Information Technology: An Important And Successful Tool In Business Process Management Pro Gramme

2322 words - 10 pages

introduction in a socio-economic system, management serves as a discipline developed to investigate the business process for the effective achievement of an organisational goal. The business process is a sequence of activities which transform resources to generate added value for customers. Previous attempts at scientific analysis in the field of business management have had their origin in the Newtonian paradigm. The most notable example is Lind's time-and-motion study from the early 1900s. In order to enhance management's control of the production process and operate with greater efficiency, Lind advocated simplifying jobs so that they could be done more efficiently. (Lind & Sulek, 2004)Lind believed that production processes are composed of discrete independent elements. Consequently, he reasoned, one could come to a thorough understanding of a process by breaking it down to its most basic elements and then determine the most effective approach to production. He restructured jobs through simplification and enhanced supervision in order to overcome workers' lack of training, skill and experience. In viewing the worker as an extension of the machine, his method involved the establishment of many rules, laws, and formulae which replaced the judgement of individual workers. (Lind & Sulek, 2004)Business Process Management (BPM) and Information Technology (IT)Similar to the concept of TQM, BPM recognises the constant change of environment and advocates continuous improvement to enhance customer satisfaction. On the other hand, in contrast to the incremental improvement typified by TQM, BPM is characterised by dramatic improvements in reducing costs and enhancing competitiveness. It calls for exploiting the power of modern information technology to radically redesign business processes, instead of simply speeding up old processes, in order to achieve dramatic improvements in performance (Hammer, 1990). The basic concept of BPM is readily comprehensible.However, Hall et al. (2005) cautioned that the complexity of implementing a BPM programme cannot be overemphasised. They noted that redesign must include basic changes in six crucial organisational elements: roles and responsibilities, measurements and incentives, organisational structure, information technology, shared values, and skills. Similarly, Martinsons (2004) stated that genuine BPM is impossible without participatory management practices, which delegate decision-making responsibilities and provide increased information access to lower organisational levels. Clearly, the successful implementation of BPM requires the consideration of both technical and social issues. (Schuler and Harris, 2001)Total Quality Management (TQM)Total quality management is often confused with a high performance work system. TQM has produced positive results in many companies by focusing everyone on high quality. Indeed, many high performance companies have built their work systems on a foundation of total quality. It provides a common language and a problem-solving process. Yet, many of these same companies have found that TQM on its own doesn't help overall performances. TQM does not usually require self-managed work teams or changes in human resource systems.High performance work systems are more than high performance work. Individuals and teams may do high performance work, but the company will not have high performance unless their efforts are coordinated and aligned with the goals of the organization. It is true, however, that high performance work systems produce high performance work because they enable employees to work to their full potential and toward the same goals and vision (Katzenbach, 2005). Senior managers must be leaders in communicating the need for change and its significance to the company in business terms. They must set a clear direction and reinforce their messages by allocating resources, sacrificing short-term goals, and staying the course through difficult times. They must understand that things are likely to get worse before they get better. Senior managers who don't understand what high performance requires can pose a difficult problem. They may reassign supportive manager's part way through a change effort or reward people who achieve short-term results that undermine what the change is trying to accomplish.Peer benchmarking is one solution to those problems. Senior managers who talk to their peers are more likely to stay the course during difficult times. External consultants can also help by mentoring senior managers and providing feedback, pointing out, for example, when a manager's behaviour is inconsistent with the goals of the change effort. Many companies have found three-way partnerships among senior managers and internal and external consultants very effective when changing to high performance systems. To prevent mixed messages, managers can clarify expectations of behaviour before consultants point out inconsistencies. (Huber & Glick, 2005)What can senior managers do to make change succeed? They can build a burning platform for change, send consistent messages, engage in full disclosure, maintain ownership of communications, receive negative feedback, model teamwork behaviours, support the change effort as a group, and be consistent about terminations and promotions. The forces propelling organizations toward high performance work systems--global competition, technology, rapid change--are not likely to fade soon. Success stories will prompt more and more companies to create a high performance work system. As one company vice president said:"High performance work systems deliver not only the short-term promises of downsizing and total quality-productivity, quality, speed,--but also long-term gains in employee commitment, organizational adaptability, flexibility, and customer satisfaction. This is a powerful and uplifting experience!" (Schuler and Harris, 2001)As the high performance work systems of today's pioneer companies mature and evolve, they will face the challenge of renewal. This last critical step in implementation is one of the most difficult and least understood. It requires companies to be vigilant and forward-looking learning organizations in order to be tomorrow's performance leaders.Performance ManagementIndividual performance appraisal is basic to the human resource management systems of most large corporations. Performance appraisals are used to determine reward levels, to validate tests, to aid career development, to improve communications, and to facilitate understanding of job duties. Deming and others in the TQM movement, however, have been outspoken in their criticism of the performance appraisal practices typical of most corporations. Deming and his colleagues point out that these practices focus too much on the individual--and often try to assign blame for quality problems to individuals. Deming argues that most quality problems are the product of systems and processes. Thus, focus on individuals is counterproductive, in that it diverts attention from the root (i.e., systemic) causes of poor quality. (Schuler and Harris, 2001)Deming calls for totally scrapping individual performance appraisal systems, particularly those that are based on management by objectives or that encourage competition within the organization. In many respects' his recommendations tend to be consistent with the Japanese orientation toward collective responsibility. Performance appraisal, then, represents the most significant area of