The Six Year BPM Journey of a Super-Community Bank

Christy Hartner, SVP, Commerce Bank [NASDAQ:CBSH]

Christy Hartner, SVP, Commerce Bank [NASDAQ:CBSH]

Our journey began with an IT Director in the organization who recognized the value and power of a BPM practice. He assembled a team of two BPM consultants to visit the lines of business across the bank documenting “As-Is” process flows for any functional areas that would allow it. The work was done at no direct cost to the individual departments and the exercise was light-weight enough to avoid a time burden on the groups. The value became obvious as process optimization recommendations were produced in the form of “Could-Be” flows; furthermore, there was also a good deal of value in the As-Is documentation. Eventually, the lines of business would seek out process optimization services from our BPM Office and even demonstrate a willingness to pay for them through a chargeback allocation. The BPM Office resides in the IT Division, which would traditionally charge back hours to those groups.

The documentation and archiving of these As-Is and Could- Be flows, as well as various other artifacts, began to reveal areas of opportunity. The connectors between departments, identification of “white space”, and recognition of like-functions performed around the bank allowed us to seek out opportunities to introduce our service offerings. We developed a robust pipeline of engagements.

"Health checks also identify opportunities to fine-tune solutions to gain additional value"

The Automation Era

Soon, we were able to identify enough processes needing automation of workflows that a project was sponsored by IT to acquire BPM Software (BPMS). Many use cases were pooled into a program of opportunities, creating justification for the initial investment. We purchased our BPMS licenses using an approach that was scalable so we could test the software, our staffing resources, and our bank’s cultural readiness for this type of solution.

The good news was that using the software provided significant opportunities for quick wins as well as visibility into the connectors between multiple, allegedly disconnected workflows. The various automation components delivered on an enterprise-wide BPMS allowed us to actively leverage that investment and roll it out to small and large areas of the bank over a four year period. During that time of simultaneous BPMS projects and programs, however, the focus moved away from process optimization to taking orders for BPMS solutions and how they could improve efficiencies within an area. Despite that challenge, efficiency solutions were rapidly being delivered—almost 50 percent of the total employee headcount owns a software license to utilize one or multiple workflows. We learnt that it is essential to ensure we are optimizing processes before automating and to remain technology agnostic in our consulting practice.

The Pendulum Swings Back

From that time, we began actively communicating our approach for managing prioritization of our pipeline, as well as our commitment to general BPM consulting for processes that may not have an automation component. The types of engagements we solicited at this stage were better aligned with our corporate goals and it became the norm that larger bank-wide initiatives would ask the BPM Office to have a seat at the table during their project lifecycles. We committed to ensuring any processes were optimized before automating–to avoid, simply automating bad processes. We also focused on many projects that had less operational, less tangible, and/or less “widget”-focused processes. So, it wasn’t uncommon to consult on product development processes, sales processes, compliance/risk mitigation processes, etc. These opportunities began to illustrate a broader need for management consulting than limiting our offerings to traditional BPM practices. In conjunction with an external consulting firm, we established a three-year maturation roadmap for our BPM competencies. The goal was to identify bigger wins that better aligned with our Corporate Goals.

You Can’t Manage What you Don’t Measure

As measuring value is a critical component of a shared services practice like BPM to ensure resources are best aligned to projects, we sharpened the pencil on benefits quantification. We are committed to a more formal estimating process to assess the anticipated value expected of any given BPM project. After the completion of a project, a plan was made for the BPM consultant to revisit the area approximately six months later to perform an health check. The health check is an abbreviated review to revisit the recommendations/solutions implemented. The goal is to assess the benefits realized after the dust has settled compared to the anticipated benefits. Health checks also identify opportunities to fine-tune solutions to gain additional value. These reviews have been extremely well-received by the lines of business, validating the effectiveness of recommendations and driving a continuous improvement culture.

Health checks also reveal more detailed, and often unexpected, benefits that can roll into our BPM practice Return-On-Investment (ROI) view. This is simply a portfolio of realized benefits gained through BPM engagements compared to the overall expense of supporting the program—staffing, software, external professional service fees, etc.

Looking Ahead

We recently created the Advisory Services Group (ASG), in close alignment with our Strategic Planning Office. The ASG offers traditional BPM consulting as well as general business management consulting to help drive the bank’s achievement of corporate goals. Having business management consultants more deeply imbedded within our various lines of business, yet maintaining the “fresh set of eyes” and the ability to utilize best practices from across the organization, creates a powerful combination of perspectives. These business management consultants can connect the internal clients with beneficial tools or service offerings, such as traditional BPM consulting, agile coaching, business and/or technical architecture, facilitation or project management services, and so on. Our next big opportunity is to evangelize and train on some of these competencies to support a more federated model for providing consulting services. That should support reaching a wider coverage of the organization, as it will expand our trained resource pool significantly. And, we certainly have the pipeline of opportunities!

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