The Promise of Big Convergence

“The world of AD 2014 will have few routine jobs that cannot be done better by some machine than by any human being” wrote noted science fiction author and biochemistry professor Isaac Asimov in the New York Times more than 50 years ago as he expressed his impressions of the expanding world of technology following a visit to the New York World’s Fair in 1964. “Mankind will therefore have become largely a race of machine tenders.” While Asimov’s prediction seems mildly premature, it still represents a likely future.

“Mankind will therefore have become largely a race of machine tenders.”

In the mid-1960s when Asimov made this statement, the transition from mechanical to digital technology was well underway but not until the 1980s would personal computers start populating homes and offices in any serious manner. Now nearly everyone has a computer in their pocket or purse which can also place and receive phone calls, emails, and text messages; take digital photos; and play videos as the Information Age quickly fades into the Digital Age where eData rules and many routine transactions involving paper and human intervention will soon be considered as antiquated as dialing someone’s phone number instead of saying their name.

Key components of the Digital Age including The Cloud, Big Data, Data Mining, Predictive and Prescriptive Analytics, Machine Learning, AI, IoT, human-assisted and autonomous RPA, and Blockchain still mean little to the general public but are positioned to impact nearly every major commercial enterprise on the planet in the next couple decades. In depth discussions of these topics are currently cloistered in round table exchanges at technical conferences where most attendees understand the general concepts behind these technologies but have yet to experience their full integration into business operations – The Big Convergence!

The Big Convergence is when the full power of the Digital Age will be unleashed. This is when fortunes will be won and lost in the M2M (machine-to-machine) economy and those who decide to implement digital technologies will be the only players in the game.

The Big Convergence is when the full power of the Digital Age will be unleashed.

Paul Miller, CEO and Founder of the Digital Workplace Group and author of The Digital Workplace, urgently advises that “organizations need to invest in their Digital Workplace and they need to do it fast. The changes are already happening – don’t be reactive – act now.”

Everyone understands the power of a computer to collect, collate, and process information and report the results for human consumption. They inform our judgment, guide our decision-making, and expedite our ability to manage, evaluate, and act upon information. The new technologies involved in the Digital Age take this to a whole new level.

The Digital Age will see the elimination of the need for human involvement in routine and repetitive processes, evaluation of circumstances and judging what actions to take, and even implementation of those actions. Human involvement will often be completely removed from the equation. And, as the business community speeds into the Digital Age, the types and number of business operations that can be automated will increase exponentially. Given that automated operations are generally faster, more reliable, and less expensive, this will provide a significant competitive advantage to those businesses that adopt this technology.

GC1Consider Enterprise Alpha, a large imaginary corporation with thousands of imaginary employees. The executive team has fully embraced digital technology and decided to adopt a “smart workplace” approach. They set up a Gazelle Team, named for one of the fastest land animals on earth, to implement the technology. Additionally, they approved a phased template for implementation beginning with a complete upgrade of their digital infrastructure to accommodate digital systems integration and Big Data cloud storage with analytics capability accompanied by a leading edge immune system approach to cybersecurity. This lays the foundation for Phase 2, migration of paper-based procedures and workflows onto the digital platform, deployment of IoT devices including human-aided and autonomous robotics, and a data mining effort that feeds into predictive and prescriptive analyses and machine learning processes. Phase 3 moves the financial sector solidly into the Digital Age with implementation of a distributed ledger or Blockchain platform to manage transactions with vendors and contractors. Phase 4 would refine all elements of the digital system and expand the Blockchain platform to include additional internal transactions such as supply chain tracking, procurement, and inventory as well as external transactions with customers as the technology becomes more standardized and familiarity with it grows in the public sphere.

Big Data Cloud Storage

Big Data provides the substance for driving many of the value-added mechanisms of digital technology. The Enterprise Alpha operation plans to collect a plethora of valuable information or Big Data about the status and operations of its entire enterprise which will be retained in The Cloud. The big three cloud storage options—Amazon S3, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure—were considered along with Teradata Integrated Big Data Platform which was ultimately selected. As all options were scalable and provided a similar range of data warehouse capabilities, the best option for Enterprise Alpha was Teradata Integrated Big Data Platform ( due to the fact that it has the option of adding Teradata Analytics Platform. This integrated close relationship between Big Data storage and the analytics platform will facilitate the speed and ease of generating useful analytics.

Digital Systems Integration Platform

The digital systems integration platform serves as the neural backbone of the smart workplace. It is key to the effectiveness of a digital workplace and must seamlessly manage the digital interfaces and collection of data through real-time monitoring of all key equipment and IoT devices the organization deploys; control and monitor the entire robotic workforce; and coordinate the cross-device deployment of information to the workforce at all levels and functional areas throughout the organization. It must also provide an efficient means for distribution of analytics to human as well as robotic or machine recipients.

The Enterprise Alpha Gazelle Team evaluated a number of digital systems integration platforms and decided on the Informatica ( IICS (Intelligent Cloud Services) solution. Infomatica Cloud Data Integration works with a variety of cloud data warehouses and, according to information on its website, provides “support for high-performance, scalable analytics with advanced transformations; enterprise-grade asset management; and sophisticated data integration capabilities such as mass ingestion, advanced pushdown optimization, and advanced workload orchestrations.”

Procedures and their associated workflows will be hosted on Gnosys, a digital e-procedure platform that facilitates integration with AR capabilities, transitioning to robotic automation, and dashboard reporting of analytics.


A CNN video report Great by Design: Cybersecurity suggests that cybercrime will cost the world $8 trillion by 2022. As a precautionary measure, the Gazelle Team chose to upgrade their cybersecurity by implementing Darktrace (, a disruptive machine learning technology that mimics the human immune system.

GC2“The human immune system has at its core an innate sense of self,” states Darktrace CEO Poppy Gustafsson. “By knowing what is you, it can than identify what is other. Our bodies will then adapt and mount a defense against that bacteria or virus and write the code of that defense into our immunological memory.”

Dave Palmer, Darktrace Director of Technology, adds, “the digital immune system is genuinely inspired by the human immune system. Once we have smart systems that can learn what’s normal and spot the strange or unusual, that’s great! We can tell human beings about attacks as they are immerging inside their business.”

Darktrace, the creator and primary provider of digital immune system cybersecurity  technology, protects the data systems and operational integrity of the Drax Power Station in Yorkshire, UK. “More often than not that anomalous behavior can be explained but when it isn’t we’re able to deal with that incident immediately, take it off the network, find out where the problem was, fix it so that it doesn’t happen again,” explains Martin Sloan, Group Head of Security, Drax.

Rather than identify and log the millions of types of threats that the typical IT network faces, the fundamental technology underlying Darktrace identifies anomalous behavior impacting a digital network, categorizes the behavior as self (friend) or other (foe) and deals with it appropriately to keep the network operating normally.

