Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Why Outsourcing fails 4. - Failure to construct an effective Business Process

What is a business process?

A business process is a commitment to communicate from the parties involved in a business transaction.

This may be somewhat different to what you will hear elsewhere such as at Wikipedia which has a typically all-encompassing definition discussing tasks, deliverables and other entities.
I feel that these definitions are unhelpful.

If something happens regularly or often in a business which is not defined as an agreed business process by the business, is it still a business process? Or is it just a thing that happens regularly or often?

From my experience, the defining factor for a business process is that there is a responsibility for communication of some sort, even if that is just a note made in a ledger. Project Management practices place great emphasis on communications around milestone events. Without those communications there is no visibility that the event has occurred and so the project cannot be seen to progress.

When an expected communication fails or is overlooked, the relevant information is not captured and so our understanding of events diminishes. If we extend this to the whole project it becomes difficult to understand what our progress has been and what remains to be done leading to missed deadlines and blown budgets.

Often around offshoring, a business process is encapsulated in an application. There might be a bug database, documentation around the product, project documentation and possibly change management software. These things do not constitute a Business Process. A Business Process should be constructed around the way that things get done, not the other way round. It should include the comunication required and outline the responsibility for communication from the various parties.

If you are the owner of an offshore or outsourcing relationship, it is up to you to create a business process to ensure that essential communicatins take place. You will need to decide how things will get done and where the responsibility for this communication lies. You will need to change the processes as the dynamics of the team and what they do changes and you will need to respond to issues around failures of and management of the communication.

Online tools can provide a useful way of assisting the management of those business communications.

The only way to manage effectively is to manage by exception. We know that we have failed if we need to dog the steps of our staff and have the details of their days work recounted to us. This is usually a remedial process.

My priorities are that I can understand what has been done and what we are all focusing on right now. "The longer you can look back, the farther you can look forward.” - Winston Churchill.

The answer for me is a business process that allows me to manage time spent and to have a transparent task list for all of my team. The level of clarity that this provides is a significant change from the old days of picking up where something is going off track and then trying to restore the momentum.

Give sufficient time and thought to your business processes especially around the aspect of communication . Be prepared to constantly review the process and the tools that you use as your requirements evolve and experiment until an effective process is in place. Work with your supplier to keep up with the changing requirements around communication and how you will evolve your business processes to keep up with changing requirements.

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