainable.
  • Creates structure to assess the current state. Frameworks make it easier to spot gaps and redundancies, understand process variations, and establish a current-state baseline for the performance and value of processes.
  • Aids prioritization. Framework hierarchies help organizations determine at which level a process should be improved. For example, there may be a small issue at the task or activity level that, if fixed, could solve a bigger process problem.

Cons

  • Requires time and commitment. Adapting and adopting a framework often requires significant input from stakeholders, especially if it’s an enterprise-wide framework.
  • Provides structure, but not all the answers. Frameworks help organizations identify and prioritize improvements, but other tools are needed to determine exactly how to make those improvements.

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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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