Involve Employees

By eweek  |  Posted 2004-03-26 Print this article Print

As with any new technology initiative, make sure your people understand what youre trying to accomplish. Given the potential for disruption and layoffs inherent in any effort to rationalize business processes—witness the wrenching effects of the Business Process Reengineering of the early and mid-1990s—staffers may worry that any attempt to model processes could have similar effects. They have cause for concern. At its most effective, modeling can make it easier to automate certain functions and outsource others, both of which could lead to fewer local jobs.
AMRs Austvold admits that modeling can lay the groundwork for further "right-sizing," but "not nearly of the same magnitude that we saw in the 1990s. Most organizations are running pretty thin as it is."
To stave off uneasiness and win support for the initiative, META Group Inc. research analyst Robert Handler says its imperative to involve employees in the modeling process. "In order to make modeling really work, you have to implement some positive improvement, and make people feel part of the process change." Its also important, he says, to foster good communication between IT and the business units in order to make sure everyone is on the same page. "When it comes to process work, the business people tend to be a lot more tolerant of ambiguity than the IT folks," he says.

Modeling can also ensure that the skills of your best people are put to use most effectively. According to H-Ps Francis, incorporating employee skills is now a key focus of process modeling at H-P. Not having that information compiled before the merger, Francis says, created problems when the merger was complete, because managers no longer had a good handle on their employees abilities. "Had that information been integrated at the time of the merger, it would have accelerated a lot of decision-making," he says. "It took some time to reconnect the dots afterward."

Basic modeling tools arent very costly, but they can cause some expensive headaches. Be wary of "modelitis"—a syndrome where people model everything they see. METAs Handler says this is a common problem that can cause serious cultural friction: "You take people away from their jobs to find out what they do, but you dont do anything with that information."

Handler relates the story of a corporation based in Washington state that embarked on an ill-fated enterprise-wide modeling initiative: The company spent two years and $20 million to create process models, but never set guidelines for how the modeling should be done—guidelines such as which programs to use and who to include in the process. The result was a conference room full of displays, like a grade-school science fair, with no way to tie them all together. "Two years and $20 million later," he says, "and youve got a bunch of models that are useless."

Tell your line managers:

  • We need to include your staff members in this project.

    Tell your human resources department:

  • Lets identify our best people so we can make the best use of their skills.

    Tell your IT department:

  • We need to ensure our efforts dont diverge from the companys business goals.

    Next Page: Process efficiency is a never-ending journey.


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