Saiful Nasir is the founder of the GPM (Green Process Management) concept and framework. A BPM consultant by trade, he has seen the potential of BPM to lead the environmental movement by helping organisations achieve both environmental and organisational sustainability through process management. For more information, please visit the GPM website: http://www.gpminstitute.org
2009 was seen as a fairly turbulent for most but towards the end year many kicked off major change programs focused on process transformation. How do you expect 2010 will unfold for the BPM industry generally?
Well, to best forecast the future for BPM in 2010, let’s try to understand the catalyst that brought process transformation into focus for many organisations. I usually sum up the three key catalysts for change by using the three G’s: The Global Financial Crisis (GFC), Green Issue and Governance.
Organisations had a major paradigm shift in their operating model due to the GFC, from growth mode to survival mode. Survival mode for most organisations involved strategies to retain market share, improve customer confidence and minimise losses. But organisations realised that the GFC was just another cycle, so although they were forced to develop strategies to survive, they also had to build the capability to recover and exploit opportunities created by the GFC. In essence, organisational sustainability was priority number one for organisations to ensure survival and build capability to recover after the financial crisis. And to add further pressure, business leaders had the mammoth task in achieving organisational sustainability with minimal capital, time constraints, increase public scrutiny and also an increase in government pressure.
Here is where BPM played an important part in achieving organisational sustainability. BPM gave leaders needed build capability to understand their business from both a macro and micro level in order to make decisions to exploit financial pain points and draw revenue or cost savings from all levels of the organisation. But the unique nature of an effective BPM strategic deployment meant that organisations became leaner and more efficient, ensuring they had the necessary agility to invest in opportunities that present themselves due to the GFC aftermath. In essence, process transformation has helped organisations become leaner and more agile through the course of GFC.
One of these opportunities brings me to my next point: the Green Issue. With global events such as the Copenhagen Climate Change forum creating awareness on man made environmental impacts, both governments and the public are placing pressure on organisations to “do the right thing” for the sake of the planet. Again, this is where the process transformation / BPM provides an advantage: Organisations with a view of their business processes can easily identify areas within their organisation affecting the environment. This can be achieved through incorporation of methods to capture environmental impact from all levels of their business processes, and over time organisations will be able to make focused decisions to reduce its impact on the environment. This is a great opportunity for the BPM industry – BPM concepts such as Outside In, Process Automation and Lean can now be applied into the field of environmental sustainability with relative ease, drawing on environmental benefits through identifying the key environmental pain points from both internal and external processes, better use of resources and waste minimisation.
And this is where the element of Governance comes into play: Organisations now face the task of complying with both financial and environmental reporting requirements introduced by both the GFC and the Green Issue. Organisations now have to ensure they build the capability to efficiently produce reports, build agility in their business to adapt to changes to reporting requirements, whilst still remaining profitable and sustainable. Measurements and metrics captured in business processes will help organisations produce both financial and environmental impact reports much more efficiently, and at the same time organisations will be able to use this information to help them focus on initiatives to reduce financial and environmental pressures in their business.
The BPM industry is in a unique position right now and poised for growth in 2010. Organisations in Australia such as the major banks, such as NAB and ANZ, have placed great importance in their internal BPM business units as it allows them to not only remain sustainable, but also allow them to exploit opportunities and also comply with government regulations. It is now up to us, the BPM community, to align our value propositions to the three G’s.
Do you expect clients to alter their BPM initiatives as a result of the downturn and concentrate on initial cost reduction first rather than full ROI or the need for BPM itself to support strategy?
To be honest, it all depends on their understanding of BPM, and most of the time it depends on the advice we (the BPM consultants) provide them. During times of crisis, organisations tend to be reactive and pick an option that addresses their need at that time, and based on actions from companies such as GM, cost reduction through downsizing seems to be a popular choice. It is then our responsibility to explain to our clients they would need to explore cost reduction, full ROI analysis and incorporation of BPM into their organisational strategy to achieve organisational sustainability in the long term.
Based on its key principle, cost reduction is a form of ROI. Revenue is generally used to maintain operational intensity and/or promote growth, so reduction in cost provides organisation the ability to invest into their organisation from accessibility to funds otherwise spent on non-value add processes. Although cost reduction does not translate into the full realisation of ROI, it does have the ability to introduce other concepts to help realise the full extent of ROI. Cost reduction introduces the concept of an agile operating model, lean business processes, process automation – all with a focus to reduce waste, introduce an efficient operating model, and adding value to business processes. This is where cost reduction does play an important role – organisations will look for low hanging fruit drawn out be cost reduction initiatives and effectively create a leaner organisation.
