Frameworks: How We Use Frameworks Matters

Effectiveness is a key measure of the impact and value of an organization's process management team. Overall, organizations are satisfied with their business process management (BPM) programs. However, given that continuous improvement is the name of the process management game, there is still plenty of room for growth. Which leads to the question: What factors drive program effectiveness, and what levers can teams pull for improvement?

Business Process Management Program Effectiveness

Figure 1
Figure 1

To better understand which levers process management teams need to focus on, APQC conducted correlation analysis on data from the Putting Process Frameworks into Action survey. The analysis was between the effectiveness (on a scale of 1-5, where 1 = very ineffective and 5 = very effective) of the organization's business process management and the process culture, maturity, framework uses, selection criteria, BPM activities, tools, benefits, and financial results of BPM.

So, what was statistically significant?

  • Framework Applications—where organizations use a framework in their business process management work (e.g., process discovery, process improvement).
  • BPM activities—the practices and steps used in process work and framework implementation.
  • Impact and Measures—benefits found in framework adoption and the financial impact of process work.
  • Process Culture—the organization's process improvement approach and culture.

Today we will focus on the intersection of framework applications and BPM effectiveness.

Framework Uses that Drive Success

A key factor to the success of a process management team is applying tools like frameworks to the right applications. As discussed previously, the majority of organizations traditionally use a framework for process discovery work. However, the real drivers of satisfaction occur when teams extend their efforts to support maps with definitions, identify improvement opportunities, support automation, and move to end-to-end process management.

Framework Application Impacts

Figure 2
Figure 2

Improve Processes

Applying frameworks to the organization's improvement efforts has the most substantive impact on overall effectiveness. The reason for this is two-fold. First, the goal of process work is not to simply document how work gets accomplished but to execute work more effectively. Using a framework to drive process improvement shows the organization that BPM is about more than just documenting and standardizingthe current state . BPM can also pinpoint actionable opportunities to make work more productive and efficient.

Secondly, the organization is applying a standardized structure to manage its improvement efforts in the context of the work that is impacted. This is particularly useful for managing improvement opportunities across business units and regions. For example, organizations that use their process framework as the taxonomy for improvement requests can look across all project requests and identify any synergies or overlaps, thereby reducing duplications and improving project prioritization.

Supporting Automation

Technology implementations, particularly process automation, are major ticket items for organizations. Not only do process teams provide invaluable support for automation efforts,they also help ensure that technology solutions are applied to the “right” problems.

One place that many organizations go wrong in their automation efforts is that they overlook the process foundation necessary to build their automation bots. Best-practice organizations reduce potential rework by using a framework to establish their processes prior to development. The RPA team works with the relevant process owner and process expert to fully understand and document the process and, if necessary, redesign for execution by a bot.

End-to-End Development

An end-to-end process mindset is often necessary to help organizations achieve their goals. Organizations that extend their process work and framework usage to encompass end-to-end processes and contextual information also report higher levels of effectiveness.

End-to-end process work not only establishes the link between processes to customer value, but it also improves hand-offs between departments and accounts for how changes in one process impact other processes and functions downstream. Technology is another driving factor in the adoption of end-to-end process management. Technologies like ERP systems are often structured to include end-to-end processes like order-to-cash and procure-to-pay. Hence, end-to-end processes are quickly becoming the norm for how organizations manage work, and process teams that support end-to-end efforts play a vital role in creating organizational value.

Definitions Reinforce a Common Language

Definitions bring processes alive, clarify their scope, and reinforce standardization. Without definitions, processes are open to interpretation, which limits the organization's ability to ensure process standardization, compare and benchmark performance, and identify and prioritize improvement opportunities. While some process frameworks come with definitions for their process elements, these should be reviewed and adjusted to match the organization's language and needs.

Conclusion

There is no question that organizations understand the value of process frameworks in helping them save time and improve the efficiency of their projects. Which is why over 90 percent of process teams use them in their process discovery work (i.e. mapping and understanding their current processes). However, these benefits are just scratching the surface of how frameworks can bring proven value to process work. The real drivers that elevate the perceptions of effectiveness come when teams leverage frameworks to the next phase of their work such as managing improvements, in technology applications like automation, and extending their process efforts away from siloed work to end-to-end processes, supported by clear definitions. Organizations can improve their BPM effectiveness by 10 to 20 percent by applying frameworks more strategically.

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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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