In this article we’re going to take a look at perfecting the art of ‘The Common Process’. We have previously looked at how difficult it is to achieve and maintain a standard, albeit we looked at this in relation to large standardisation programmes, but it’s a good read for seeing the value of a standard because this also comes into play in the power of a perfected common process.
“Standards are characterized by a snowball effect: the greater the number of people using them, the more valuable they become, and therefore the greater the number of people motivated to use them.”
[Source: Blown to Bits: How the new Economics of Information Transforms Strategy (Philip Evans, Thomas S. Wurster]
We define a common process as one where:
- Everyone will use this process i.e. every department, every business unit.
- The steps in the process will be the same, except where local legislation dictates otherwise.
Some good examples of common processes are recruitment, procurement, and monthly financial reporting. It is also important to note that common processes differ from standard processes. In a standard process, such as requesting a leave of absence, there is a single way of executing the process i.e. there is no leeway for personal interpretation.
In designing a common process (a much better plan than allowing it to evolve ad hoc!), there are four main steps to follow:
- Define & Agree a Vision
- Define & Agree standard Process Roles
- Define, Agree & Design the Process
- Build in Legislative Variants
To illustrate each of these four steps, we’ll use the example of a Source to Settle Process. (S2S)
1. Define & Agree a Vision and Key Performance Indicators.
A most important element for any process design initiative is to be clear about what the purpose is. What does the end goal look like? Why do you need it? Why do users need it? What are the business needs related to it? What are the quality and compliance needs? Then, state the vision clearly in plain English and in a way that that everyone will understand.
For example, “Our company’s S2S process will proactively support co-ordinated strategic and transaction based procurement of goods and services for all Company operating companies with common processes to provide required resources on-time, cost effectively, and in compliance with Company code of conduct and ethical procurement policies, creating value for the Company Group and its Suppliers.”.
Once the vision is clear, define the metrics you will need to prove that the process is performing or not performing.
This will require you to build in metrics, targets and frequencies for reporting. There is a list of examples below, but for any metrics, make sure you understand the purpose of measuring this. It’s always a good idea to understand how the metric may be used and also to check if it is already built in elsewhere – you don’t want to reinvent the metric or introduce a new variant.
Use our great guide for developing metrics (making measures count) here,
Typical measures for the Source 2 Settle process might include:
2. Define & Agree Roles: Governance
When defining and designating roles for the process, which will also help in the design step by giving you some already defined structure to work with, avoid communal ownership e.g. “Quality Council” which will inevitably lead to a dilution of accountability.
Required roles include a Process Sponsor, Process Owner and Process Manager. Make it clear who is responsible, accountable, consulted and informed.
Typical roles for Source to Settle might include:
- Head of Procurement
- AP Manager
- Vendor Contract Manager
- AP Specialist
- Category Manager
- Procurement Specialist
3. Define, Agree & Design The Process Itself
First, refer back to the vision to begin to agree on guiding principles, also called “Policies” and “Business Rules” . Two examples of guiding principles for a Source to Settle process might include:
100% of purchase requisitions and purchases will be executed through the procurement system (no manual or back door purchases).
Suppliers will be paid within the agreed terms.
And the part you’ve all been waiting for, design the process itself. We’ve shown only the highest level process map here but in real life it will be decomposed to a number of different sub-processes.
4. Legislative Variants
Lastly, take into account legislative variants that may exist by region or other factors and build this into your designed process within your BPMS so that variation and where it occurs is easily visible to all stakeholders: users, managers, auditors.
The beauty of this approach to developing common process is that it recognises areas where the process is common (vision, roles, metrics etc.) whilst also making variations transparent.
Developing common processes is a first step on the journey to improving processes across many business units or regions, for outsourcing activities and the development of shared services.
For more tips and tricks on process improvement initiatives created by Torque Management, visit our blog. If you have any questions or queries, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or Tweet to @TorqueBPM.