Artificial Intelligence

“The convergence of big data with AI has emerged as the single most important development that is shaping the future of how firms drive business value from their data and analytics capabilities,” proclaims Randy Bean, CEO of NewVantage Partners, in How Big Data is Empowering AI and Machine Learning at Scale in MIT Sloan Management Review.

It is important to understand that this is not human-level AI or “strong AI” which is predicted by AI researchers Vincent C. Müller, President of the European Association for Cognitive Systems and Nick Bostrom, Founding Director of the Future of Humanity Institute, to be functional around 2050 and not refined as “superintelligence” for another 25 years after that. It is AI as it currently exists in the areas of predictive and prescriptive analytics, recommendation engines, machine learning, and natural language generation.

“At a basic level,” explains staff writer Reinhardt Kruse in Investor’s Business Daily, “artificial intelligence is the use of computer algorithms to attempt to replicate the human ability to learn, reason and make decisions.” To achieve this result, Enterprise Alpha will leverage the capabilities of AI in several important areas.

Ultimately, the benefits of capturing big data surface in the process of data mining which employs software tools to reveal patterns, trends, relationships, and “weak signals” in the data. But data mining alone doesn’t provide the benefit. The benefit comes from the application of the results of data mining in predictive or prescriptive analytics and machine learning which is where AI helps automate the reshaping or streamlining of business processes and operations based on the patterns and relationships revealed by the data mining. As mentioned earlier, the Gazelle Team selected Teradata Analytics Platform to serve this function. “Teradata is providing a package that solves the problem enterprises have of stitching together all the required software to manage an analytical ecosystem from multiple sources and vendors,” writes Chris Preimesberger, eWEEK Features & Analysis Editor in an article entitled “Teradata Adds Sophisticated New Capabilities to Its Analytics.”

Predictive analytics leads to the identification of opportunities or problems when they can still be leveraged for advantage or remedied, respectively. The results of such analyses inform automated and human interventions ranging from preventative maintenance processes and production efficiencies to procurement transactions.Prescriptive analytics uses big data in an attempt to quantify the effect of future decisions while those decisions are still in the formative stage. Both predictive and prescriptive analytics could present suitable rationale for continuing existing processes, implementing modifications or determining an entirely different path.

Machine learning allows computer algorithms that drive robotics to learn from previous computations. As these algorithms learn, they improve their ability to evaluate situations, make decisions, and control processes thus institutionalizing the concept of continual improvement.

Because of the need for specialized expertise in the area of data mining, predictive and prescriptive analytics, machine learning, and AI, the Gazelle Team has decided to contract this service from qualified vendors until it becomes clear that moving these operations in-house will prove cost effective.

Internet of Things

The workforce will be provided with and trained on a variety of IoT (Internet of Things) devices from smart vests with vital signs monitors and specialized sensors to AR (augmented reality) enhanced smart safety helmets which will allow easy access to real time equipment operational stats, warnings when nearing or entering hazardous environments, maintenance and repair procedures, and real time communications with subject matter experts.

GC3Fuel.Tech (, a leading developer of software and training that makes AR devices more user friendly and useful, explains on its website that “AR overlays the real world with graphics, animation and sounds through wearables” like AR enhanced smart safety helmets.

Daqri (, a respected manufacturer of AR enhanced smart helmets and goggles, proclaims on its website that “users are provided with unprecedented levels of information about the world around them for the most precise display and tracking possible.” Hands-free access to the digital network via these helmets will provide Enterprise Alpha workers a slate of capabilities readily available for operating more safely and effectively in a variety of challenging work environments.

The process of creating an AR enabled workplace begins with mapping the real workplace into a digital VR (virtual reality) system. Then any desired segment of the VR system can “overlay” the real world and be viewed, as mentioned above, with AR devices that present the desired elements of the virtual workplace along with procedures, information or real-time analytics to workers via a smart helmet or other IoT devices.

Enterprise Alpha management believes that IoT technology will contribute to fewer safety incidents and shorter downtimes for equipment maintenance and repair, facilitate training, and support more consistent operations throughout the enterprise, all of which translate to more efficient and safer use of personnel and equipment.

Robotic Process Automation

Enterprise Alpha produces consumer products and operates an assembly line. The installation of autonomous RPA (Robotic Process Automation) devices will help reduce delays and quality exceptions while increasing output by making 24/7 operations affordable.

Use of UiPath Orchestrator (, a digital RPA platform, will allow for the management, control, and monitoring of attended or unattended automation.

The company also plans to acquire a fleet of Percepto ( Sparrow industrial grade, weather-proof drones which will be programmed to perform regular inspections by flying a BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line Of Sight) pattern over and around facilities to look for maintenance problems, identify safety or security issues, and perform a full range of detection processes. Percepto Sparrow drones were selected because of their durability in severe weather conditions; autonomous safety layer that even if communications are cut, the drone stillGC4understands its environment and how to react; and the weather resistant and ground base which serves as a landing port, charging station, communications hub, and shelter. The Percepto CMS (Cloud Management System) allows for easily managing the fleet of drones.

Data and video acquired during the flights will be fed into the digital network and stored in The Cloud for real time review and comparison. Trik (, a capable drone mapping and 3D reporting tool, as reported on its website, “automatically turns drone photos into a 3D model” allowing users to “compare structural changes and create maintenance plans.” Directing the drones to fly the same pattern for each inspection, a tool like Trik can be employed to identify and flag anomalies for human review or assignment to a specialized drone or facilities personnel for further inspection.

Deployment of digital technology will not be limited to field or facility operations. Office and backroom operations will employ automated processes as well. The Gazelle Team analyzed office and backroom operations and determined that implementing a human-assisted RPA approach made sense.

According to a KMPG report entitled Delivering Value in Procurement with Robotic Process Automation, “The procurement function has a number of time-consuming, manual processes that are ideally suited for bots created with robotic process automation (RPA) technology.” Bots, the post explains, “are sophisticated software that lays on top of an organization’s IT systems to manipulate existing application software in the same way that a person today processes a transaction or completes a process.”

KMPG also indicates that bots can track contract use over time, create scorecards for strategic suppliers, scan staff emails to identify which suppliers have the largest number of interactions, and monitor supplier risk across a number of categories in a fraction of the time it would take to do these tasks manually. “Using procurement bots for accounts payable can help reduce invoice reconciliation errors that can at times lead to remittance errors.” And that represents only a fraction of the jobs bots can do to facilitate the procurement process by increasing efficiencies and lowering costs.

Ultimately, KMPG reports, “CPOs should also consider the ability of RPA to help the organization move from reactive to predictive insights and to take up the many low-value tasks that distract highly skilled resources, preventing them from strategic work.”


To streamline financial transactions, the Gazelle Team will establish smart contracts with all vendors and contractors. They plan to implement smart contracts via distributed ledger technology also known as Blockchain and will implement this technology using the Ethereum ( Blockchain App Platform. According to its website, “Ethereum is a decentralized platform that runs smart contracts: applications that run exactly as programmed without any possibility of downtime, censorship, fraud or third-party interference.”

