When talking about long-term business goals and how to ensure the future success of your business, it's about more than just a set of rules to follow. In the lack of a definitive goal set up, the future revenues and performance of your company could be at stake. That’s why a well-devised strategic management process is essential, to ensure that the company is moving in the right direction, to achieve its set targets in the given time frame.
However, establishing the path your business needs to take, is just one step of the process. Understanding how your business processes contribute to achieving this direction, is another. And this, in turn entails understanding how each of these processes adds value across the value chain, be it product or service-based.
From that perspective, strategic management can be defined as a process that involves building a careful understanding of how the world is changing and how those changes might affect your particular organization or business. In a nutshell, it can be depicted as an activity used to set priorities, asses and adjust the organization’s direction in response to a changing environment, and ensure that the employees and other stakeholders understand the business strategy well and work towards achieving common goals.
Strategic process management is a disciplined, future-oriented approach to business, that determines fundamental decisions and actions which shape what an organization does, who it serves and why. Having that in mind, effective strategic process management articulates not only where an organization is going and what steps it needs to take to make progress, but also how it measures success.
Considering its magnitude, implementing strategic process management is not always an easy task. Nevertheless, there are a few approaches, from traditional company maps to customer journeys, that can help make your life easier. We will delve into each one and discuss how using these approaches can help your business thrive.
The graphic below portrays a typical example of an average enterprise scenario. Almost every company aims to grow and improve within its particular industry, thus facing a variety of different factors that belong to a shared ecosystem. With the incredibly fast pace of development in all markets and industries, modern-day enterprises are continuously confronted with the endless drive for change, defining new strategies and satisfying the ever-evolving business and customer needs.
Therefore, all of the various factors depicted in the graphic above have an influence on the basic foundations of every company or enterprise. Competition, market pressure, digitalization and strategic orientation are just some of the different elements or circumstances that the companies need to repeatedly adapt and adjust to, in order to ensure future success.
To have a closer look, and see this from an inside-out perspective, let's refer to the BPMS paradigm, which observes a company structure from an abstracted, high-level view.
The BPMS paradigm*, introduced in 1994, offers a good and transparent way of looking at the complete structure and dependencies of an enterprise. Its 4 components depict the interdependecies that each of these domains has with one another, and describes a metamodel for documenting a business architecture.
When it comes to competitive advantage, each element of the paradigm can be defined as a differentiator. When looking at IT features, or IT skills as an example, we can see that they'll have an impact on employees and customers, who will be supported by them differently. At the same time, IT features will also have an effect on new products, services, processes, and vice versa. Therefore, just like in real life, all elements are interconnected, and a change in one will ultimately trigger a reaction in all the others too. The BPMS paradigm nicely captures this concept, and helps visalize the impact that similar changes, both internal and external, could have on your enterprise assets.
And this is also where strategic process management comes into play. It represents an ongoing and continuous process that analyses and monitors the business and the environment it operates in, to be able to respond to the changes and flexibly adapt an organization’s direction as a result. In addition to that, strategic process management evaluates the business scenario and defines the right goals and moves needed to meet all the business requirements, and optimize each strategy.
Speaking strictly from a BPM perspective, the first approach that comes to mind involves process modelling. In this case, the BPM tool ADONIS NP can be used to map out business architecture (as well as model, analyse and optimize processes) to better understand the overall context of the enterprise assets at hand, and ultimately create a blueprint of the enterprise as a whole. For instance, you could begin by modelling your product, processes, applications and organizational working environment in ADONIS, and by connecting the dots start documenting your business knowledge. However, the question still remains – what models do we need and how can we make sure that they best represent everything we would like to model?
One thing to keep in mind here, is that it doesn't always necessarily need to be a process model. Over the years, many different modelling approaches and methods have emerged that address this topic in different ways. Therefore, the question should rather be what's the right approach to use, given the complexity of the activities, and the urgency to capture and visualize different kinds of enterprise knowledge.
It is also important to keep in mind that strategic drivers are crucial, and therefore need to be taken into consideration when implementing the chosen approach. Competitive advantage, customer preferences, company mission, partners, markets, regulations and resources are just some of the many drivers that can strongly shape and influence organizations' plans for the future, and for that reason should actively be part of the process.
There are several techniques or approaches – in ADONIS as well – that are perfectly suitable for any company, but this time we'll focus on exploring three specific variants:
A good customer journey map can help you get a better understanding of the customer life cycle. It identifies and displays all interaction points between a customer and a company, and allows for reflection and optimization of the customer experience as a whole.
Based on the different touch-points a customer has with a product or service, companies are able to evaluate the interactions and define customers' pains & gains. That way, they can pinpoint where the customer experience is bad, or even very good (marking a potential competitive advantage) or where the most improvement potential can be found.
The customer journey defines the overall picture of the customer experience, at each step or phase of the journey, thus allowing you to analyse that experience and improve on it through different targeted initiatives.
Last but not least, an appropriate customer journey will also support you in providing a basis for tactical lead-to-revenue decisions and affect heavily both, the sales processes as well as the sales and retention strategies.
Cooperation models are slightly different from customer journeys, in that their purpose is to identify and visualize the interactions between the different actors involved from a high-level perspective. In that sense, cooperation models can be seen as great idea generation tools, especially for situations where a more simplified presentation of complex processes is needed, before moving forward and detailing the business process diagram.
One thing to keep in mind here, is that having a clear picture of the various actors involved, as well as understanding their interactions is essential, in order for cooperation models to bring value and work as intended.
To be able to identify and derive the different interaction phases, you need to have a good understanding of the current status, including the involved stakeholders, before trying to make changes and improve the process from start to finish.
A probably best-known way for tackling strategic process management is the typical process map – one of the most common methods for developing a more internal view of the process landscape. Process maps offer a birds-eye perspective of the processes, specially focusing on the structure and structural representation of processes in the organization.
Creating a process map helps provide structure and organize individual processes, in a way that makes this information transparent and visible to everyone. That way companies can easily identify the steps needed to best support and improve on the given business process.
Processes are strategic resources of an organization that, if managed well, can deliver a significant competitive advantage. They assist in defining how the business works, what people’s roles are, as well as the responsibilities and standards of the business. Business analysts typically create process maps as a part of business process (re-)engineering or transformation efforts. In addition, the International Standards Organization (ISO) also recognizes process maps as an important part of their ISO 9001 standards.
Strategic process management is about continuous improvement, adaptation, flexibility and most importantly openness to change. Modern-day enterprises face turbulent, confusing and unpredictable environments, where change is the only constant. And sometimes these external and internal changes can vary from one enterprise to another. Therefore, there is no best or ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to strategic process management. Rather, it’s about the most suitable and responsive approach, given the enterprise-specific circumstances.
All three of the above-presented methods have different application scenarios, and their individual benefits and value-adds can vary depending on the use case at hand. While customer journeys and cooperation models are increasingly used for idea creation, analysis, and high-level communication, the traditional process maps, and ultimately the process models focus most on structuring of the process architecture.
One thing to keep in mind, is that regardless of the approach your company chooses to follow, the implementation and execution of the strategy can be equally, if not more important, in order to ensure sustainable business optimization and growth.
BOC Group has over a decade of experience in consulting and implementing strategic process management in companies around the world. We offer not only the expert advice needed to succeed, but also comprehensive tool support and training for successful implementation and continued operation. If you are looking to get started on your strategic management journey, or want to explore the possibilities it has to offer, please feel free to reach out!
*Karagiannis, D. (1995). BPMS: Business Process Management Systems. ACM SIGOIS Bulletin. (Vol 16., P. 10-13).