BPM in Times of Crisis


How a business can thrive during recession, with the help of Business Process Management!

“A true operational excellence leader should keep in mind that it is during a storm that many good things can happen!”

During times of severe financial uncertainty like today, it is cost-cutting -via major restructuring- that most executives see as the ultimate solution to surviving the economic crisis. When financial markets tumbled in the US back in 2008-2009, more or less drugging along the global economy as a whole, CEOs primary reaction (their top priority in business terms) was operational cost reductions (this includes headcount) and not initiatives to increase revenue for the business (Gartner Business Executive Survey, 2008).


The most obvious “cost-cutting opportunities” arise from the Balance Sheet itself. Yet, once headcount is reduced, travel and equipment expenses cut, office supplies minimized and budgets slaughtered, diminishing costs will have to be derived from less obvious sources, like initiatives to boost operational efficiency (or in other words, via streamlining processes). In fact, restructuring the business in an attempt to reduce costs will unavoidably cause big changes in the way business operates, resulting in major process redesign.


Interestingly, CIOs priorities seem to be very much aligned to those of chief execs and business leaders. In order of importance, CIOs consider the following to be top priorities for the business: business process improvement; enterprise cost reduction; improvement of workforce effectiveness; and attracting and retaining new customers (Gartner EXP WW CIO Survey, 2009).


For most businesses, “restructuring” brings to mind dreadful thoughts of major IT investments going down the drain. Not surprisingly, inertia and resistance arise, often obscuring great opportunities for operational improvement. Replacing existing infrastructure (and all the costs, sweat and effort that goes with it) is not at all a prerequisite for business restructuring and process transformation. It is behaviours that need to change, or what is often referred to as “organizational culture”.


A process-driven culture focuses on increasing awareness of end-to-end processes, to develop a thorough understanding of how the business as a whole operates. Identifying process areas that are not highly automated and focusing on the behaviours that will drive the proposed change is a good starting point for a BPM initiative during times of crisis. And again, in an effort to link all the above, the targeted process areas should be the ones that primarily deal with what top management considers as “top priorities”, so: cost restructuring, defending revenue and cash, employee effectiveness and efficiency, and customer satisfaction.


Surviving in such adverse financial conditions is no piece of cake for any business. But a true operational excellence leader should keep in mind that it is during a storm that many good things can happen! Everything is under question (especially old modus operandi) and resistance to change is lower than usual. For a business, targeting Operational Excellence in such difficult times -via BPM implementation- is a strategic move that can help it survive the storm and thrive out of it.