This will virtually eliminate “net 30 days” from all contracts. No invoices, no signatures, no check runs. As soon as the system verifies that services have been rendered and all conditions of the contract have been met, payment will immediately be authorized and funds sent via bank-to-bank transfer.

Blockchain technology automates the elements of a contractual agreement embedding trust in the transaction by isolating its elements from human interference. “The important thing to remember about Blockchains is that they make it harder for digital data to go rogue,” says Robbie Gonzalez, senior writer for Wired in the online video The Blockchain Explained.

Andrew Meola, a former financial reporter, writing in Business Insider article The growing list of applications and use cases of blockchain technology in business & life, cites uses of blockchain technology in regulatory compliance and audits, insurance, peer-to-peer transactions, supply chain management, healthcare, real estate, media, energy, record management, voting, taxes, and the list goes on. “The technological potential of blockchain is immense, and its uses will only grow with time,” states Meola.


Through its commitment to maintaining a sustainably profitable role in the market in the future, the Enterprise Alpha executive team pursued a multiyear effort to implement a full spectrum approach to digital technology. It now gathers, analyzes, and acts upon analysis of data to prevent downtime, improve safety, continue efforts to streamline processes, and elevate productivity. Operational costs were reduced by automating routine and repetitive processes which shifted the focus of the workforce to the performance of tasks that required human manipulation or intelligence and providing employees the support needed to make their efforts safer and more productive.

In the short term, Enterprise Alpha faces the challenge of amortizing the investment in the new technology through increased efficiencies and productivity. But as Enterprise Alpha approaches its breakeven point, it will see sustainable gains that competitors will be unable to achieve unless they go digital as well.

GC5This is where the story of digital technology typically ends. But there is more to a successful implementation then simply installing the technology. Adapting new technology to existing workflows may represent a problem and not produce optimal results if existing processes are not well-designed and efficient.

Therefore, to ensure operational excellence and to facilitate the implementation of digital technology, the Enterprise Alpha executive team made the wise choice of taking the year before implementing digital technology to work with Effective Managers, to fine-tune its workflows and management processes, including the authority and accountability framework, communications and feedback channels, and a complete overhaul of policies and procedures. Dwight Mihalicz, President and Founder of Effective Managers Inc., explains that an authority and accountability framework “enables clarity of delegation so that personnel are aware of their accountability and that their authority is consistent with the actions of others within the organization.”

It also upgraded its training program to ensure a solid connection between tasks, competencies, learning experiences, and evaluations. It migrated the development of training materials onto a digital platform and developed the ability to push lessons out over mobile IoT devices to ensure easy access by the workforce. In other words, Enterprise Alpha prepped the business for a major organizational, cultural, and operational overhaul. This ensured that the workforce was prepared and the new digital technologies were laid over a solid operational foundation, thus improving the chances for achieving a positive ROI from implementation and, ultimately, facilitating the potential development of new, more efficient operational models.

While Enterprise Alpha may represent a fictional operation with thousands of fictional employees, the products and services mentioned in this article are real and currently available. They have been included in this article not as a recommendation but to offer a starting place for research on the topics this article addresses. The fact that so many relevant products are currently on the market should serve as a strong indicator that the Digital Age with all its new technology is rapidly infiltrating the business community and society.

Humans will still be needed to plug the machines in and turn them on …

The Big Convergence brings together The Cloud, Big Data, Data Mining, Predictive and Prescriptive Analytics, Machine Learning, AI, IoT, human-assisted and autonomous RPA, and Blockchain while opening the door for other digital technologies not yet conceived. This presents both opportunities and challenges for business leaders, workers, and society. Many jobs that have existed since the Industrial Revolution will simply go away. New jobs will develop and others will evolve. But as Issac Asimov hinted in his 1964 prediction, the simple truth remains that while machines may run on their own, humans will still be needed to plug the machines in and turn them on.


In Crane, Ind., one of the most important arms of the government focuses on the production of ammunition and related products needed by the United States armed forces.

Crane Army Ammunition Activity (CAAA) is a critical operation within the military. It also is benefiting, like other areas of the military, from the implementation of Lean Six Sigma.

And, in the case of CAAA, women are leading the way.

Pyrotechnics and Lean Six Sigma

Lara Zilfaro is a chemical engineer who works for the CAAA as a pyrotechnics commodity manager. What that means, essentially, is that she oversees production of non-explosive devices such as visible light and infrared illumination candles, colored smoke, flares and delay elements, according to WBIW radio in Indiana.

They’re the sort of thing everyone has seen in military movies dozens of times, but probably never thought: “I wonder who makes those?”

CAAA does. And to better master the often-complicated business of producing these essential military products, Zilfaro earned a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt certification. She is among the first group of four people at CAAA to do so.

To earn a Black Belt, professionals must oversee successful Lean Six Sigma projects. Zilfaro decided to put her Lean Six Sigma education to work at CAAA.

Lean Six Sigma Projects

To earn her Black Belt certification, Zilfaro first addressed issues with zinc tanks at the CAAA facility. After applying Lean Six Sigma methodology, she created new operating procedures that cut down on the amount of chemicals needed in the process.

That move cut costs and resulted in higher quality in the zinc tanks. It also improved worker safety, requiring them to work with less chemicals and reducing the amount of hazardous waste generated.

In her second project, Zilfaro studied the effect of weather on the light tunnel used to test pyrotechnics. Her findings determined that some pyrotechnics were being deemed deficient due to weather conditions affecting the tunnel, not because they were actually deficient. The findings improved production and generated cost efficiency by cutting down on the waste of discarding perfectly fine pyrotechnics.

In Charge

Zilfaro eventually led the continuous process team for CAAA before becoming pyrotechnics commodity manager. Her success is remarkable by any measure. But it’s even more notable because of her gender.

In an area that had been dominated by men in the past, women such as Zilfaro are making their mark.

One notable recent example is Sabrina Butcher. An engineer who formerly worked in the automotive and railroad industries, Butcher now has her own consulting company. She specializes in applying Lean to make organizations more effective and efficient, particularly in the area of maximizing individual talent.

Another is Rose Heathcote, the first woman ever to become CEO of the Lean Institute Africa. She also is only the second woman to ever hold the CEO position at one of the 27 Lean Institutes around the world.

Dr. Renee Harris and Fancy Manton, a clinical supervisor in pharmacy, both used their Green Belts in Lean Six Sigma to improve operations at the Woman’s Hospital in Baton Rouge. The pair used Lean Six Sigma in a study on antibiotics resistance that led to more efficient processes and better patient outcomes at the hospital.

These examples show that Lean Six Sigma is not a “man’s world.” Women are assuming leadership positions in the methodology, and achieving remarkable success.

