Paul Cegles, Director of Product Portfolio Management at Selerant, has spent the past decade and a half performing BPR, or business process re-engineering, for a variety of companies and clients across different industries. He’s re-engineered everything from telecom to potato packagers, including a broad spectrum of businesses that fall in between.
Below, Paul shares some of his big takeaways when it comes to optimizing process, including alarming signs that things are going wrong.
Q: What’s your elevator pitch for BPR?
A: (Laughs). Jumping right in? Sure, it’s a structured approach to optimizing, improving, and outlining a business process within an organization. You capture the current state by identifying pain points, areas that require clarity, and opportunities to improve. A lot of the time companies work in silos, but the BPR looks at how everything is tied together and identifies the inefficiencies. I see it as people, process, portfolio, and tools. They’re all tied together, so let’s just smooth out the bumps.
Q: So, what’s involved?
A: It all follows a framework. You solicit and capture feedback directly from stakeholders, plot out the process, then prioritize the severe roadblocks. Once you’ve done this, you understand the current state.
I like to let companies tell me the problems themselves instead of pointing it out to them. We workshop it, giving everyone different colored sticky notes. This helps everyone to see how something that works for one section might be creating an issue elsewhere.
Once all of this is done, you gather up all the feedback, prioritize the pain points, and then work towards finding the future state.
Q: What do people get wrong about the review?
A: It’s not that they get it wrong, it’s that they miss an opportunity to train for the future step. Lots of times people walk back to their office or desk feeling good about their new process, but there’s no post-BPR follow-up, no training or guidance on how to achieve the future state. I put a lot of emphasis on those next steps to help bring the new process to life.
Q: When is it time to consider BPR?
A: No better time than the present! Companies aren’t perfect, and there’s no such thing as totally optimized process governance, so as time goes on, you’re losing money. That’s usually the first sign, when you’re missing financial targets. But when you start digging a little deeper, you see other trends, like turnover and unhappy employees.
I also like to time a process review to coincide with new product development or the launch of a new technology or service. This gives you a chance to look at process, but also the tools.
Q: Can companies do this on their own?
A: Some can, but sometimes you need an outsider to help you identify change. Process owners don’t always see things from objectively inside their functional group. Having an outsider removes any bias.
If a company has internal change management groups, I like to work with them closely to develop a plan. It’s always going to be up to the company to decide what they want to do, but you can give them insight into other best practices
Q: Why is BPR so difficult for some companies?
A: Silos between segments make it hard to prioritize a new process. You might think you understand how everything works, but process comprehension is often missing details; upstream and downstream specifics are usually general understandings.
There’s also an emotional component. It’s easy for feelings to get hurt when you start evaluating and changing business practices.
Q: How do you respond to hurt feelings?
A: You’ve got to create an environment where everyone feels heard, then make sure you’ve focused on the bigger outcome: an improved process with financial benefits. I never call anyone out, I never tell them what’s wrong. I let them tell me. And if they don’t see it, I help them to discover it on their own. If you can’t do those things, you’re going to have a hard time running a successful process review.
Sometimes you need one-on-ones and breakouts to problem solve; it might not be easy for everyone to vocalize concerns in a big group. It’s about building trust with the stakeholders; you’re not going to complain to their boss, you’re just going to listen and help them get to a future state. Eventually, the stakeholders will identify problems themselves, then everyone can start looking at the process in a different way.
Q: You mention stakeholders. Who should be in the room?
A: It depends on the company, but I like to include all the key decision makers. That includes legal, sales, R&D, and marketing. Any upper and middle management that touches the process.
Q: Can you do BPR remotely in a post-COVID world?
A: It’s possible, but it’s going to be difficult. Part of BPR is bringing everyone into the room together so that we can hear each other out and focus on finding opportunities. One of the underlying components is soliciting feedback in a workshop environment and having face-to-face interactions. You can replicate some of this virtually, but it’s going to be a lot harder to keep everyone focused.
Q: How do you measure outcomes of the exercise?
A: There are all sorts of benchmarks from cycle time to user satisfaction. People leave companies due to poor processes. If you introduce change and attrition goes down, I consider that to be a metrics of success. There are all kinds of data points you can grab once you’ve done a good job of establishing current and future states. I like to work with metrics people inside the company, like black belts, to measure redundancy and inefficiencies.
Q: Why should you consider BPR now?
A: Most of the time you can’t afford not to. It all comes down to money and waste. The longer you wait, the longer you’re stuck in a bad situation.
You can learn more about business process re-engineering by reading our overview, which includes details on future state design, gap analysis, and performance measurement. You can also learn why BPR might be a useful step for companies who use Devex.