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Agile business process transformation risks and challenges

In this blog, we identify some key challenges of business process transformation towards an agile and lean techniques. We only focus on some key factors as we find them most abundant in IT Organizations we encounter. There are several risk factors that are specific to business model within the industry that the company is in. In this blog, we do not examine each risk factor but rather point out a need of a skilled coach that will minimize the risks that are known as well as the risks that may be hidden beneath i.e.    the cultural work environment.

Business processes change

Business process develop and change over time. Most often these processes evolve to meet customer demand. The environment that a certain business process operates in changes overtime. The change may cause the business process to become inefficient. Proper analysis of business processes can identify inefficiencies and lead to correction that lowers any risks and maximizes value creation.

Agile business processes enable the company to be flexible and efficient at the same time.     Agile Manifesto seeks alternatives to traditional work. Agile techniques help teams respond to unpredictability through small, iterative rhythm of work and empirical feedback.

Designing business processes for agility

Every re-design of business processes affects many functions of the company, such as supply chain, procurement, production, HR, sales, etc. Designing business processes to enhance agility of your organization is the biggest challenge. Below are few factors that should be identified to design business processes for sustainable agility:

Design team structure

Teams for business process re-design are difficult to form. The team must include individuals with various backgrounds to be efficient and capable of true transformation. It should include business analyst, process modeler, business architect and key stakeholders such as customers and coaches. The key to success in implementing agile business process is to involve agile coach(s) that will help to minimize the overhead and simply process with agile techniques.

Usually teams are assembled for a short period until the goal is achieved. Choosing the owner in an early stage of designing will ensure smooth implementation of the designed processes.           The owner should be senior person that knows the overall process architecture of the company and has enough influence to deliver the re-designed processes as planned.

Choosing ITSM methodology such as ITIL

Early focus on IT service management methodology will ensure strong foundation for how the company runs. We strongly recommend designing business process with ITIL because this set of best practices focuses on aligning IT services with the value creation for the business and allows a flexible implementation of agile and lean techniques wherever they fit individual teams.

ITIL (IT Information Library) describes processes, procedures, tasks, and checklists which are not organization-specific, but can be applied by an organization for establishing integration with the organization’s strategy, delivering value, and maintaining a minimum level of competency.                        It allows the organization to establish a baseline from which it can plan, implement, and measure.          It is used to demonstrate compliance and to measure improvement.

Tools

Business process designing requires common toolset so the work is produced efficiently and little if any overhead is required to share the design documents and enable quick implementation that is scalable and flexible for any future modifications. There is number of available Business Process Modeling tools that should integrate with your organization process flows.                            We recommend diligent analysis to be performed before choosing a toolset. However, there are few initial requirements that should be verified such as:

  • Intuitive interface for Business Process Analysis and Modeling
  • Ability to import existing process documents
  • Online availability of data and documents for collaboration
  • Evaluation of processes through simulation
  • Scalability and True Cost of Ownership
  • Visual representation of data with ad-hoc report sorting/filtering flexibility

Tools enable teams to smoothly move the work through processes and functions of large or small organization while keeping stakeholders informed but not overloaded with information. Set of best practices chosen by the company usually can be easily integrated in most modern-day process software. It takes time to select proper tool and implement it, but the starting point as mentioned earlier is to identify key requirements that must be met.

Agile best practices wish list

All organizations want to become Agile. Agile Manifesto initially created for software developer community is being extended into non-software-development work environments with success.

Agile Manifesto:                                                                                                                 February 11-13, 2001 Utah, USA

“…we have come to value:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools,

Working software over comprehensive documentation,

Customer collaboration over contract negotiation,

Responding to change over following a plan.”

 

We like to remind our clients that being agile means being flexible and creating value every day.             To be agile an organization should enable its employees to pull work through every process or function with least amount of force required. Any procedural overhead must be kept to a minimum or outsourced. Ideally it should be the team’s decision what overhead they will take on and what should be re-assigned elsewhere.

Teams incorporate agile techniques slowly. Learning rate depends on their experience and coaching.      It is wise to involve professional coaches to ensure progress and best practice evolution. In the beginning a team may only choose limited amount of agile best practices and then mature towards using Kanban or Scrum methods.

Operations can utilize agile best practices, too. IT Operations resemble dynamic work environment that requires constant flow of work to be passed from shift to shift in geographically distributed environments. Agile best practices are also practiced in those work environments with success.

Agile business process culture

It is important to mention that agile business processes enable the work environment culture to become collaborative and focused on business value creation. Camaraderie among team members always rises due to increased interactions. Managers can focus on resolving blockers and work on new business ideas instead of keep re-assigning work. People are freed to focus on work that creates value for the customers rather than on procedural overhead. New culture transcends throughout the organization.

Agility creates a mind-shift for all stakeholders. It is possible that in some organizations project plans have been created with customers and then few months into the project customers have changed their mind on priorities. Such scenario is a disaster for non-agile techniques.

Agile culture enforces breaking down requirements to small manageable tasks that can be bundled together to create value. Small tasks are much easier to manage. In agile practices, any blockers are quickly addressed and discussed during daily standup meetings.

Agile business process culture is founded on the bases of human face-to-face interaction as it is quickest way to resolve any problems. With agile culture department or team barriers disappear and employees are free to pull work through process or function across the entire organization to get the job done.     This is precisely the beauty of agile business process culture.

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