Monday, May 19, 2008

Process optimization - a point of view

On some post, articles and books you can read about Process Optimization, but what is really? Being strict, optimization is hard to reach because in this case you could want "the best" solution among other feasible solutions, that means "the best process model" fits and organizes current task in a way on what you can get the lowest cost, greatest quality in a short-time That seems a dream! How flexible is your current process (or workflow) to optimize it?
Therefore, we have three variables to optimize: cost, quality, and time, but flexibility is associated with the ability of a process to change.
The first three are affected one for another (see picture below), that means, whether we wish increase quality of a product/service also cost and time variables are increased, whether we wish reduce costs of a product/service quality could be reduced also as time could be increased, and finally whether we wish reduce time to release a product/service costs and quality could be reduced or increased depending on each case. Every time we do that, flexibility variable is behind and affect other three.

At this time, we have discussed workflow aspects only, but what happens with people and technology? We know that BPM involves processes, technology and people. Regards on last two we need useful insights to improve them and so to get Process Improvement or optimization, but I prefer improve more than optimize into this context by considering process, people and technology elements as a whole.

First insight to improve a current process is by innovating with technology by identifying what information is relevant for this process (standardization and modeling of information), how information is transmitted and where is stored (hardware issues) and who is owner of that information (could be related to process owner) From that we can add technology to support a process and improve it according to a variable to optimize (cost, quality or time).

Second insight to improve a process regards to organizational aspects and in this case we have a lot of good literature and best practices from industry. Nevertheless, Change Management is essential for every organizational change into a process.

Finally, monitoring processes by right KPI's we could control them and get feedback about their execution so we could compare them with expected behavior. For that you can read this post (and my comment) about ARIS PPM framework:

Ultimately, I have read and review literature and they mention all previous definitions as BPR (Business Process Re-engineering) rather Process Optimization or Improvement, and I agree with that because is a bit broader concept and fits better to last explanations.

The last question are:
  • How apply process re-engineering or BPR? and
  • Is there a recipe or a step-by-step list to do that?
I will try to answer them in the next posts.

- Ricardo Seguel P.

Note: picture from Escher official website.

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