There is a misconception that cost reduction translates to downsizing – it is the responsibility of the BPM practitioner to market BPM as right-sizing rather than downsizing. The whole concept of continuous improvement is a form of right-sizing, where an organisation is constantly assessing its size relative to the value of their processes, its productivity gains relative to its size, and the value of their product / services in the eyes of customers. This can only be achieved if BPM was part of the organisational strategy, not just a support mechanism for organisational strategy. Without incorporating BPM into organisational strategy, organisations will continue to depend on cost reduction strategies to remain sustainable and never reach a level where they’re operating at an optimal operational capacity to both survive and recover from the downturn.
Organisations turn to us, the BPM community, for advice on the best approach for their organisation. There’s never one standard approach, but there’s one thing us BPM practitioner must advocate: BPM is designed to achieve quick results, whilst establishing the structure to continue realising these benefits for the long term
Tell me more ab
out GPM and your vision for it.
GPM stands for Green Process Management and I came up with the concept over a year ago. I saw that organisations were not quick to reduce their environmental impact , coming up with excuses such as it was detrimental to their organisational competitiveness, the high cost associated towards implementing environmental initiatives and the fact that its not one of their core business drivers. I wanted to ensure that organisations had a practical way to explore environmental sustainability whilst keeping the organisation profitable. Since most organisations understood the concept of management through business processes, I thought that expanding on this already proven strategy into the environmental field will help them overcome the major issues with environmental programs and initiatives I’ve outlined earlier.
My vision for GPM is simple: to introduce BPM concepts and methodologies to achieve both environmental and organisational sustainability. Keeping to the vision and objectives I outlined in the GPM manifesto, this concept will remain open source as I wanted to ensure that organisations can contribute and share ideas to add value to the GPM framework, establishing the first ever industry best practice in deploying an effective environmental sustainability initiative, and make it available for businesses to begin transitioning into a more environmentally sustainable organisation.
Ultimately, I would like to see GPM become an international standard and breed a new form of environmentalists: the Efficient Environmentalist. Long gone will be the days of environmentalists preaching on the doom and gloom due to lack of reducing environmental impact – the world will start exploring ways to make environmental sustainability more practical, more accessible and more realistic to achieve, and I plan to use BPM as the vehicle for this paradigm shift. And this will allow organisations to align themselves to existing standards such as the GHG protocols and LEED while ensuring their core business operates efficiently and profitably.
How does it differ from ‘traditional’ BPM values, do you see it as another supporting tranche of process improvement or something entirely different?
I’ve always pitched GPM as an extension of the core values instilled within BPM. It’s not designed to steer away from the core benefits of BPM such as achieving operational efficiency, adding value to business processes and introducing a continuous improvement mentality in organisational strategy. If anything, it’s adding an additional benefit to BPM – ability to achieve environmental targets through the implementation and constant improvement of environmental impact through the incorporation of environmental measurements and metrics to business processes. Ultimately, I want GPM to help environmental initiatives achieve the same ROI benefits as traditional BPM initiatives.
How has it been received in the wider community and with clients?
To be honest, the practice of using BPM as a vehicle to achieve environmental sustainability is not new. Companies such as Nestle have achieved great success in reducing their environmental impact by understanding their operations from a process viewpoint. In one of their initiatives, Nestle managed to achieve a reduction of approximately 840 tonnes of green house gasses annually just from understanding their industrial refrigeration process and changing the logic of their compressors to achieve optimal operating level.
This is the key for GPM and it has been well accepted by the wider community and clients in general. The fact that GPM is focused on using BPM as a vehicle has proven to be a major advantage, since the concept of continuous process improvement continues to be an acceptable business strategy. Since GPM is just an extension of BPM initiatives, organisations see it as a fairly simple transition that benefits them on both the environmental and efficiency front.
The open source nature of GPM has also helped its attractiveness significantly – it breaks down the whole “silo effect”, where organisations tend to keep their environmental strategies to themselves, and adds a level of transparency the wider community has embraced openly. Many were concerned with the scope of GPM, but we are developing strategies to develop focused GPM implementation (e.g. specific to industries) and this has been accepted by many different industry leaders.
GPM looks at including consumables within a process for improvement opportunities, how do you counter resistance from clients to adding further measurements and analysis for ‘quick wins’?
