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October 2010
Are You Ready for Business Process Improvement? Asking the Hard Questions for Business Process Improvement Initiatives
By Charles Pfeiler

Faced with the realities of the “New Normal,” businesses are undertaking Business Process Improvement (BPI) initiatives to achieve higher efficiency ratios and gain competitive advantages through:

• Reducing costs and increasing profit

• Passing on cost savings to customers through changing marketplace dynamics

• Demonstrating agility and scaling up or down as the changing economy demands


     Business process improvement initiatives can help an organization realize its objectives but how do you know if an organization is ready to begin a BPI initiative?

     As BPI has taken hold, many business leaders are realizing technology improvements and innovation alone will not enable organizations to achieve their goals—a focus on people, current state processes, and culture is also required. A solid change management program is the foundation to reach the objectives of a process improvement initiative.


     Before beginning a BPI project, organizational leaders should take careful preparation to lay a solid change management foundation.

• Have you assessed your organizational readiness for significant business process changes? Organizations can easily become saturated with change and unable to focus with conflicting priorities on the agenda.

• Do you have the measurements in place to identify where your organization’s current state, your goals for tomorrow and how progress looks along the way?

• Is leadership committed to making the changes? Are the organization’s leaders open-minded about changing the “way things are done”?

• Are cross-functional teams in place and empowered to own the end product?

• Does your organization have governance in place to support new processes and ensure new methods/policies are followed?

     To achieve the value, companies must accept that change is a process—we are all naturally resistant to change. To enable change, people have to come before the technology!


Leaders are Key to Process Change

     Because Business Process Improvement is so personal—changing how we do things every day, internally and sometimes for our customers—a key factor is engaging the full commitment of the leadership team from the very beginning. Many BPI initiatives fail because an organization believes sufficient commitment is in place, without realizing the full scope of what is required on a leadership level to develop and sustain this level of change.

     For example, once identified, the leaders must be willing to commit key resources to the project including the people everyone wants on their team. Once defined, leaders need to fully understand and be able to articulate the change. And finally, leaders need to be committed to govern and support the new processes.

     Old habits and accepted ways of doing things are difficult to break. A fully engaged and supportive leadership team is a critical foundation for BPI. Getting the leadership of your company “on the same page” prior to starting out any initiative will pay great dividends in the long run. Once this is done you can lay the foundation.


The Right Team

     Just as leadership is critical to success, the right team is essential. The right team includes employees from cross-functional areas with business knowledge and people knowledge. In other words, your team needs the kinds of people who can navigate the organization to find answers and influence other people.

     The right mix of roles and skill sets is also important for your BPI project. Teams should include Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) with deep business and process knowledge. Teams should include a mixture of business and technology team members, as well as project management professionals who are able to monitor, track and guide project progress.


Depending upon the scope and breadth of the change, a typical BPI team should include:

• Executive Leaders/Sponsors

• PMO (Project Manager, Coordinators, Planners, Schedulers)

• IT Program Manager

• IT Manager

• Project Leads

• Architects

• Programmers

• Business Process Manager

• Business Process Designers

• Business Process Analysts

• Business Process SMEs

• Change Manager


Business Process Improvement in Action

     Business Process Improvement can help you and your organization achieve great things. The key to success is as simple as considering the people, the business and the technology as the fundamental components of every BPI initiative.

     Content contributed by NouvEON, a management consulting firm. For a copy of the Getting Started with Business Process Improvement Checklist or to learn more about Business Process Excellence, visit or e-mail To contact NouvEON’s Business Process Improvement expert, e-mail him at

Senior Managing Consultant, Business Process Improvement at NouvEON.
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