Using BPM to accelerate digital transformation


Although the idea of a digital transformation is no longer new for many organizations, it remains an elusive target for some. There are many reasons for this, but there is no doubt that more businesses than ever are seeking to achieve a state of full operational efficiency and effectiveness via digital transformation.


But what does digital transformation entail? An interesting definition provided by Agile Elephant states:

Digital transformation is the process of shifting your organization from a legacy approach to new ways of working and thinking using digital, social, mobile and emerging technologies. It involves a change in leadership, different thinking, the encouragement of innovation and new business models, incorporating digitization of assets and an increased use of technology to improve the experience of your organization’s employees, customers, suppliers, partners and stakeholder.


A digital transformation initiative touches many, if not all, aspects of an organization, from common business activities and processes to the way the organization develops models for its corporate ecosystem, as well as all associated assets: customers, sales automation, digital content generation, and more.


Effective and efficient business process management (BPM) practices and solutions are essential for achieving operational efficiency and business performance excellence and ensuring successful digital transformation initiatives. BPM is no longer an optional add-on but an important component of the digital transformation.


In “The Nine Elements of Digital Transformation,” George Westerman, Didier Bonnet, and Andrew McAfee describe a coherent and logical approach to digital transformation, placing its key attributes (items) in three main categories:

Transforming the customer experience via

  • Customer understanding
  • Top-Line growth
  • Customer touch points

Transforming operational processes via

  • Process digitization
  • Worker enablement
  • Performance management

Transforming business models via

  • Digitally modified businesses
  • New digital businesses
  • Digital globalization

Although the customer category plays a vital role in the digital transformation process, it is the second category, operational processes, which is largely responsible for procuring the moving pieces to make the initiative work. It is also this central category that consolidates all the elements of the digital transformation process, providing the elements for new and necessary business models come to life, and enabling them to be agile, efficient, and intelligent.


Embedding the BPM process in the digital era

Although many organizations have already achieved high levels of efficiency and control over their BPM practices, new business and IT developments are constantly arising, adding an additional level of complexity and forcing companies to frequently assess and update their BPM plans. Therefore, BPM practices need to be treated as continuous initiatives.


In the context of a digital transformation initiative, the adoption of a BPM system has three primary tasks:

  • address increasing complexity in business operations that drive organizations to continuously review, modify, and improve their processes;
  • address an increasing need for extensive collaboration, flexibility, and mobility to continuously improve business processes, reduce complexity, and increase collaboration between all parties, and
  • address the need to increase process interaction efficiency to improve relations with customers, partners, associates, and users, thereby ensuring effective communication, information sharing, and collaboration.


In the context of digital transformation, organizations can take advantage of BPM’s potential to use process management and automation practices and deliver specific benefits such as efficiency, effectiveness, and agility (i.e., the ability to quickly adapt to new business requirements).


Moreover, BPM can and should be used to directly support and influence customer experience efforts by streamlining the overall process, automating some tasks that can be done without customer interaction, and, most importantly, reducing friction and the time users need for process execution and operation.


This way, process and automation solutions can help put the customer at the center of the equation, making a clear impact on:

  • optimizing the costs of operation;
  • improving product, service, and delivery timelines and quality;
  • increasing personalization of processes; and
  • customer-centric decision making.


Of course, caution should be used when transforming challenges into opportunities. This includes, for example, avoiding BPM projects that are led solely by IT departments, looking instead to involve all the affected departments as well as upper management. This can make a BPM initiative truly business responsive and agile, whereas IT-led projects often become rigid and resistant to rapid change in favor of ensuring internal and technical compliance.


Transformational BPM, a call to action

The following six considerations for digital process agility can help organizations implement an effective business process and automation solution to work alongside a digital transformation initiative.


1.      Start small, but think big

BPM solutions should be part of a continuous digital transformation journey and should be permanent instruments for achieving progressive business and customer success, rather than a short-term project.


2.      Select the best-fit process management/automation solution

There are many solutions to choose from, but consider the software functions you need to achieve core digital transformation goals. Setting clear functional priorities that support your current and future digital transformation needs is essential.


3.      BPM solutions need to be flexible and mobile

Universal access is critical, from any device, such as a PC, tablet, or smartphone, as well as from any place and at any time. Cloud options can facilitate the adoption of BPM software offerings, especially those that with technical constraints. Many organizations can take advantage of subscription-based models or on-demand services to reduce their initial IT investment.


4.      Ensure continuous innovation

New BPM and automation initiatives need to ensure continuous improvement and innovation for both internal and external users, growing and evolving with them.


5.      Combine flexibility and simplification

An agile design mechanism might be needed to streamline process design, development, and deployment.


6.      Establish the foundation for a BPM Center of Excellence (CoE)

Establishing a BPM CoE or at least working towards its foundation can align the company’s process management and automation practices with the goal of continuously improving your existing BPM strategy or establishing a new one.


Working towards an efficient BPM practice can help ensure that an organization is operating in the most efficient and effective way possible.



Achieving process efficiency and agility in the digital era can be challenging, but it can also be a driving force in your company’s quest for digital transformation. By establishing a series of clear and well-established steps, aligning BPM practices to an overall digital transformation initiative can be vital for ensuring the sustainability and maximization of your digital business operations.

Kaizen Events for Serious, Fast Improvements

So let’s say that your business has a lot of issues that need fixing. So you may be considering having a Kaizen event. Well this is a great idea, because having a Kaizen event is the quickest way to improve processes that are sluggish, just as long as the improvements are within the scope of the participants of those particular processes.

An important note here is that Kaizen events are not a substitute or replacement for daily improvements.

A Kaizen event should be done if:

  • There is an immediate, urgent development that must be addressed.
  • This particular issue is affecting business and has a significant impact your business goals.
  • Staff and team members can be trained on Kaizen practices for immediate fast improvement.
  • The issue can be resolved within the time frame of the event.

The Rules of a Kaizen Event

A Kaizen event is more of a template and guideline for rapid improvement within a timeframe. So the timeframe is usually 3-5 days, but if you need less or more time, so be it.  The reason for placing a tight timeframe is complete focus. You want to tackle issues fast and furious for the immediate success of goals that you have addressed.

The planning stage of the event will dictate the success of the outcome. You should include which processes will be targeted for improvement. Make sure you include what methods you are using for measuring the baseline results.

Some of the essential things you need to do for the Kaizen event include:

  • Determine and document the current conditions.
  • State the particular improvements you want to make.
  • Use and test the selected improvements.
  • Measure and communicate the outcomes with the team.

Important Note: Continuous improvement should be a lifestyle as well as a mindset. When this mindset is achieved, there will never be a backlog of items to fix, a loss of production time, or a loss of revenue.

