Business Processes

Business processes have been around since the beginning of commercial and administrative activity.  In the past they were often handed down by word of mouth as the employee’s slow progression up the organisation’s hierarchy took place, with each move involving learning a simple  sequence of steps, then more steps and finally links to a greater range of related and probably equally informal processes.  This informality is no longer tenable in even the most forgiving of organisational environments.

What has changed?
Work study and clerical work improvement schemes came into their own in the years after the Second World War.  The vast expansion of industrial and commercial activity together with the profound changes in social norms meant that hitherto traditional practices had to be more formally recorded.  The mechanistic work study analyses techniques of MTM (Measured Time & Movement) and CWIP (Clerical Work Improvement Programmes) were effective in establishing norms to bring every process into range of standard performance.  They had a negative impact engendering opposition to a “big brother” managerial intrusion.  Typified years earlier by Charlie Chaplin’s epic “Modern Times” in 1936

Evolution continued and BPR (Business Process Re-engineering) techniques of critical analysis became preferred, although in many cases the “re” was a misnomer because there was not much information on the record of what the processes were.  However, it did begin to focus minds on the essential outputs required of the process and sometimes produced major changes of business direction, as described in books such as Hammer & Champy - Reengineering the Corporation in 1993.

This understanding, when allied to the powers of IT & the INTERNET, created disruptive innovations that revolutionised many business sectors.  The above book is full of examples.  Ryan Air and Amazon owe their existence and success to being able to innovate on how traditional activities such as selling a book or an airline seat are done.

My experience reflects this historical understanding, but is firmly focused on the needs of modern business to embrace efficiency and to comply with quality and HSE regulation.  Much of my work has been around processes needed by engineering as the main or supporting activity of a business.

I need to be involved with the staff that use the process as much as possible.  They have considerable implicit knowledge and they have to be able to accept the final result.  But lack of availability of key staff and ingrained, zero value-added practices often need to be overcome by developing a “straw man” and managing the debate that it creates.  This I have done frequently.  So our final documented processes are:

  • acceptable to the staff,
  • meet the efficiency increase required by management
  • and the quality required by customers and any regulatory framework that applies.

Documentation requiring to be produced will be a procedure, forms, data screen entry masks for configurable software and some illustrative process maps.