Process Re-Design – A Necessity

Like ripping off an old band aid – pain needs to be sharp and short.  Your business processes need change as your organization progresses through its growth phases.  The best time to do a process re-design is during an enterprise application system implementation when circumstances are the right time for everyone to accept the changes.

Mergers, spinoffs, new product lines, re-org of departments all beg the need for aligning work processes to the changed environment.  Your company then progressively gets in a bind.  In order to realize full efficiencies, it needs to re-design business processes but in doing so creates an overwhelming risk to disrupting design to manufacturing activities that can be threatening to the survival of the company and executive careers.  Your company remains in an uncomfortable status quo unable to realize optimal potentials.  The process of change needs to be targeted and quickly executed.

An enterprise system update gives you that opportunity to make a larger impact.  The process re-design, in simple terms, is a change that makes you keep or add value added activities and remove non-value add steps.  So what is value add?  A value added activity is any step in the process which:

  • Reduces time
  • Reduces cost
  • Improves quality
  • Improves operations and service

Business process value may fall into two broad goals of efficiency and control.  Control goals may enforce objectives such as quality, risk, regulation, traceability and accountability in order to manage and track that process.  Efficiency goals are targeted to improve the speed of execution.  Efficiency and control need to be in a balance for your specific industry needs.

An example is compliance with FDA regulatory controls vs time to market for a Class 3 medical device manufacturer.  Since regulatory compliance is a show stopper, control goals may have a higher value.  For a high-tech consumer electronics manufacturer, time to market may have greater value.

The first part of process re-design is to determine your goals in an internal corporate exercise involving executive management, product development and manufacturing.  These goals are sometimes well understood by senior management and need to be agreed upon.  The identified goals need to be mapped to the impacted business processes and related people you should involve for the re-design.

Mapping the exiting targeted business processes will make you see the overall present state and help in identifying the improvement opportunities.  Suggested mapping the process flows into three levels are as follows:

  1. Enterprise Level
    High level department or product development phase level processes.  This involves senior management that can outline the overall corporate level business processes.  This is captured in a block level process flow of major blocks of activity.
  2. Process Level
    Individual business process composed of multiple participants for a specific set of related deliverables.  This can be described by process owners captured in a participant and department swim-lane diagram.
  3. Activity Level
    Each activity or decision in an individual process is listed.  This is explained by task owners and captured in a pre-condition, activity, post condition list against the process step.

The set of diagrams and lists from the mapping workshops should capture the present state for analysis on elements to change to implement the goals.

Good heuristics to re-design process level activities are to:

  • Move responsibility upstream, update the RACI for the flow steps
  • Decision routed to the correct owners
  • Decisions makers get the right information
  • Remove activities that add no value to the objectives
  • Add activities that are required or needed for regulation
  • Add steps to collect KPI/metrics
  • Sequential activities should occur concurrently if resources permit
  • Collapse multiple steps be into one if possible

You make the changes and iterate on the process and activity level diagrams and get feedback from process participants for buy off but never lose sight of the stated goals by the executive team.  People executing work tend to give a lot of emphasis to tactical issues.  That’s also important to the line personnel but defeats the purpose of the re-design.  Pay it due consideration but no more than necessary.  You will converge to a flow that is acceptable by leadership, line people and complies with most of the key goals.  Now you are ready for system implementation.

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