Give Your Elevator Speech a Lift

magine you run into a senior leader in your organization in the elevator or while walking down the hallway. The leader asks, “What are you working on?” You could say, “Oh, you know me, I’m keeping busy” or perhaps “I’m working on a few new projects” or even “I’m making great progress on my project working with [insert department name here].” While all of these responses support the small talk many of us partake in during chance encounters in the workplace, they would all represent missed opportunities to talk up your current project and potentially garner additional leadership support for your improvement work.

The elevator speech is, at its core, a tool for socializing the work (planned or in process) of your improvement project team. The term elevator speech refers to gaining unanticipated access to someone to whom you would like to sell an idea or proposal. Typically, the person to whom you gain access is an influencer. The influencer is typically an executive, leader or key stakeholder within your organization whose support of your improvement work would benefit the project. These benefits could come in the form of resource support, barrier removal, or the support of project communications and change management efforts.

An elevator speech done well should communicate the core elements of an improvement project and outline the need for change – all in 60 to 120 seconds.

The History of the Elevator Speech

Where did this concept of the elevator speech get its start? There is debate in the literature about the origins of the elevator speech. A few of the theories floating around about the history of the elevator speech include the following.

  • The elevator speech term grew out of the studio days of Hollywood where screenwriters would catch an unsuspecting movie executive in the elevator and give them their pitch for the next great film.
  • The term comes from the early days of the internet startup boom when entrepreneurs needed venture capital funding to get their businesses off the ground. Lore has it that the companies most likely to secure funding were those that had a simple pitch and could clearly explain their proposal. The elevator speech was born as a way for startups to stand out from the stacks of applications venture capital firms were reviewing for funding.
  • The elevator speech literally has its origins in the first sales pitch for emergency elevator brakes, an innovation developed by Elisha Otis who was the founder of the Otis Elevator Corporation. In 1852, Otis constructed an elevator in the middle of a conference hall, hoisted himself up, cut the cable and successfully demonstrated the function of the emergency breaks for elevators to the audience.
  • Quality control expert Philip Crosby, the author of The Art of Getting Your Own Sweet Way, believed that all quality improvement leaders should have an elevator speech prepared to share the benefits of their approach to quality should they find themselves in an elevator with an executive.

No matter which elevator speech origin story strikes a chord with you the common themes amongst them all stand out. A well-prepared elevator speech allows one to capitalize on the unexpected opportunity to pitch your project to an influencer in your organization in a concise and impactful way.

Building Blocks of an Elevator Speech

  1. Outline the need for change and its urgency.
  2. Clearly define the goals of the improvement project.
  3. Touch briefly on the types of stakeholders or departments involved in the work.
  4. Incorporate information on current project status or progress.
  5. Include details on why the project is important to you personally.
  6. Expand to include information on why the project is important to the organization more broadly.

Examples of Elevator Speeches

Example 1: Emergency Department Door-to-Doctor Time Improvement Project

Our average door-to-doctor time for patients seen in the emergency department (ED) at Community Hospital is 52 minutes, which is much higher than the benchmark performance of 30 minutes by peer hospitals. Additionally, there have been patient complaints regarding wait times in the ED; we have seen an increase in the number of patients who are leaving without being seen, increasing from 2.2 percent to 5.3 percent of visits in the past six months.

We are pulling together an interdisciplinary team with representation from ED physicians, nurses, and staff in addition to patient representatives with the goal of reducing our door-to-doctor time in the ED to an average 30 minutes or less.

This project is important to me because as a triage nurse I see the stressful impact of the wait times on patients and families every shift I work. Over 30,000 patients a year receive care in our ED and they come to our hospital when they are in need of urgent medical attention. I want to make sure they have an experience that matches the quality of care I know we provide.

This project aligns with Community Hospital’s focus on patient flow this fiscal year. The ED is an entry point to the hospital for many of our patients and making the initial touchpoint more efficient can help support broader patient flow initiatives.

Example 2: Surgical Specialty Clinic New Patient Access Improvement Project

The time from new patient referral to appointment with a surgical specialty physician at Community Medical Group is 29 days. Peer organizations providing similar levels of specialty care are providing access for new patient referrals within 14 days. We have examples of patients electing to receive care elsewhere due to the long wait times for an appointment and we are seeing low patient experience scores for access, which are currently averaging 46 percent satisfaction.

An improvement project team with representation from clinic stakeholders including scheduling, providers, nursing, clinic flow staff and the referral coordinator has kicked off a project with the goal of reducing the time from new patient referral to surgical specialty appointment to 23 days or less to begin moving us closer toward benchmark performance.

This project is important to me because as a surgeon I want to ensure that new patient referrals have timely access to being seen in our practice and assessed for potential surgical needs. I also want to ensure we are meeting the expectations of both our patients and our referring providers for timely access.

This project aligns with Community Medical Group’s strategic goal to reduce the time from new patient referral to specialist appointment to 23 days or less by the end of this year, which represents a reduction of about 10 percent from last year’s organization-wide performance of 26 days.

Development Tips for an Elevator Speech

  1. Keep it simple: Short and to the point is the key to success with your elevator speech. It can be tempting to try and include a lot of information about your improvement project because you and your team members are subject matter experts on the topic. After you draft your speech, review it, practice on a team member and challenge yourself to make it more concise.
  2. Watch out for the desire to include a solution: This is something to watch out for those initiating any DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) improvement effort. It may be tempting to share the problem and then propose how you may plan to solve it in your elevator speech. This is not advised, especially in instances when your project team has not yet made it to the Improve or Control steps.
  3. Do not jumble the speech with jargon: Steer clear of incorporating too many acronyms or references that your audience will not be familiar with. If you decide to incorporate an acronym or uncommon term make sure you define it so you do not leave people confused.
  4. Incorporate data: Being able to highlight a gap between current performance and the project goal using data can help to give your audience a clearer picture of the need for change and its urgency.
  5. Keep the goals within reach: It can be tempting to share with a leader that you are shooting for the moon because it sounds impressive. Work with your project team to set rational goals based on benchmarks and current state data, and incorporate these goals into your elevator speech.

When to Use an Elevator Speech

When should improvement leaders and project teams use an elevator speech? Early and often is the answer here. The elevator speech can be a powerful component of an improvement team’s communication plan.

Improvement leaders can consider incorporating the drafting of an elevator speech as a team activity in one of the initial project meetings after the project charter has been formalized. The elevator speech can provide a nice framework to open up discussion about the project topic and get team members thinking about how they would discuss their work on the project with others. Once the team has a draft of the elevator speech completed you can have team members test it out on each other and then assign homework for team members to test the speech out on peers and colleagues in their area to refine it.

One important note to share with improvement team members about the elevator speech is that it is not meant to be read word for word as if they are reading off a teleprompter. The aim is for team members to use the themes and facts incorporated in the draft team elevator speech and make it their own. Some of the most impactful elevator speeches arise out of staff personalizing the components of the elevator speech – focusing on why the project is important to them personally and for the company as a whole.

