Global Business Processes: the means to succeed in the 21st century.

What is a global process and what business benefit does it provide?

Companies with a worldwide presence face many challenges such as globalization, regional trading agreements and the uncertainty of the economic markets. These challenges require a coordinated approach which maximizes the benefits of a world-wide presence and at the same time provide a local focus. Global processes are the way to achieve this balance and include front end activities like customer acquisition or new business processing, support processes like information systems right the way through to back end customer retention and financial management.

How does a company create, implement, and manage global processes?

Co-ordination. Teams need to develop a common process approach which regardless of culture speaks the same language i.e. what is the successful customer outcome (SCO)? Figuring out how work gets done and achieves the SCO is key to global process success. Implementation needs a pragmatic approach which acknowledges cultural perspectives. Bringing a strategic multi disciplinary team together led by qualified process leaders familiar with cultural and economic challenge is a starting point. Rolling out that discipline and process approach through geographic teams provides a means to learn and exchange and grow key processes to maturity.

What are the most common challenges associated with global processes?

Getting everyone on the same page. Even the way we think and speak of processes is different and so developing a common way of looking at work is critical to a successful operation. For instance the ‘collecting the money process’ has a very specific objective however each location may have different custom and practice – how do you ensure a uniform and yet different approach? The underpinning technology that supports a global process can be common, however the business rules that we operate to make sure our endeavour is successful often need to be different.

What is the relationship between global processes and performance improvement?
The relationship is absolute. In the 20th century we may have talked about standardization and conformity. Performance is now much more driven by the capability to act in the moment e.g. a US insurance company has the slogan ‘think global, act local’ which provides both a degree of uniformity and empowers the people locally to act in the best interests of the business – there and then.

Why should the average employee care about global processes?

It is the understanding that there is a framework and common structure to running the business successfully that provides assurance that senior management knows what they are doing and are operating as a team. Process is the way we get work done. It is the way we deliver value to our customers. It’s the way we create profits for our shareholders. This can then be encapsulated in our rewards systems and provide a framework for success, both in process, people, systems and global strategy.

Process Simulation | BPM | Customers – mutually exclusive?

Interesting discussion thread this week on the BP Group LinkedIn is certainly provoking a debate – see for the latest.

The debate was sparked by Mark Barnett (SVP Process Bank of America) who delivered an eye opening presentation at the Lean Six Sigma and Process Improvement summit in Florida in Janaury 2010.
A key contributor to the merger and acquisition program of Countrywide involved the use of process simulation to test and validate certain assumptions. The result? Well let Mark tell you in his presentation here > – biggish file< Jim Sinur (Gartner) has dusted off his thoughts on process simulation (see so I think we can now officially call Simulation ‘flavor of the month!’

Outside-In. The Secret of the 21st century leading companies.

Leaning to Outside-In

Can Lean evolve to embrace fully Outside-In principles?

Thoughts, observations and commentary – here’s the mini article with additional links

Five Principles for Outside-In (aka Advanced BPM)

What are the guiding principles of moving your company to Outside-In thinking and practice?

Well with ten years of implementation under the belts of leading companies the top five looks something like this..

1. Be Customer centric in everything you think and do.
Outside-In is about the Customer. It is about people. it is about you and me.

2. Be engaged and be collaborative.
There will be others who think like you and you need support to overcome inside-out entrenched mindsets. Together we are stronger.

3. Be Optimistic. Feint heart never won fair lady.
You will need to encourage others and help them realise the personal and organisational benefits of Outside-In.

4. Be Open to new ideas and new technology.
Change happens fast, keep pace and be prepared to elarn new things every day.

5. Be ambitious.
You may have to start small however the longest journeys begin with the first step. Do what you can within your sphere of influence and work for that green light. When it comes get moving and embrace the opportunity.

Would you like to know more?…
> For collaboration and networking visit and join the BP Group
> For Coaching and professional qualifications visit
> For more indepth discussion please contact steve.towers @

A New Order of Things – Outside-In

There is no easy way to introduce a new order of things however there are some principles that can be followed based on this type of mind shift.

1, Objective and immediate.
The results we achieve with Outside-In are significant and substantive e.g. Triple Crown*. Accordingly any effort should first of all identify the clear tangible benefits.

