Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What makes Sammy run?

By: Frank Buytendijk, chief marketing officer

The world of business processes is new to me. I've spent most of my career in the world of data, "business intelligence" to be precise. However, it strikes me that both worlds suffer from the same issue: the lack of a human perspective.

As much as the world of data is dominated by data analysis, performance indicators and reporting, the world of process is full of workflows, business process optimization and business rules. How to tell a story or how to relate to all the beautiful concepts if it is hard to see what this means from a people point of view? How new business processes or new systems affect the behavior of people?

One of the most important lessons I took from the research for my book Performance Leadership is that human behavior is not a "soft factor", in fact it is the most tangible performance driver of all. People do things or they don't. I can't describe "productivity" more concise than that.

In my mind, the most important question that needs to be answered when working on your business processes is "what makes Sammy run?". What motivates people to do a good job?

I started to understand the impact that the Be Informed business process platform can have on an organization when I was reading Dan Pink's "Drive". In this book he describes the three factors that motivate people in performing cognitive tasks (like in business processes). These factor are autonomy, mastery and purpose. Autonomy means that people get to make their own decisions, being able to do the right thing. Mastery means they can become experts in their field, for instance in handling complex claims in an insurance company, or guide complex permit cases in public sector. Lastly, purpose means that people know why they are doing what they do, what customer or citizen value they produce. This is what makes people happy and productive in their work. (Did you notice that salary and bonus are not one of them?)

How stark the contrast with the common business process, where the only mastery that is offered is knowing how to navigate the hundreds of screens in the various systems. Where the purpose is to simply process a number of transactions per day, where autonomy means you get to decide whether you take your lunch break at 12 or 12.30. And the more we talk about business process optimization, the more we forget about the human perspective.

I think what Be Informed truly offers in terms of breakthrough performance is not only 50% less costs, or double the percentage of straight-through transactions, or  speeding up the time to change a process from 9 months to 3 days. The true breakthrough performance comes from defining a business process where people get to decide how to go through a business process based on the conversation they have with the customer, or figuring out the correct interpretation of complex regulations. Or figuring out that a process is not something to follow blindly and hope it leads to the right result, but that it starts with the end in mind: what is the desired result, and how do I put together the right steps in order to get to that result.

And if you'd like to translate that into hard-boiled business results: these are the main drivers for cost, quality and speed.

This is what, in my view, Be Informed stands for.