Interim Executive Resources

The Consultant’s Role In Business Process Management

A consultant is a professional adviser to a business. Consultants give advice about aspects of running a business on subjects like inventory control, business performance & finance, accounting, sales & marketing, the integration of technology, legal aspect of business and business process management, amongst other things.  Some consultants are generalists and have a broad business background, while some are more specific in nature, bringing deep expertise on a narrower set of topics.  A consultant’s role is of great importance and must be matched to the needs of the organization.

Business process management is a specific area of knowledge where it might be wise to bring in a consultant.  Developing a process mentality can take years to become proficient and having someone available with the right experiences can save a company a lot of time and headache.  Consultants specializing in business process management will typically have an operations or quality background and have spent years in companies developing, managing and/or overseeing various business process initiatives.

Consultants assigned to a business process management task will conduct a series of evaluations, study the present organizational structure, and develop an understanding of current business issues faced by the client.  Depending on the needs of the business, other follow on activities can include detailed work around designing procedures and work specifications, selecting and designing new systems or business approaches, and process re-engineering for streamlining and work simplification. All these adjustments are carefully studied and made to materialize in order to make the business operation more effective and efficient.

If the client business has very little experience with business process methodologies, a thorough consultant will ensure as a starting point that there is a good baseline of existing processes written down.  Every business has many, many work processes in execution all the time and these should be identified and inventoried so that the organization develops a very solid understanding of what exists, the complexities of the business itself, and where things are working well enough and where there is need of improvement.  The result of this step is called a “business process inventory”.

A task that follows the development of a proper business process inventory takes this loosely organized list and superimposes a “business process architecture” that is appropriate for the nature of the business under study.  A manufacturing business will have different business requirements than a restaurant or an on-line retail store.  These different requirements drive differences in how the business needs to run and result in various architectural configurations.  Selecting the architecture that is appropriate for the business is a critical step as is identifying appropriate measures, sometimes called key process indicators (KPI), that reflect the general health of the business over time.

Once there is a reasonable understanding of an appropriate business process architecture and KPIs and the inventory of business processes has been attached to the various architectural elements, then it is time to determine areas of focus.  Most organizations do not have the bandwidth, the wherewithal, or the need to pursue business process management for everything at once.  Much wiser is a more focused approach in a few areas where the needs for business improvements are obvious and impacts of the methodology can be felt in quick fashion.

The selection of areas needing detailed work unleashes a myriad of activities such and process flow chart development, understanding roles and responsibilities, cross-department handoffs, discovery of IT connections to the process and to the people and a variety of documentation and training activities.  As the results of these detailed studies are completed and brought to bear, businesses can see effective improvement of business results and customer satisfaction and then move onto the next area(s) that need work.

Whether the client business is just beginning to study business process management, or has various elements of a program already in place, a consultant can be a useful addition to the program.  Through bringing in the right types of experience, consultants can speed up the client’s activities, identify critical gaps that need to be addressed or even attack certain problems that need resolution.  Typically an assignment will have all of these aspects.   And along the way, the right consultant can also serve as the company’s agent of change, facilitator, business coach and mentor.