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Business Process Reverse Engineering…Where Do I Start?


I recently had the pleasure (yesterday as a matter of fact) to sit down with a new colleague of mine, Paul Riecks, that I respect greatly.  As Paul and I enjoyed a lunch of excellent sushi, we discussed many things.  But one thing stuck out to me, and I wanted to share it.  It’s something that, while not completely new to me, was a new way to look at and explain how and why to increase performance in the workplace, and not necessarily in the ways that most people think.  Thanks to Paul for the inspiration for this article!

Before we talk about the reverse engineering, we have to give a starting point.  Every company has service objectives.  That is to say that, internally and externally, there are certain objectives or goals that are established for how customers (employees count as internal customers) should be treated.  When was the last time that you looked at your own Service Objectives?  Have you ever created a Service Agreement?  Any time that you put a Service Agreement together (including employment agreements) you have Service Objectives that make up that agreement.  In Wikipedia (you can find the referenced article here) it states Service Level Objectives must be:

  • Attainable
  • Repeatable
  • Measurable
  • Understandable
  • Meaningful
  • Controllable
  • Affordable
  • Mutually Acceptable

This is where you want to start when thinking about how to improve your business.  As a Performance Consultant, this is one of the major components that I have to remember as well.  While your business may be running well today, how close would your customers say that you are to achieving your expected Service Objectives?  They may be happy with the customer service that they are getting and may even love your product/service, but how much of an advantage would you have if you were to be consistently meeting and exceeding your Service Objectives, not only from your perspective, but from your customer’s perspective as well?

So where does this start?  Ultimately, you need to find out what your customers think about your company, customer service, and product/service.  You may even want to specifically add in your documented Service Objectives to your research to determine if your customers believe that you are meeting them, and where there is room to improve.  Once you determine where you are in relation to where you want to be…you guessed it, you have discovered a gap.  Everything you do is for your customers, because without them you have no business, so with that in mind you can begin to move through your entire organization and assess and analyze each area and determine if what is being done adds value and moves the organization towards meeting those service objectives.  What you will probably find is that as you begin to “peel the onion” you will find layer upon layer where there is room for improvement, and one improvement will in some cases take care of or spark another.

So is this process only for customer service scenarios?  Absolutely not!  IT organizations can utilize this ideology (and many do) while working on IT projects.  You can check out ITtoolkit.com for an example of a scorecard that shows some of the Service Objectives commonly used in the IT world.  If you have ever wondered if your vision for the workplace is matching reality, this process can be used there as well to find out from the employees.  In the macro view if in any of these scenarios the Service Objectives are not being met then there are promises being made that are being broken and that will lead to unhappy customers, unhappy employees, and will ultimately hinder your business from reaching to exceed the boundaries of success.

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But how does this effect my bottom line?


Since I started my own business, I have been a student of one of the greatest institutions of learning possible…experience.  No matter how much you think that you know, you can always learn new things (I talked about this in the blog post “I don’t even know what I don’t know!).  One of the major things that I have been questioned on more than once recently is “How will what you do, and the services that you offer, effect my bottom line?  How does it help me?”  I can honestly say that when I hear these types of questions, I can’t help but stop for just a second and think to myself, “Really?!”  In the “Operations” world of senior leadership and management, everything needs to be quantifiable.  In other words, it needs to have some type of number that can be shown on a chart or graph, and generally should be indicating an increase of good things or a decrease of negative things.  This can be quite challenging when talking about Performance Consulting.

In many cases I have experienced that when you mention that you can increase engagement, job satisfaction, improve communications through all levels and job performance the first thing that you hear is “That’s great, but what will that do for my bottom line?”  With that in mind I want to talk a bit about qualitative vs quantitative data, and how the difference in data can eventually lead to customized solutions that can impact the bottom line.  This is for the business owners, CEO’s, COO’s, CFO’s, President’s, VP’s/SVP’s/EVP’s and every other leader and senior leader that has wondered this same thing.

Let’s say for just a moment that your business is running well.  Do you even think twice to see if there is room for improvement?  Or do you put assessments and evaluations on the backburner in favor of cranking out more product or selling more of whatever it is that you offer?  In most cases the thought of improvement happens when expectations and performance are not seeing eye-to-eye.  unfortunately the truth is that by that point you are already experiencing negative ramifications that will persist, even beyond the initial implementation of a solution.  But this can be stopped!  By simply having an evaluation done regularly (read quarterly, or at least bi-annually/annually) throughout the organization, you can identify challenges with your human capital and the processes that they complete every day and head them off before they begin to cause major detriment.

The first type of evaluation that can be done is qualitative.  This is going to be based on the feelings and impressions from the participants, from their perspective of reality.  This is extremely important because in most cases, their perception is their reality.  With a qualitative evaluation you can move pretty quickly and can find areas that may need to be focused on further.  That is where the quantitative evaluations come in.  They are based on numbers and can show how certain things are working in relation to, or are impacting, other factors.  This is where you begin to see the impact to the bottom line, and can better define what is working and what isn’t.  Be aware though that this will in most cases be a much more time and resource intensive process.  In some cases, you can combine these two types of measurement and have a blended approach that allows for the collection of multiple types of data at the same time.

The message here?  While as human beings, and especially as business people, we have become accustomed to the immediate gratification that so many things provide the key in this is to be patient.  Also, when thinking about having a Performance Consultant come in to assist your organization, understand that we don’t want to give you misinformation and promise you something that might not be right, so let us help find out where the improvement could happen, and THEN determine where and how that will impact your business.  Preferably, let us come in and do it PROACTIVELY before everything hits the fan and is dripping off of your eyelashes…it’s much less painful for both of us.