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Business process management (BPM) has become a strong measurement for success within organizations. Building a framework of efficient and effective processes across every department of an organization is the best way to bring down costs and production time while also raising the quality of both products and service. In theory, the value of these improvements should be obvious. In practice, the success of any truly useful BPM initiative depends on a wide range of factors, from the highly technical to the surprisingly personal.

Organizational culture is one of those factors. As a “soft” contributor, it is easily overlooked but critically important. Change doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and any technological or strategic initiative can only be implemented by the people on the ground. Cultural fitness for BPM is something that can and should be assessed and studied any time new initiatives are planned. When it’s time to make a change, how will the individuals, teams, and departments in your organization respond?

How business process management happens: shared values, shared goals, and shared success

The culture of a group - which can be defined as having shared values, beliefs, and basic assumptions - has a powerful influence on the way the group reacts to proposed improvements and new ways of approaching work. Recent BPM research has focused on exactly how organizational culture operates, how it can be measured, and whether it can be harnessed to smooth the way for essential process implementation.

When it comes to achieving BPM objectives, there are four critical cultural values, or dimensions, each with two subdimensions:

  • Customer orientation
  • External customer
  • Internal customer

  • Excellence
  • Continuous improvement
  • Innovation

  • Responsibility
  • Accountability
  • Commitment

  • Teamwork
  • Formal structures
  • Informal structures

Each of these cultural values has a vital role to play in the acceptance and integration of BPM initiatives. Recently, researchers developed an assessment tool designed to measure an organization’s cultural fitness for BPM. By measuring the levels at which these four core dimensions were valued within an organization, they were able to get a bird’s eye view of how a culture was supporting (or holding back) BPM improvements.  By measuring cultural fitness across companies, industries, and geographical locations, the resulting data has played an important role in external benchmarking. It’s been a powerful asset for organizations looking for areas in need of attention and improvement.

Measuring cultural assumptions across the organization before introducing BPM initiatives

When it comes to actually identifying the strong and weak points of cultural fitness within a given organization, internal benchmarking may be even more valuable. Each department will have their own level of cultural fitness for BPM, and there will be some standout differences. It’s a way for organizations to establish a baseline from which they can have fruitful discussions about why these differences exist and how they can be addressed.

At a basic level, the varying functions of different departments will have a marked impact on which cultural values will be most strongly expressed. Customer-facing departments, where customer service and satisfaction play a large role in employee success and evaluation, are likely to see high emphasis on customer orientation.  Financial departments, where accuracy is of paramount importance, will probably score high on responsibility. These differences are natural, but the question is whether they can be leveraged to improve cultural fitness within the organization as a whole. The bigger picture may reveal some surprising and enlightening results. Teasing out the subtleties of these differences can be extremely instructive when designing the organizational approach to change and dramatically improve the success of BPM initiatives.

While identifying differences is a fundamental step, the real value comes from what is shared. All departments operate within the same general context, share the same company history, and are facing the same market situation. This means that the chance for teams to learn from each other is enormous, and the potential for successful methods and tools to be shared between departments is high. The payoff is an organization that is more intimately understood, more closely aligned, and moving forward as one.

If you’d like to find out more about cultural fitness for BPM and how it can affect the way your organization incorporates new processes, you’ll find an in-depth case study in this “Benchmarking Cultural Fitness for Business Process Management” article in 360° – the Business Transformation Journal. You can read about how the use of an internal assessment tool worked for a banking organization and what the findings meant for management, employees, and the organization as a whole, along with expert analysis on the larger implications of this research.

360° – the Business Transformation Journal is produced by the Business Transformation Academy, a thought leadership network devoted to providing cutting-edge insights on innovation and business transformation. For more business transformation articles on the SAP Community Network, please visit the 360° – the Business Transformation Journal library.

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