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Reviving dying businesses to create economic growth

Businesses die. The average family owned business will last 40 years before it changes hands or dies. All successful businesses will at some stage reach a plateau and if, often radical, changes are not introduced; they will start losing momentum and begin dying.

In a world of dynamic changes with globalisation, new trade and power shifts, it is impossible to have ‘business as usual’. Business Process Management was a dynamic concept introduced in the 1990s that helps business and government introduce dramatic change, boost efficiencies and prime a business or department for long-term sustained growth. It’s a way of creating agility and fast responses to a changing global economy.

It has been used by some of South Africa’s major companies. Its uses are either for the whole company or niche, as an example, the US’ Pegasystems, a leader in Business Process Management, provides software to drive revenue growth, productivity and agility for some of the world's most sophisticated organizations.

Their Claims Servicing Backbone for the insurance industry, increases productivity in the claims process by automating a formerly manual procedure handled by multiple departments utilizing many systems. It provides intelligent claims processing by tracking and reporting on policyholders' requests for payment with real-time metrics and analytics. By automating the process and ensuring workflow, CSB dramatically reduces claims processing times and expense, while improving accuracy, compliance and customer experience.

That is an example of niche BPM. But BPM is usually used to transform entire organisations. Wikipedia defines it as “a holistic management approach that promotes business effectiveness and efficiency (with) innovation, flexibility and integration with technology.”

Liza van Wyk, CEO of AstroTech a Johannesburg-based management training organisation, says “A true Business Process Management approach involves radical streamlining or total redesign. There need to be change improvements against all critical benchmarks of business performance and organisation-wide clarity of purpose, business architecture, capabilities and mission.”

AstroTech runs a high-level Business Process Management course that is increasingly popular as corporates and government departments grapple with a dynamic new business order Extensive analysis needs to take place of employees, customers and finances and how all can be optimised.

Often this process is hampered by corporate anorexia, an obsessive desire to cut costs and achieve short term gains. Revisiting business strategy includes face to face interaction with customers at all levels of the organisation, enhancing skills is critical to develop knowledgeable and engaged staff. Van Wyk says it is important to “note your position in the business system and how you can change the rules of the game.”

And a mission statement becomes critical to answer ‘what business are we in’ and ‘where do we want it to be’? These need to be more than nice sounding words, they need to be actionable.

“If you fail to plan,” Van Wyk says, “you plan to fail. Detail is essential. It must include a project definition; work breakdown structure; task, cost, resource and milestone summaries as well as noting external dependencies all with time-frames.

“The power of Business Process Management is in its scope which is a company-wide effort. Project teams introduce operating targets, new organisation and ongoing process changes to achieve breakpoints or the achievement of excellence in price, lead time, flexibility, process design, reliability, differentiation, environmental protection, product design, service empathy and information systems.

“It sounds challenging and it is,” Van Wyk admits, “but every team becomes an expert in a certain area, as they start interrogating what they have done in the past and what needs to be achieved in the future, they begin getting deeper insight to work processes and how to achieve breakthroughs.”

Implementing those breakthroughs can carry their own dangers to, for example, Nic Geldenhuys, an AstroTech trainer who facilitates the Business Process Management course says, “in the drive for speed of response: insight, sensitivity and flexibility can be replaced by automation, predictability and programming. A Business Process Management team should be authoritative and command the support of colleagues.”

“It’s not an easy process,” Van Wyk says, “but it provides an ongoing values system, quality control and an organisational culture of excellence – something needed in every enterprise.”

* AstroTech is a major South African training organisation based in Johannesburg. It targets executives and managers in the public and private sector for training in management, people skills, information technology and project management. Each year more than 3 000 people take part in more than 60 courses in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town. Many more receive specialist in-house training.

LIZA VAN WYK, CEO AstroTech   011 453 5291 cell: 082 466 8975 or
Issued by MediaOnLine  011-646 7637