Next time you find yourself in an elevator with a senior leader from your organization, make the most of it by testing out your elevator speech using these tips. Do not be afraid to turn a chance encounter into an opportunity to drive engagement and support for your improvement efforts.

10 Challenges to Overcome when Deploying Lean Six Sigma in Pharmaceutical Sales and Marketing

Practitioners often hear these words while attempting to deploy Lean Six Sigma. While the phrase is sometimes viewed as an excuse to avoid change, in the case of the marketing and sales function within a pharmaceutical organization, it may hold some validity.

This article explores ten reasons why sales and marketing claim to be different in their implementation of Lean Six Sigma. In some instances, the organizations may be correct in their claim, and the deployment might require some flexibility and creativity to be successful. In other areas, they may really be no different than many other organizations. It is important for practitioners to understand what claims of difference are true and which are false so that they can blend traditional and special techniques to make Lean Six Sigma work in marketing and sales.

Fact or Fiction?

Following are the top 10 reasons why those deploying Lean Six Sigma in a pharmaceutical sales and marketing organization claim to be different.

1. It’s not clear who the customer is. A first step in any Lean Six Sigma implementation is determining who the customer is. Gathering voice of the customer and improving processes are all focused on improving the customer experience with the organization and its products and services. If practitioners don’t know who the customer is, they are blocked from the start.

In the pharmaceutical industry, it is clear who the consumer of the product is: the patient. But the healthcare provider (HCP) recommends the product to the patient and then writes the prescription for that product. The pharmacies actually purchase the product from the pharmaceutical (pharma) manufacturers. Then again, it is the insurance companies and other third-party payers who end up paying for the product. So, who is the Customer? Are they all customers? Who should practitioners gather voice of the customer from? Who should they market and sell to? Certainly it is easy to understand why pharma sales and marketing functions claim that they are different.

But this claim is only partially TRUE. For example, the manufacturers of food products market heavily to the public, yet it is the food chains that purchase the product from them. The consumer eats and pays for the product, so it is a little different than the pharmaceutical situation. While the model of a manufacturer trying to directly influence a consumer – even though intervening organizations are the manufacturer’s actual customer – is quite common, the big difference with pharma is who pays for the product. That additional level of complexity requires improvement activities to have a different focus than the traditional organization.

2. Measuring the impact of marketing and sales efforts is challenging. What is the effect of an advertising campaign? For that matter, what is the impact of a sales rep calling on a physician? Measuring this impact is difficult. If there is an impact, there will likely be a time lag between the sales call and the writing of a prescription for a patient. In addition, changes to multiple aspects of the sales and marketing efforts go on simultaneously, which adds to the difficulty of identifying the single factor that actually impacted sales. So this claim is TRUE – and highly relevant. But it does not preclude pharma sales and marketing from the use of Lean Six Sigma.

This challenge, however, does focus attention on the need for projects related to the metrics used to drive the business. One specific area of Lean Six Sigma that is pertinent is measurement system analysis. Measurement systems often are bottlenecks to improvement. Fixing and improving the measurement systems have, in some cases, identified that no improvement to the underlying process was necessary; by fixing the measurements, the so-called problem went away. As to the issue of multiple factors changing simultaneously, design of experiments can address this. A good example of the use of design of experiments in marketing was documented to substantially improve the effectiveness of an email campaign in selling products (Almquist and Wyner, 2001). The metrics are suspect, and many factors under the marketing and sales organization’s control are changing at the same time. But Lean Six Sigma can address these issues and improve the effectiveness of the organization.

3. The pharmaceutical industry is highly regulated. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees much of the activities of a pharma firm. Similar institutions oversee the pharma industries in other countries. This oversight tends to limit the opportunity for change, and especially affects which products can be sold, as well as the actual manufacturing processes. It also impacts sales and marketing. Limits and controls on the use of promotional items is just one area that demonstrates this impact. These limits make the claim of a valid distinction TRUE. But just as in the case above, this characteristic of the pharma industry does not preclude the changes that Lean Six Sigma can foster.

It does mean that practitioners must take more care to explore and identify which limits are real boundaries, and which are simply perceived to be boundaries, but can be safely ignored. This is similar to the telecommunications industry when it evolved from a monopoly to a competitive environment. One aspect of Lean Six Sigma is change management. This deals with the people-related issues of facilitating change. Thus, Lean Six Sigma offers a methodology to deal with this resistance to change.

4. Sales and marketing is not a process – it is all about relationships. Fully documented process maps and flows don’t exist in sales and marketing to the same extent as in manufacturing and other organizational entities. In fact, they might not exist at all. Lean Six Sigma is a fundamental departure from the traditional thinking of marketers because they often view what they do as a series of independent projects, built on relationships they develop with HCPs.

Then again, the most successful sales reps often are the ones who are organized and plan out what they are going to do on every sales call. They plan their days to maximize the value added to the HCP and to optimize their own time. Whether they realize it or not, these reps are using a process – they are doing more than simply showing up, handing out promotional items and being friendly. In addition, by developing a repeatable sales process, they are overcoming inefficiencies, thus leaving more time for creative work – which sales and marketing team members thrive on. Therefore, in this case, the claim of “we are different” is FALSE.

5. Gathering voice of the customer (VOC) can be restrictive and expensive. The FDA, along with other government agencies, is making it harder for pharma sales reps to call on HCPs. The FDA also greatly restricts the ability of pharma sales reps to directly market to or make contact with patients. While sales reps and marketing people can still gather VOC feedback and information from HCPs, they often have to pay an honorarium for this information. Sometimes small focus groups of HCP thought leaders are used to gather VOC of macro issues. Then a larger sample of HCPs is used to refine the VOC.

Because of all the restrictions and compliance issues, gathering VOC can be time consuming and costly. Therefore, pharma is indeed different when it comes to gathering VOC – making their claim of difference TRUE. This means sales and marketing teams must use greater efficiency, thought and care in laying out the design of the VOC data collection. Useful information can be gathered from patients, HCPs, payers and pharmacies, but it might require patience and creativity to reduce the time and cost of gathering the VOC.

6. Data is often unavailable and is discrete in nature. A good deal of quantitative data is recorded by the sales rep, including the number of sales calls for the day, or the time spent with the HCP or number of details delivered or whether second and third messages were given. While this data is useful for analysis, the key to understanding the process and improving it lies with the non-quantitative, or discrete, performance data.

This performance data measures how well the activities are performed, not just whether they were performed or not, and how people feel or react to sales reps, products, advertising and messages, which is more difficult to capture. But does the need for this data really set sales and marketing teams apart? No, this is FALSE. All organizations need to have a handle on how their people are performing. Just relying on gross sales or share of market numbers is not adequate to improve performance. Similarly, organizations need to identify those variables that impact sales or market share so that they can take improvement actions. Marketing needs to accurately know the impact and effect of their projects and actions – and faces the same challenges in collecting this information.

