Simplify your Business Processes with Operational Products

November 28, 2018 Sebastian Barnes

Companies are complicated. It doesn’t matter the size of your business. The business processes powering your corporate engine, and the underlying technology solutions supporting it, will undoubtedly get more complex over time.

There always seems to be an exception, and then another one, or and a dire need to get a change implemented quickly at the cost of quality. It doesn’t matter if you start out with the best intentions or set up guardrails to manage expectations to keep your processes and systems simple. It goes without saying, unchecked business process and system complexity can become a nightmare, making it harder to maintain and grow technology investments, and encourage user adoption.

How to overcome the complexity 
Why do we let critical business processes and supporting technology solutions get this way? 

Simply put, because of people. It doesn’t matter if you are a startup or a multi-million (or billion) dollar company — people tend to complicate things. 

A person may have a simple daily process they understand and trust, but when more people are added to the equation, a set of rules is required to meet the group’s goals. The larger the team, the more complicated these rules get. And if multiple teams work in tandem with multiple objectives, the fight against complications and complexity can seem futile.

But it doesn’t have to be impossible. By investing in your organizational strategy, (the sum of actions and interactions a company takes to achieve long-term goals), your organization can achieve its individual and group goals. But the magic happens when teams are aligned for productive, engaging work. 

The organizational engine
Imagine an organization as an engine; it contains many moving parts that work together to drive the vehicle forward. The engine’s design is a company’s organizational strategy. But how all the moving parts work together is your organizational alignment.

Conceptually, alignment models can be simple. Team A begins a process, Team B depends on Team A in order to start theirs, and Team C completes the process — like the traditional Quote-to-Cash process found in most product- and service-based companies. 

But what if there are too many owners demanding changes — or worse, a lack of ownership? This puts us back where we started with overly complex business processes and underlying technology solutions. 

Is there an approach we can use to manage this chaos? 
Yes, we shouldn’t treat our business processes like business processes or as a series of steps to get something done. This mindset is dangerous because how we get something done will devolve and change over time, resulting in even more complexity.

Everything is operational
So, how should we treat our business processes? 

We should treat them like Operational Products, or an operational need supported by business and technology solutions.

A business process needs eight tenets in order to be maintained, executed, and evolve. The alternative is unnecessary complexity and ineffectiveness. A business process needs:

  1. A clear goal or objective of what it will and will not achieve.
  2. A Business and Technology Owner — someone who can manage the evolution and adoption.
  3. A superuser and advocate community - an engaged group of productive employees who are excited by the technology that run their operations.
  4. A catalog of business processes, activities, technology platforms, and/or components
  5. A catalog of the skills and efforts needed to support, maintain, and improve the product.
  6. A catalog of work types needed to support, maintain, and improve the product.
  7. Registries that enable assessment of inherited inefficiencies (risk) and ongoing product dysfunction (defects).
  8. A time-bound view (roadmap) of current and future planned investments to support, maintain, and improve the product.

Any enterprise-wide business process can be simplified and made more effective by applying Operational Products. Let’s examine a real-world example. If your company uses enterprise quoting, you’ve likely experienced challenges and friction that blocked effective collaboration across multiple functional areas. Depending on how your organization is structured, your Configure-Price-Quote capabilities may be enabled by your CRM or ERP systems and Sales, Services, and Finance (and possibly Marketing) often engage in highly iterative activities. 

Now, start applying the eight tenets defined above and see how many friction points and platform challenges will be resolved by this framework.

Yes, it can be that simple.

Operational Products and its supporting methodology fall under Appirio’s Center of Excellence service. To learn more about Appirio’s thought leadership beyond strategy offerings and cloud implementations, check out our Appirio Blog.

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