2. Talk is cheap.
Fine words and phrases will not win hearts and minds without substance. Delivery is key, hence the ‘start where you are’ sentiment. In current projects (where support may be lacking) introduce the techniques within the CEMMethod(tm) by stealth.
Lift the heads of those around you to think of Moments of Truth, Break Points and Business Rules for instance. “Nothing new mate, just some stuff other guys have used within… Six Sigma../..Lean../..EA../..complaince etc. (delete as appropriate)”

3. Build support.
With (2) underway you will build support. That is the point to shift focus and begin the more practical discussion of where and how.

4. Go for broke.
If you are extremely lucky/persuasive and have the top team already onboard go for broke. Discover the worst most problematic issues and set to righting em. By fixing the Cause you will remove the Effect.

5. Move on.
It is a 4-500 year shift in mindset (Dee Hock, VISA founder).
It will ultimately transform the planet. The jury is in fact back and the results speak for themselves. So when all looks desolate and casting your pearls before swine is depressing, remind them that they are part of the problem and move on.

6. Make it so.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE it just feels that way when surrounded by flat-landers (doh). Learn, exchange and do.

As an aside Charles Bennetts links to the cartoons are thought provoking. We have links to them in the respective Alumin’s in the subgroup areas 🙂

Join the worlds first and largest Outside-In community at:

Once on-board review the subgroups and join the specialist communities – you will
find friends and support as we transform the planet one person,one process, one organisation at a time!

*Triple Crown: Jim Sinur (Gartner) coined this phrase. Through the delivery of advanced BPM you will simultaneously reduce costs, enhance service and grow revenues. In public sector/not for profits replace revenue growth with delievry of strategic objectives.

Don’t give customers what they think they want

It is pretty much accepted wisdom these days that companies should be customer focused. It is however unfortunate that most companies go the wrong way about this by asking their customers what they want. Customers describe their requirements in terms of products and services and then when the company builds and delivers they are not desired or bought. Henry Ford put it very well “if we ask customers what they want they’ll ask for faster horses”.

And yet at the end of the first decade of the 21st century a surprising and somewhat alarming majority of companies do precisely that. Why does this fail?

Fundamentally when the customer is asked the question “what do you want from us” the answer comes in terms of product and service. Customers when faced with this question extrapolate from their own experiences and what they know of your products and service. Hence it shouldn’t be any great surprise when the requirements are bounded by current ‘inside out’ thinking. Our organizations then construct complex systems and processes to meet the requirements, develop ‘customer focused’ strategies and seek to demonstrate with measurement systems, scorecards and the like that what they are doing is what the customer asked for. Meanwhile competitors are beating us at our own game.

So how can we resolve this apparent conundrum? The answer is delightfully simple, as are most things involving Successful Customer Outcomes (SCO’s). We should be asking the more relevant question “what is the customers desired outcome?”. This subtlety takes us to a new place of understanding and opens the potential for innovation and the opportunity to challenge our existing business thinking.

Making customers life’s simpler, easier and more successful is a cornerstone of SCO’s. Once we have understood the SCO we should then align everything in our organization to achieve that endeavor – without exception. We can design measurement systems which understand the SCO and the various steps to achieving it. Measuring becomes a simpler task. We should create systems which contribute directly to achieving the SCO. In fact no development should be taking place if there isn’t a demonstrable direct linkage to getting the SCO. In fact everything the company does should be progressively aligned to achieving SCO’s, and not as we often see in delivering faster horses.

How do we create this new order? Again the answer is a simple one and not bounded by the inside-out complexity which befuddles so many companies. Your improvement approaches should also be aligned to creating, understanding, and implementing approaches that, yes, contribute to the SCO.

That’s where Customer Expectation Management (CEM) comes in. As an Advanced form of business process and performance management it goes the extra mile and applies our focus to SCO’s. As a consequence these ‘outside-in’ companies are able to progressively and continually innovate and create clear water between themselves and rivals and in many instances becoming market leaders. That’s what US based Best Buy did with their customer centricity strategy. That’s what FedEx Kinko are doing with their massively simplified idea to delivery process. This is what Virgin Group do across their network of more than 100 companies.

It isn’t always about market leadership though. Simply getting better against a backdrop of increasing competition, technology innovation, tightening regulation and customer promiscuity would be great for most. Going the CEMMethod(tm) route gets you where you want and need to be.