7. Decentralization presents challenges for improvement team efforts. In a plant or office environment, it is relatively easy to have frequent meetings for the team to work through Lean Six Sigma projects. Sales reps are decentralized, and pulling them from their field activities requires great commitment and flexibility. Many sales organizations are faced with a similar problem. They are reluctant to have team members travel to a central location to participate in improvement activities. The cost of travel coupled with the lost sales opportunities adds considerable expense to improvement team activities. Many organizations face this same situation, so a claim of difference is FALSE.

To combat this challenge, many decentralized sales organizations are using more creative approaches utilizing electronic meeting technology. And when face-to-face meetings are required to work through critical steps of an improvement project, some organizations design these meetings as full-day or multi-day events to minimize overall travel time and expenses.

8. Sales and marketing leadership view Lean Six Sigma as being only for manufacturing. If sales and marketing are indeed a series of processes and that all processes contain waste and that the removal of that waste can yield improvements, then it is clear that Lean Six Sigma is indeed applicable to sales and marketing. While many of the more powerful and rigorous statistical methods used in other parts of the organization may not always be appropriate for the sales and marketing function, there are plenty of basic tools, such as value stream mapping, cause and effect matrix, brainstorming, histograms, box plots and run charts, that can suffice for many of the projects that are done in sales and marketing. In situations where there is sufficient amounts of valid data, there is no reason that sales and marketing people can’t utilize the more advanced technical tools of both Lean and statistics. Their claim of a difference is FALSE.

9. Many external influences affect sales of prescription drugs. At a macro-economic level, factors such as disease prevalence, ability to pay for the drugs and governmental approval to sell a drug are just some of the issues to be dealt with. At a smaller scale, there are issues around subtle changes to the marketplace, such as no-call limitations, that distinguish the pharmaceutical marketing environment. In addition, there also is the issue that the writing of a prescription does not actually guarantee the sale of product. For example, individuals close to the border may choose to buy their medicine in another country for price reasons. Furthermore, cultural elements can impact sales, or at least the collection of sales data. For example, in Mexico a HCP can write a prescription for an erectile dysfunction drug. The patient, because of some perceived stigma, may get this filled over the counter in a local pharmacia where the actual sales information can not be captured by the company. Many organizations have recalls or “bad press,” which are external influences affecting sales. Is this a valid argument that sales and marketing in the pharmaceutical industry is different? No, this is FALSE. These influences do not prevent Lean Six Sigma from effectively identifying opportunities for improvement in sales and marketing efforts. As process-focused thinking spreads through organizations, opportunities to execute activities at a faster pace, with less waste, will naturally surface.

10. There are barriers to entry. The existence of patent protection as a key barrier to entry makes the pharma industry unique – this is TRUE. But these barriers can provide greater impetus to use Lean Six Sigma. One of the key characteristics of Lean is to identify opportunities to execute tasks and activities faster, and with less waste. So, the faster organizations can bring a product to market (including FDA approval), the more time they have to make use of the protection offered by a patent. The faster organizations can evaluate the effectiveness of a marketing campaign, the sooner they will be able to adjust and improve that same campaign. So, while patent protection does make the marketing of drugs unique, it actually makes it imperative that Lean Six Sigma be used to make the most of the protected period of time. Thus, the monopolistic opportunity afforded to sales and marketing in the pharma industry is unique.

Differences Can Be Overcome

Overall, some of the reasons given as to why sales and marketing are different in the pharmaceutical industry are valid. The metrics used to monitor performance definitely need attention. The oversight by the FDA (and others) creates a natural resistance to change that must be overcome. Gathering VOC is difficult, but can be done. And the unique importance of patent protection is real. While all of these characteristics of the business environment create a distinctive situation, they are amenable to the deployment of Lean Six Sigma to improve the speed and effectiveness of the processes and tasks undertaken in the sales and marketing function.

1. Almquist, Eric, and Gordon Wyner, 2001. Boost your marketing ROI with Experimental Design. Harvard Business Review, October, 2001.



In 2015, during a training exercise with the Republic of Korea, the United States Army 7th Transportation Brigade realized something important. One of their watercraft models – the “modular warping tug” – wasn’t performing up to standard. Specifically, the processes and procedures required to maintain the tugs weren’t efficient or effective enough.

That was a big issue because the modular warping tugs (also known as MWTs) were of critical importance. They created something called the Modular Causeway System – which is an impressive way of saying, “they created an on-demand bridge.” The MWTs, when functioning at full capacity, could create physical connections, or causeways, between ships to allow for easy supply movement.

However, because of inefficient maintenance processes, the MWTs weren’t always available when they were needed.

So, how’d they address these issues?

Systematically, of course. With Lean Six Sigma, following the proven methodology of DMAIC (define, measure, analyze, improve, control).

Step One: Define the Problem

The Army recognized that the MWT maintenance process could be improved, so… simply stated… they decided to improve it.

Step Two: Measure the Baseline for Current Processes and Procedures

The Army needed baseline measurements for three points of data…

  • Care of Supplies in Storage (what was the availability of all the supplies required to keep MWTs up and running?)
  • The MWTs’ operational readiness rates (when they needed the modular warping tugs, were they healthy enough for service?)
  • The Modular Causeway System’s availability rate (when they needed a quick bridge, was it available?)

Step Three: Analyze the Cause of the Issue

After studying the Care of Supplies in Storage, the operational readiness rates and the causeway system’s availability rate, the Army realized that two-thirds of their total MWTs needed to be functional at all times if they expected to meet their performance goals.

The MWTs had to be in use a lotand that didn’t leave much time for operational maintenance. That was bad, because when an MWT went down for maintenance, it was out of service for a long time.

Why was maintenance taking so long? Turns out, the parts and components needed to repair MWTs weren’t easy to come by. How were they solving this problem? They were using old, broken parts, which was hurting the performance (and overall lifespan) of the MWTs.

Step Four: Improve the Process

The Army found many ways to improve the lackluster performance of their MWTs, but the solution that stands out the most is also the simplest one.

Improve communication between the MTW operators and the organization who provides the repair parts. To do this, they proposed a “repair parts list.” Operators would update the list frequently, detailing out all the parts they needed, and those requests would be passed to suppliers.

Step Five: Control the Process

How’d they control their simple solution? With another simple process – regularly update the stockage lists for required parts.

This is a great reminder that solutions don’t have to be complicated or time consuming. Simple measures can often lead to significant outcomes.

The Results

Maintenance time went down for all MWTs. They were more readily available, and since their parts were newer and stronger, they also performed better too.

The projected savings are an estimated $33,000 – and as significant as that is, it’s another drop in the bucket for the Army’s longstanding history of Lean Six Sigma implementation. They know better than many organizations… if you cut out what’s unnecessary and simplify the complex, you can achieve monumental change.


