So many theories about business process management, it can get more confusing the more the information you find. The term seems to apply to everything from pure automation/workflow to continuous improvement and everything in between. It seems to just depend on the source. Wikipedia doesn’t narrow it down much, either.
Making it real
The only way to cut through the definition and theory clutter is to find the places where remarkable, innovative things are actually being done. Where there’s indisputable return on investment. Where a significant majority of people impacted have great things to say. I don’t know a better example than what I’ve heard and witnessed from Best Buy Europe, a joint venture of Best Buy and Carphone Warehouse.
There’s is a story of liberation…in their own words. Once upon a time, they were as process-clumsy as any of us. They brought together twenty experienced managers to find out what it meant to “reconcile a sales contract”. Each did it differently…so they searched in their systems and found 167 different answers! It was an ‘ah-ha’ moment that helped them to realize that something was seriously amiss.
What happened next is the most remarkable part. They had the political willpower and determination to put a tactical team in place that mapped 450 critical processes over a six-month period. By doing so, they created “How2”, a single source of truth for sales people, for support people, and for their back office. For everyone.
It has been in place for two years now and the results are truly remarkable. For example, they’ve cut calls to their support center from 1.9M to 1.2M, a reduction of 700,000 calls. They found a 5% positive impact for simply standardizing things. But what is the total return on a single database of process and its related content that is used every day by the entire organization from the store clerk to the newly established Lean Six Sigma Manager (a role that was unthinkable before). Rather hard to say, really, but still they tried. In one of their most telling calculations, the stores that scored high on the quality of their implementation of How2 saw a 125% increase in sales. The stores that scored poorly on the same question saw a 116% increase in sales. That’s what I call ROI. That isn’t economic rebound…that’s fairly strong proof of a business process management approach that truly works.
At Best Buy Europe, they call what they’ve done “liberation”:
- Retail employees liberated from spending time trying to follow rapidly shifting technology and infrastructure
- Customers liberated from getting different and often incorrect information on their purchases, support and returns
- Liberated their support people from guessing what the retail people or the customer have communicated to date and how to move forward
- Liberated their organization as a whole from the pain of seeking basic information so that they can focus on providing the truly exceptional
In a world of spin and perception, these are the stories that we should focus on. They aren’t unique by any stretch, but I sometimes have concern that they are in the minority. Just like human beings, organizations, especially the more successful ones, become very complacent and resistant to managing business process in remarkably new ways.*
Let’s not forget ‘justice’
Alas, it is a just world on a good day, and this storyis no different. On March 15, 2011, Gartner announced that Best Buy Europe, under the name Carphone Warehouse, have been selected as a winner in the 2011 BPM Excellence Awards** in the “Leveraging BPM Technology” category. Not at all surprising when you consider what they accomplished in such a short time. “Carphone Warehouse used a cloud-based BPM platform to deploy 1,800 processes in eight months to 7,000 colleagues. As a result, it was able to increase customer satisfaction by up to 25 percent in 90 days.” For me, this is what BPM For Real is all about and why I am passionate about great BPM.
* If you want to know more about this story, in BBE’s own words, look no further than here.