conflict between current and recommended practices (Schuler and Harris, 2001). For example, companies frequently try to solve quality problems by putting more emphasis on quality-related measures in the individual performance appraisal process. Although this is easily accommodated within an organization's existing performance management system, it is still individual appraisal; and thus at odds with TQM philosophy. (Zairi, 2002)Complete abandonment of individual performance management represents a much more significant paradigm shift, one that, in fact, few organizations are willing to make. But if the goal is simply to align a system more closely with the principle of shared responsibility for quality, a total shift may not be necessary. For example, the performance management system can focus strongly on developing skills and abilities necessary to perform well and, as such, directly support collective responsibility. In addition, performance ratings do not have to be competitive; individuals can compete against absolute standards rather than against each other. (Schuler and Harris, 2001)Finally, in participative and team-based organizations, peers can become involved in the appraisal process, and individuals can be evaluated on how much they contribute to team performance and how much they cooperate. This, in turn, can help reinforce the emphasis on collective responsibility and on the horizontal relationships that are needed to get individuals to own systems and collective results (Katzenbach, 2005). These methods are rapidly becoming common in companies using high-involvement management and team-based approaches. Overall, there seems to be little questioning that performance management practices need to change significantly if quality is to be part of the organization's culture. Clearly, traditional performance appraisal systems are more supportive of individual excellence and perhaps high levels of individual performance than they are of a systems-oriented focus on quality. Regardless of an organization's decision--to abandon individual performance appraisal, or to modify the system to gain a better fit with the emphasis on quality--the organization will need to make significant changes. The human resource management department should lead this change process. (Zairi, 2002)Feedback about quality and information about the strategy and direction of the organization are critical to all quality-improvement programs. The IT management systems in an organization need to be structured so that they encourage the open flow of information related to quality and business results throughout the organization. The IT department, of course, is just one component in the organization that needs to support this approach. Nevertheless, because of its presence throughout the organization and its critical role in many of the basic systems that regularly impact on employees, it needs to play a major role in supporting widespread communication of performance results, objectives, and strategic plans. This orientation is a notable contrast to the historical practices in many large organizations. (Katzenbach, 2005)Secrecy about performance results, business plans, and major changes is the norm for a variety of reasons. In union/management situations, management has assumed that the union cannot be trusted to receive confidential data--or that the information would come back to haunt the company in a collective bargaining session. Many of the same attitudes pertain to information given to employees: They're not interested in it, wouldn't understand it, or can't be trusted with it. The result has been that employees tend not to care about their company's performance. (Huber & Glick, 2005)Summary & ConclusionThe evidence from a variety of studies strongly suggests that if employees are going to care about goals and performance improvement plans, they need to receive regular, ongoing communication. In addition, being part of the process that structures communication programs also helps. The IT function needs to play a role in assuring that employees receive information, have the skills to understand that information, and, where appropriate, participate in developing the communication programs that exist in the organization. (Huber & Glick, 2005)Based upon the foregoing discussion, we have come to the conclusion that loss elimination is required for an effective business process. JIT, TQM, and BPM all contribute to the understanding of the fundamental concepts and practices of process improvement for loss elimination. However, the first law of thermodynamics does not provide a mechanism for serving customers. In drawing upon the implication of the law of the conservation of resources, we may conclude by analogy that the elimination of losses may not be a sufficient condition for competitiveness. To increase competitiveness, we need to further examine: (1) the nature of competitiveness, i.e. the means which enable a firm to offer its products or services to customers effectively; and, (2) the law governing the efficiency of the business process. (Zairi, 2002)Finally, the IT function needs to help the organization develop information about how it is doing in establishing a quality culture, improving communication, and involving individuals in the business. Attitude surveys can facilitate this, as can focus groups. The results of these needs be generally distributed and, where appropriate, used as the basis for problem-solving activities.ReferencesChanaron, J. J. & Perrin, J. (2002) Science, technology and work organization, International Journal of Technology Management, 2(3/4), pp. 377-389.Haines, Stephen G. & Katie McCoy (2002) Sustaining High Performance: The Strategic Transformation to a Customer-Based Learning Organization. Delray Beach, Florida: St. Lucie Press.Hall, G., Rosenthal, J. & Wade, J. (2005) How to make reengineering really work, Harvard Business Review, 71(6), pp. 119-131.Hammer, M. (1990) Reengineering work: don't automate; obliterate, Harvard Business Review, 68(4), pp. 104-112.Huber, G. P., & W. H. Glick (Eds.) (2005). Organizational Change and Design. New York: Oxford University Press.Huselid, M. A. (2002). The Impact of Human Resource Management Practices on Turnover, Productivity, and Corporate Financial Performance. Academy of Management Journal, 38 (3), 635-672.Ichniowski, C., Shaw, K., & Prennushi, G. (2005). The Effects of Human Resource Management Practices on Productivity. Unpublished manuscript, Carnegie Mellon University.Kane, E. J. (2002) Process management methodology brings uniformity to DBS, Quality Progress (June), pp. 41-46.Katzenbach, J. R., D. K. Smith (2005). The Wisdom of Teams: Creating the High-Performance Organization. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.Leach, L. P. (2004) TQM reengineering, and the edge of chaos, Quality Progress (February), pp. 85-90.Lind, M. R. & Sulek, J. M. (2004) A Newtonian metaphor for organizational change, IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management, 41(4), pp. 375-383.Martinsons, M. G. (2004) Cultural constraints on radical re-engineering: Hammer and Lewin meet Confucius, Journal of Applied Management Studies, 5(1), pp. 85-96.Roth, William F. Jr. 2000. Dos and Don'ts of Quality Improvement. Quality Progress (pp. 85-87)Schuler, Randall S. and Drew L. Harris. 2001. Deming Quality Improvement: Implications for Human Resource Management in a Small Company. Human Resource Planning (Vol. 14 No. 3, pp. 191-207);Zairi, Mohamed. 2002. The 4p`s of organizational excellence. London: Prentice Hall.


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