Lean Six sigma JOB- Consultant – Business Process Transformation

Job Description

Required Skills:

1. Good ability to capture technical requirements and convert into technical specifications
2. Good ability to come with technical concepts and develop innovative solutions for Additive manufacturing
3. Analytical skills and scientific problem-solving experience is a must Cause effect relationship
4. Create CAD models and manufacturing drawings and application of GD&T
5. Experience in manufacturing industry with good understanding on Jigs, fixtures and tooling
6. Good understanding on conventional materials (plastics/Metals) and equivalent materials for AM
7. Experience in handling AM machines
8. Hands on experience in operating AM machines (Plastics/Metal)
9. Knowledge on post processing of finished parts
10. Knowledge on design verification and validation
11. Knowledge on engineering methods (DFMEA, six sigma)
12. Working experience in CAD tools Pro-E or UG

General Skills:
1. Excellent oral and written English is required, German language skills is an advantage.
2. Good presentation skills
3. Team player
4. Willing to take risks (in experimenting and penetrating in newer domains.

Salary: Not Disclosed by Recruiter
Industry: Automobile / Auto Anciliary / Auto Components
Functional Area: Engineering Design, R&D
Role Category: Engineering Design
Role: Technical Lead/Project Lead
Employment Type: Permanent Job, Full Time
Keyskills: additive, addtive manufacturing, 3D Printing


Lean Six sigma JOB- Assistant Manager

Job Description

Position Description:
The Position Holder is expected to audit and analyze calls to identify the compliance and improvement areas. S/He should be able to identify trends, deliver feedback and prepare reports weekly and monthly. The position holder is expected to run calibration with vendor and chalk out action plan accordingly.

Job Summary:
Identify issues and challenges, lead/facilitate improvement projects, measure and validate project results, and facilitate successful implementation of all facets of process improvements or changes identified
Execute a data-driven, statistical approach to problem solving, including gathering, analyzing and reporting data
Enable stable operations by defining appropriate metrics to gage processes performance and by deriving actionable insights
Drive Lean Six Sigma culture in the organization through various lean six sigma trainings
Presenting project analysis and findings to senior leadership to obtain the approval, funding and other requirements to resolve the issue


Experience in usage of Six Sigma Tools, viz., Process Mapping, FMEA, GAGE R&R, Process Capability, Cause Effect Analysis, Pareto Analysis, Correlation & Regression Analysis, Hypothesis Testing, Control Charts, etc
Excellent command over MS Visio, Excel, Word, PowerPoint etc.


Exceptional written, verbal communication skills.
Excellent presentation skills
Hands on Experience on Statistical tools Minitab
Report Management Skills

1 to 3 years experience in Green belt /Process Improvement Role
IT/ITes background

Graduate/MBA from preferably business related discipline.

Salary: INR 2,00,000 – 4,00,000 P.A.
Industry: Internet / Ecommerce
Functional Area: ITES, BPO, KPO, LPO, Customer Service, Operations
Role Category: Voice
Role: Associate/Senior Associate -(NonTechnical)
Employment Type: Permanent Job, Full Time

Lean Six Sigma, Excel, Operations, R, Process Improvement, Green Belt, Process Mapping, Pareto Analysis, Control Charts, Presentation Skills.

5 tips to create business processes teams will actually use

Business process management (BPM) can encourage and sustain process excellence when you make it more about people, and less about technology. Involve teams to create processes that are well-constructed, easy to follow, and encourage suggestions for improvement.

This is critical if your business process improvement efforts are going to be successful. Anyone can create business processes. Here are five ways to create business processes teams will actually use.

5 ways to create business processes teams will use

These tried and tested techniques have helped hundreds of organizations across the globe create and capture their business processes. Use them as a guide to create processes that are meaningful and more likely to be used by your teams:

1. Less is more

A good process map contains all the information you have at your disposal, right? Wrong. Traditionally processes have provided an end-to-end view of procedures, and usually include between nine and 12 decision points.

But decision diamonds multiply quickly and charts often become too complex to understand. They certainly can’t be absorbed by users in one glance. Many of us have first-hand experience using traditional process maps in tools like Visio, which often look like the dumping ground for a series of actions and tasks.

This visual shows the level of complexity many teams frequently run into:

Not surprisingly, these bloated processes are often ignored by teams. The reality is that process maps are just too busy when processes include every detail possible. They flood the user with information and drive teams to fall back on asking one another what steps to follow.

Generally, users only need to understand what happens most of the time – capture ‘the happy flow’ by including those tasks and activities that happen 80% of the time.

The exceptions that only happen 20% of the time still need to be captured and made available, but they aren’t key to what usually happens.

For instance, the process for filling an order for a hot drink could include the following:

Process maps become a lot simpler – and easy to follow – when you remove the exceptions, like needing to buy more milk:

2. Simplify your steps

Group tasks together under activities. It’s helpful to remember that activities are related to the key steps in your process, and tasks are related to how you perform an activity.

Start by writing down the ‘what’, sticking to those high-level activities that make up your process.

Then simplify your steps even further by grouping activities together that naturally fall under high-level categories. Where it makes sense, clump together tasks that form part of the main activity.

As an example, you’ll see the seven-step process for filling a hot drink order is easily simplified in three steps:

Teams find it best to limit high-level activities to a maximum of ten for each process. If you can’t restrict the number of activities to ten despite finding commonalities, it’s usually an indication that you may need to divide the process into sub-processes.

Next, add more detail to each activity by capturing how each one is performed.

For instance, the activity ‘make hot drinks’ includes four tasks: get the cups; add the coffee or tea; add boiling water; and add the milk.

3. Pay attention to exceptions

Once you’ve captured what happens most of the time, you can work with those tasks that happen the remaining 20% of the time.

Capture the exceptions as notes inside the activities, which include the ‘what if’ situations, business rules and background explanations.

For example, if you create a process for making a hot drink, an exception could be that the milk has expired. It may only happen 20% of the time so doesn’t need to be part of your key process, but it shouldn’t be ignored.

4. Start with an action word

Use verbs at the start of every process, activity and task to help users immediately understand what they need to do next.

Instead of a process that says ‘Sales orders’, start with a doing word: ‘Enter sales orders’.

For even more meaning, add descriptions to the activity. Avoid vague language and restrict yourself to 6-8 words per activity, so your activity reads like a clear instruction. For example: ‘Enter sales orders in Salesforce’.

5. Add related media

Images, illustrations, graphs and video clips can help bring processes to life. Documents like forms, guides and policies also make it easy for users to follow the process.

A good BPM tool should be an effective central repository for processes, and should house the relevant multi-media that updates dynamically. This gives organizations a single source of truth where teams will always find the most up-to-date processes.

Increase people engagement, drive ROI

There are a number of ways to engage your people in your BPM efforts. Up skilling them on how to create solid processes will get you off to a good start. It won’t take long to see the difference.

By implementing these tips, your teams are more likely to engage with and rely on your business processes every day. That’s key to creating and sustaining process excellence.