Business managers responsible for improving their company’s business processes can have trouble getting the knowledge they need from existing literature.

Academic textbooks like James Chang's Business Process Management Systems introduce business students to the underlying principles. There is no shortage of books that focus on specific themes, like Robert Damelio's The Basics of Process Mapping.  On the other end are pocket guides, like the Harvard Business School Press's Improving Business Processes, which provide a quick overview but are short on details.

Theodore Panagacos' The Ultimate Guide to Business Process Management fills the important middle ground. A former management consultant with Booz and Co. who spent ten years on the front lines of business consulting, he offers "step by step details on how to improve your culture, enforce governance and standards, and invest in the right technologies to help manage your business more effectively." The goal of the book is to give readers the skills to analyze the structure and method companies use to deliver products or services and assess their relative efficiency.

The focus is on practical ways to build a company's "process culture." One chapter helps readers identify how advanced business processes are at their companies. At the lowest levels, for example, BPM is taught by individuals, rather than staff trainers. BPM methodologies are not formally recognized or integrated into job descriptions. Staff don't have access to any BPM software tools and process management is led by individuals rather than institutionalized across the enterprise. Few processes are documented, employees don't feel they have ownership of them, and there is no methodology for improving those processes. The book then goes on to show how to set up a measurement system that identifies weaknesses in training, skill and experience.

The book also catalogs some of the basic manager mistakes for business process management initiatives many readers will recognize:

  • Not getting executive endorsements from executive sponsors, top management, or steering groups
  • Not establishing a business case that helps articulate the benefits, expense and measurements of success
  • Not investing in staff who have the necessary business process knowledge and experience
  • Not setting up the reports and status updates necessary to keep senior managers and team members apprised of progress
  • Not appointing process stewards responsible for making sure the business process model is enforced at individual business units
  • Not developing defined measurements of success that allows managers to compare costs and benefits
  • Not developing a roadmap with implementation timelines that helps align the business process initiative with the organization's other goals

The book warns against having business process initiatives led exclusively by IT. Although IT can help, it suggests that employees who actually complete the work of the business should be empowered to drive process improvements.

Panagacos's guide won't resolve your business process issues overnight, but it should help get you started and help you avoid some common pitfalls.

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