April 19 is Patriot’s Day in Boston. The reenactment of the Shot Heard Round the World on Lexington Green, the parades, the Red Sox—maybe I’ll pop over to Hopkinton and run the 26 miles of the Boston Marathon. I think not – I’ve never run more than three miles in my life!. The real marathoners have been training on dark mornings since January getting in shape and spent years trying to qualify for a number.
So why do some executives think they can heard everyone into a conference room and direct the squabbling business units and departments to quickly improve business results? Like any other high performance endeavor, this takes years of developing skills, capabilities, and organizational effectiveness. Try to take a short cut and you may fall and be trampled miles before Heartbreak Hill. You assess a business units readiness before rolling out the ERP system and likewise to succeed at global process improvement you need to assess your process readiness.
On a recent teleconference, a member of AMR Research’s SAP Peer Forum described their journey to what they called “process excellence.” The global pharmaceutical company is subject strict regulatory requirements and President of Supply Chain was concerned that widely varied business processes across sites were not only inefficient, but exposed the company to significant compliance risk. Over the next few years it established the three critical pillars of process readiness:
- Clear Goals and Process Governance – The top leader set the goal for globally harmonized business processes for efficiency, compliance, and ease of moving personnel between sites. A process governance organization was built to drive consensus on common processes, define globally consistent metrics, direct IT projects to enhance processes, and strive for continuous improvement.
- Holistic View of the Process – Limiting the view of the process to ERP or a Six Sigma project is a recipe for underperformance. Workers need every aspect of a process they deal with to be consistent. The company coordinates the activity of many groups to ensure consistency of process across its multiple IT systems, manual activities, training materials, job classifications, and performance metrics.
- Business Repository and Tools – Maintaining this consistency across dozens of processes and communicating them to tens of thousands of global employees is impossible with simple documents. Instead, the documents are brought together in a repository and a rich five layer process model links them. Analytical tools are used to assess the impact of proposed changes and a process portal to make the process overview and training available globally.
The company is using IDS Scheer’s ARIS as the tool to support its process readiness efforts. It is synchronizing it with Solution Manager on its SAP systems and linking training materials and its business intelligence systems in as well. Similar tools exist in the Oracle E-business Suite, with the vendor reselling ARIS as Business Process Analyst (BPA) and building automated links between BPA and its Tutor process documentation and UPK training system.
Just like I’m not going to run a Marathon without a lot of training, you aren’t going to improve your processes without attaining process readiness. Over several years of effort, our SAP Peer Forum member has attained the capability of quickly implementing process improvements. Less focused competitor may soon fall far behind.