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Removing the White Space

So I’m bound to be asked why is the blog called, ‘Removing the White Space’? So here it is.
I’m not sure where I originally heard it or read it, but one perspective on BPM (Business Process Management) considers the view that most organizations operate within the functional silos of the departments within their business. As commonly seen on an org-chart, the departments of the business or organization operate in some ways as a business of their own within the larger organization.

The diagram above illustrates a high level view of many typical companies. There is some benefit to having people operate within their departments but the drawback to the entire organization is the ‘white space’ between the silos. When people and goals are focused within the silo, the organization as a whole suffers. The product delivered to the end customer, (whether that is a retail customer, a distributor, or a non-profit society) depends on the value that is added as it passes through each department. When departments function as silos, without understanding what is needed in the next step, the flow of that work cannot be optimal.

In every company I have ever worked in or consulted for the unanimous opinion of ‘what needs to be done to improve’ our company is “communication”. Now a lot of things fall under the umbrella of communication but more often than not what needs to be clarified is what people (and systems) involved in the workflow need in order to do their job well.

Business Process management looks at how value is created as the product or knowledge moves through the business, and in particular what is needed when the work is ‘handed off’ from one person, or one department to another. The white space between the departments, which is historically drawn to help organize the company and clarify operations, manifests into barriers between the departments that leads to poor communication, duplication of work, sub-optimal products, and diminished morale.

The ‘Value Chain’ is created through the effort and knowledge added by people in each department. There are several ‘Core Processes’ that run through any company (which when mapped in detail could result in ten’s or even hundreds of processes and use cases), and they will touch every department – if a department is not involved in the core processes then it would likely not exist.

When the core process areas are detailed more fully we begin to see the major tasks that are accomplished by each functional area as shown below.

Mapping even to this level, without illustrating the hand-offs or decision steps that take place within a department, is always very illuminating to those involved the process. Even if it is never taken any further, a high level process map serves as a great communication tool since it lets people know what happens during the course of the process and what information is needed before work leaves each person or department.

Communication is a critical key for any successful company and the practice of BPM is the management tool that many companies are turning to in order to ensure the process of value creation is clearly understood.

There is much more to BPM than this of course. In future I will write about many of the devil-in-the-details areas that need to be explored to ensure that BPM works in your organization.

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