There’s no quick answer for this. But one thing is clear: clients make judgement based on proven concepts that are both technically and financially feasible. Hence the choice to align environmental initiatives to BPM – where over the years, the whole concept of “You can only manage something you can measure” has been pinnacle to the success of BPM. Changing to energy saving light bulbs does have benefits to the environment, but the question is how much is that benefit? How can you say your environmental initiatives have impacted your organisation if you don’t have a measurement on your state prior to and after the deployment of your environmental initiative? And there’s only so many light bulbs you can change – what’s next? How do you ensure you continuously reduce your environmental impact?
Most organisations have measurements and metrics in place to measure efficiency, productivity and performance. GPM is just an extension of this and the benefits of measuring environmental impact outweigh the consequences of not doing so. Government regulation on environmental reporting is one element of this driver as organisations could face punitive damages for not complying with environmental reporting requirements set out by the Government. But GPM wasn’t intended to be a reactionary strategy – it was designed to not only meet governmental reporting requirements, but to also gain benefit from the efficiency and increase in productivity from the BPM side. Let’s say you transition to an e-form platform due to the efficiency gains through process automation and reduction in manual processing of forms. This is a prime example of how a BPM initiative translated toward environmental benefits – a reduction in manual processing meant a reduction in consumption of paper and also the logistics of transporting the paper and storing it. If environmental measures were in-built into an organisation’s processes, the impact of this move can be measured and reported on, which addresses both government requirements as well as additional marketing possibilities for the organisation. This is one example of how a BPM initiative had a positive impact to both the environment and also to the organisation’s ability to differentiate themselves from their competitors. But how would you know the full extent of the impact if you don’t measure it?
The GPM framework could easily go down the path of convincing clients the need for the additional measures by outlining the penalties and consequences of not complying to government requirements. But we’re here to ensure that organisations implement efficient and value added environmental initiative, to ensure that their organisational sustainability is also addressed, rather than just investing on deploying environmental initiatives without understanding its full impact on their organisation.
And a key thing to remember is that GPM is open sourced and also aimed to be developed based on a collaborative effort with industry leaders. This will hopefully reduce the resistance from clients to add further environmental measurements and analysis into their business processes, and gain the recognition from both th
e business and
environmental communities on their efforts.
What’s the next big step you’d like to see in BPM?
One word: Simplification. For a field of knowledge aimed at achieving efficiency and increase in productivity, the tools and strategies under the BPM umbrella hasn’t been very efficient. BPMN 2.0 was a testament to this where it became overly technical, hence losing its greatest audience: decision makers. In times where organisations are working on limited time, limited capital and limited flexibility, BPM should start looking at ways to developed focused strategies for different industries, to ensure “relevant” implementation BPM strategies that will deliver results much more efficiently and more focused.
I admit that process automation has changed the way we work for the better, but as a result BPM initiatives tend to be heavily IT focused. What is the impact? Well, leaders tend to take significantly longer to make decisions to deploy BPM based projects, just because they don’t fully understand the information presented to them. Many can argue that BPM education for managers and leaders would help address this issue, but I see that as a longer term strategy. Talking in the “now”, BPM should start focusing on the audience and ensuring that the audience can draw a conclusion and a decision much more efficiently.
When can we get our hands on the BOK?
That’s a great question Theo. I just want to remind people that the vision, goals and objectives has been defined in the GPM Manifesto, and a basic structure of the document has commenced. At this stage, it has been developed by a group of dedicated and passionate people within the GPM community and me. But as I mentioned before, the aim is for collaboration and right now we’re inviting both the environmental and BPM communities to express interest if they would like to contribute to the BOK. The board has agreed that we are accepting Letter of Intent from organisations and individuals looking to contribute to the GPM BOK, and we will be commencing the first stage of developments in Q3 of 2010.
Finally, what next for Saiful Nasir?
Like many around this time of the year, I have a few new years resolution this year. Apart from reducing my waistline, taking up photography more avidly, plant more in my veggie patch, and spending time with my family, I would really like to take GPM into the next stage: the establishment of a not for profit organisation called the GPM Institute. We’re at the stage where we’re getting the legal documents finalised, and once that’s confirmed we will be running with all hands on deck. I would like to also contribute more to the BPM community and meeting people like yourself Theo has inspired me even more. If anything, this is a year of giving back, and I truly believe 2010 is the year for me to achieve this.