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“In class when I mapped the freight process, I discovered that the operational process was not the main issue; instead we had some key decisions at the strategic level to consider. Back at work, I have already shared the maps I developed with others and I am developing some dashboards to collect data to focus our improvement efforts. Shelley asked some insightful questions that influenced my thinking and put me in a stronger position to demonstrate what needed to be done.”

Theresa Quinn Accurso
Director of Finance
Shure Inc.


Three Guiding Lights: Focusing BPM Process Improvement

Dear i4Process,

How do I know where to focus?

Here’s my problem: every three years our contracts are renegotiated with our customers, which means changes to customer information, contract elements and terms, and pricing.   We need to get the right information and then update the contract in two systems, one for the  system of record for all contracts and a second time in our ERP system which generates the billing. 

Currently there are several problems with the contract data management process:

  • The contract number creation process is quite manual and error prone.
  • There are costly work redundancies when duplicate contract numbers are assigned to different contracts
  • Reporting from the contract system of record is not user friendly and always requires a specialist
  • A new initiative requires that contracts be available in and be accessible to sales people all the time and in real time.
  • My boss says we need to (1)improve workflow around contract management, (2)get accurate data for contract management, and (3)utilize for contract management and transparency.

I work in the Policy, Process and Technology Office of the organization?  How should we prioritize where to put our focus in this improvement effort?  



Dear Overtaxed,

You have done a great job already.  In essence, you’ve identified the key issues today, and you have some goals from your sponsor.  When deciding where to focus, follow the three guiding lights.  Keep those at the forefront when modeling, analyzing and redesigning your process, as you probably can’t do everything.

The Three Guiding Lights are:

  1. The Process Owner’s improvement targets
  2. What the customer needs, wants and requires
  3. Quantitative data

Since you told me your boss was the Process Owner of this process, you already have the  three improvement targets listed in the last bullet in the list above. 

These improvement targets don’t have any metrics in them yet, so there is the first piece of quantitative data you have to gather:  baseline data – or how does the process perform today.  Find out either how long the current workflow takes or how many handoffs there are.  Find out what the accuracy of the contract data information is today.  Find out what the key capabilities of the current contract management system are as far as reporting and transparency for sales people.  Once you have this baseline data ask your boss (the Process Owner) what success goals he wants in the improvement process.  Now rewrite the improvement targets to include the baseline data and the Process Owner’s quantitative targets.  They might look something like this:

  • Improve workflow around contract management by reducing the number of roles  and handoffs –currently there are 10 roles and 15 handoffs –by 50%
  • Get accurate data for contract management, reducing a current defects and changes from 5-20% per contract to 0-5% per contract.
  • Utilize for contract management and transparency.  Provide 100% visibility to sales people, standard reporting, and user friendly adhoc reporting or searching.  Current system has no visibility to sales people, and only specialist assisted reporting.

Now  go and talk to your customer – in this case the sales people– and find out what they need, want and require of the Contract Data Management Process and what they need in

Here you tell me the sales people and sales managers wanted:

  • Real time availability of the contract in  This will make it visible and automatically calculate the margin for the company, which the sales rep currently calculates manually.
  • The ability to attach specific contract information when sending out automated quotes to the customer, which they currently do manually as well.
  • Further automate the cumbersome discount approval process and include it with data.

The customer’s needs are different from some of the issues first mentioned, but they dovetail nicely.

You have some basics, but the Business Process Improvement team is not finished.  You need to finish the charter (it is started here), model the current process, see what additional analytical data you might want to gather, determine root cause of critical data problems, redesign the process, and recommend improvements.  But don’t make this work encyclopedic.  Instead keep focusing on the three guiding lights to see how to select what techniques to use and what depth to go to.

If you want to learn more about the charter and how to successfully start and organize an improvement process, register for my i4Process class June 18 and 19.  Through May 31 there is a two for one discount, so come with a colleague.   Or consider the second virtual course, Analyzing and Optimizing BPM Processes July 30 and 31. 

Attend my next free webinar with Nathaniel Palmer and, June 4 1PM ET or 10PM PT:  Getting Started with BPM: Where Do We Go Now?  Register now.

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