Making sense of the business process maze

Other Canadian municipalities might want to apply what the City of Calgary just learned — that if you want to get out of a hole, stop digging.

Calgary’s change management team was waist deep “in the vortex of despair,” but looked to process modeling to consolidate the disparate networks that supply essential city services, according to Wendy Nadon, a business process consultant working for the city.

Nadon was on hand along with other representatives from Calgary at IDS Sheer’s ProcessWorld 2006 conference in Miami last month to discuss a new time and attendance management system based on the Human Capital Management suite by PeopleSoft (now Oracle) that went live on Jan. 1.

IDS Scheer’s Aris tool had already proven its worth before the attendance project when there was a push to automate a cheque generation process. Nadon said by modeling the process with Aris they found the portion targeted for automation only accounted for three per cent of the cost of the process. The problem lay elsewhere. “If we had just automated this without looking at what was really being done, we would have actually made the situation much worse,” Nadon said.

The lessons learned were, before implementing any software solution, know what you want to change, the way you want to change it to, and why.

It’s an approach Stephanie Logan applied to the time management system redesign. As Calgary’s municipal change management team lead, Logan said another key was getting buy-in from each of the managers. It was their business processes that would be impacted by the new system, and having them formally sign off on the proposed model and changes before implementation began was vital.

Logan said the city’s 31 different business units are extremely siloed, with many of the managers feeling like they are their own businesses. There were also 16 different collective bargaining agreements to contend with.

“If we hadn’t done process modeling up front we wouldn’t have identified these problems until late in the game,” said Logan. Rather than modify the technology to fit the existing business processes, Logan said that, as much as possible, the processes were modified to keep the implementation “as vanilla as possible.”

Throughout design, development and implementation process, Logan said Aris provided a solid foundation for decision making, communications and training. Showing a manager a model of the proposed process changes made it much easier to get approval, she said.

“The process model provided us with a blueprint for the changes [we wanted to make],” Logan said.

A Calgary-based IDS Scheer partner, Kogawa Consulting, helped the city through the modeling and training process. Don King, a principal with Kogawa said that, when going through any process change exercise, people are often leery about what it will mean for them. It’s important to remember that behind the process models there are people and they need to be brought on board.

“If you don’t…they get the impression that you don’t really care about them and it makes it that much more difficult to implement and make it work,’” King said. “If you handle it sensitively with the people that are in the room, usually you can come out with a win-win solution.”

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
As an assistant editor at IT World Canada, Jeff Jedras contributes primarily to CDN and, covering the reseller channel and the small and medium-sized business space.

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