By A Nandini, India Head-Delivery Assurance, GlobalLogic India
The set of processes of an organization are like the constitution of a country. It provides the framework, procedures, guidelines, and templates for all functions that every employee must follow to run the business of the organization. Delivery Process Management for delivery led organizations is progressively helping companies reduce costs, improve efficiency, nurture innovation and get closer to customers. As the name infers, Delivery Process Management is the practice of optimizing and sharpening processes from end-to-end to boost performance and enhance customer delight Companies of different dimensions from the full range of vertical industries can use thoughtfully implemented processes to assist their business as well as delivery goals.
According to a February 8, 2011 blog post by Forrester Research Vice President and Research Director Connie Moore titled, “Tackle The Most Common Delivery Challenges,” “Organizations typically deliver 30% to 50% productivity gains for processes involving back-office and clerical staff, and they typically deliver 15% to 30% productivity gains for processes involving knowledge workers.” Startups generally are lean on processes and rightfully so as the scale is usually small functions and interactions can be managed in an ad hoc manner. However, as organizations scale with different functions, complex business, global presence, having a uniform way of conducting business becomes imperative not only for an effective internal control system but compliance to regulations and standards.
We hear the term Process Management in almost every business, and yet, it does garner limited enthusiasm and attention that it duly merits. Designing the service delivery system should focus on what creates value to the core organizations and how to engage frontline employees to deliver the ultimate customer experience. The four key elements in such a system are Service Culture which is built on elements of leadership principles, norms, work habits and vision, mission, and values. Employee Engagement serves as the moderator between the design and the execution of the service excellence model. Service Quality includes strategies, processes and performance management systems. Customer Experience includes elements of customer intelligence, account management, and continuous improvements. The content of each element will naturally vary from company to company and is, in essence, the service/delivery strategy of the company. But all elements must be considered and in place.
Delivering quality requires a systematic and disciplined approach as professionals. The behavior exhibited by practitioners is comparable to a driver stopping the vehicle on seeing a traffic policeman and not because of the traffic light being red. Practitioners more often adhere to processes as it is mandated and not because they see value in it or find it useful. A change in mindset is required and a paradigm shift needs to happen to make process management adherence a lot more acceptable.
Quality does not just happen; it is the combination of the right people, the right systems, and a commitment to excellence. Building an effective Process Delivery Program is similar to establishing a total quality management program where products and services are analyzed to verify that they meet stakeholder expectations, operations are evaluated to determine their efficiency and effectiveness and practices are assessed to confirm their conformance to standards. Maintaining an effective Process Delivery Program also requires leaders who are responsible for setting the proper tone in support of quality and continuous improvement.
The process definition is best done by people with strong technology, delivery, and execution expertizes. It is demonstrated that processes enable organizations to be more efficient, more effective and more capable of change than a functionally focused, traditional hierarchical management approach. If process definition is left to a core process group, the result will be theoretical processes that are difficult to comprehend and implement and do not get wider acceptance.
The reason why this is necessary is that some types of processes are not well-suited to being executed. For example, while highly repetitious or regulated processes tend to be excellent candidates, highly unpredictable and unstructured processes are not. Processes need to be lightweight with a lot of flexibility thrown in. A process should restrict to the “what” of doing things and not prescribe the “How” of doing things and leave the “How” to the practitioners.
In this age of data and analytics, it is imperative to use data to fine-tune and improvise processes. Analytics on their usage, usefulness, processes that are difficult to practice will go a long way in having the right set of lean processes that are continuously evolving and improving. Process management should be able to use predictive analytics on the data generated while using processes and historical data generated at the organization level to predict outcomes. As an example, if the prediction based on data collected suggests a drop in team velocity or increase in the schedule (An early warning system or leading indicators); it provides an opportunity for course correction and is a great way to avoid surprizes later.
Importantly, if processes are followed decorously, it helps organizations predict delivery and proactively take corrective actions if delivery parameters are not healthy. Organizations can build on the repository and knowledge base with learnings and data to help improve and be predictable. On the other side, if processes are not lean and nimble, easy to use, acceptability and applicability become a challenge and adherence becomes a huge task without practitioners getting value out of it.
Process management groups within organizations should not restrict to auditing process usage but need to extend their umbrella to enforce white box quality audit of the deliverables. Processes need to be in place that checks the quality and completeness of requirements, the quality and robustness of design and architecture, the quality of code that is being developed and so on. This is the challenge that organizations are facing today. Process group tends to focus a lot on adherence to process without getting into the internals of what is being delivered. The charter of process group needs to include a focus on the internal quality as otherwise chances that a product may be delivered on time and within budget but not having features with tremendous business value will be a reality.
Processes have to be developed and managed to keep the character of the organization in mind. What works for one organization may not work in another organization, the success of a process in a particular organization may not necessarily translate to success in another organization. For example, healthcare will have very stringent process requirements with no room for error, so will Finance where the security requirements and checks will be multilevel. As a process gets developed and managed, it is important to keep the fabric of the organization in mind as it impacts a variety of factors such as people, legacy, location, and partners and so on.
Small companies will be very nimble as they can afford to be person dependent. Large global organizations have to be well-defined processes with checks and balances to handle scale. India being the pioneer in software services industry was also the first one to embrace process adherence and are considered quite the pioneers when it comes to processes. Following processes without thinking about audits and non-compliance must become the culture of the organization. Executive leadership has a huge role to play in creating this culture. Process management as a discipline does not generate interest on its own and without support from the executive leadership; there is a high probability of process management getting sidelined. Executive leadership has a responsibility to focus on process management as much as they do on other strategic initiatives.
There is a striking similarity between the Censor Board of India and the Process Management Group of an organization. Most movies seem to get into a challenge with the Censor Board during the certification process as the Censor Board rules have not changed with the times and the movie makers find the rules to be archaic. On similar lines, if the Process Management group does not update the processes to keep up with the times based on nature of engagements, technology changes, partner expectations etc., the practitioners will always have a challenge in following processes and will resist complying. Managing change requires consistency of approach and constancy of purpose and some companies are leveraging Process Management better than others to streamline and automate key business processes using new and emerging technologies that affect how Process Management services are delivered and consumed.