In our 2006 book “Customer Expectation Management – Success without Exception” we reviewed the theory and several case studies which is now accessible as a complete method, with supporting toolkits, resources and techniques. The CEMMethod(tm) can be taught, customized and developed to suit different environments and commercial challenges. In the last 5 years more than 8000 people have qualified as Certified Process Professionals and incorporated this approach into their thinking at all levels – from the board room to the lunch room.

In summary then we should be asking customers what is their successful outcome and once we understand that progressively move to align everything we do to achieving that through our people, process, technology and ultimately strategy.

Good hunting for your Successful Customer Outcomes.

A very old question, a very new Answer

At a recent senior executive seminar we were discussing the theme of Successful Customer Outcomes (SCO) and one question which cut to the quick deserves more after thought. Picture a dark, dingy Victorian meeting room in central London, the sleet slapping against the windows and it is late on a October afternoon.

The bright spot? A series of animated discussions around the usefulness (or not) of IT, the struggle with different process methods and the ongoing challenge of aligning our strategies with SCOs. OK you have the backdrop – here is the question from a COO in a large retail company…

“How can we make sure our people follow through and continually deliver the right thing? So often our initiatives start well and then people take their eye off the ball.” Nods of acknowledgement and congruence and even someone muttering that people just don’t get it, no matter what motivational stuff is tried.

And then a spirited response from a progressive Airline Executive (think geography and go where the birds go in a Northern US Winter) and his suggestion was so simple it was surprising that so few get it. “Well we reward for success. That is the achievement of the SCO and everyone in our company is linked to that goal. And I mean everyone right on down from the CEO to the newest trainee and college recruit.”

It set the room into a frenzy of debate, some folks insisting they do that already, others asking for more detail and some saying tried that and still failed. Airline Executive continued sensing he had something of major interest to contribute, “you see everything you do through the experience and expectation of the customer. I know we have talked about that for years but how often do we follow through, even on things like ‘Voice of the Customer’ in Lean and Six Sigma we paid lip service to the effort to truly understand and articulate everything through the SCO.” He had everyone’s attention now and continued, “Once you get started and have a clear explanation of your SCO ask yourself the question ‘is everything we are doing aligned with achieving this SCO?” – if it isn’t challenge it and ultimately “stop doing the dumb stuff.”

We then had a thirty minute brainstorm of relevant SCOs to realize that at the start there are more than a few, lots in fact. Some apparent SCOs are simply not so. Take the one suggested by a well meaning banker “To deliver credit cards on time within budget.” Initially that creates an illusion of working towards mutual success but on closer examination this one is ‘inside out’ and really doesn’t care too much about the customer. The real SCO revolves around creating the capability for a customer to use their facility in a simple trouble free way. When you think of it ‘outside-in’ that takes you to a whole new place with a set of new answers to some very old questions.

The discussion was in danger of running over time so we all took a way a brief to ‘search and deploy’ our respective SCOs knowing that our first efforts would be iterative and a learning experience.

Our next meeting then focused on helping people align to the SCO and doing as the Airline Executive proposed – rewarding folks for achieving those SCOs.
How would you do that?

The principles above are derived from direct experience and research within world leading companies. Prospective Certified Process Professionals gain full exposure to the techniques, tools and CEMMethod(tm) in the Business Professional programme.

Introduction to Outside-In (Dick Lee)

Presented in Chicago at the
5th Annual Process Excellence Week for the Service & Transactional World

Outside-In. The Change Imperative

By Dick Lee
Principal, High-Yield Methods

Steve Towers
Founder, Vice President, BP Group

Want to watch change in progress? Just look at the turnaround in buyer-seller relations in industrialized nations. Business is having a “Galileo moment.” After assuming for decades customers revolve around companies, guess what? Business is learning its world is round, and companies revolve around customers–at least that’s the rotation for companies planning to stick around a while.

But learning this lesson rarely translates into doing–at least doing enough to become customer-centric. Companies don’t switch to revolving around customers with a memo saying, “Beginning at noon next Monday, we’re going to be nice to customers.” Obviously. But they don’t get there with 1-to-1 marketing strategies, either. Or with sales, marketing and service using CRM software. Or with implementing more customer-friendly service policies. Or with customer analytics. Or with social networking. Or with all the above tactics. No matter what consultants and software salespeople claim.

Moving to a customer-centric business model goes way beyond these incremental changes–and way beyond the comfort levels of many companies. Organizations achieve customer-centricity through transformative change–starting with new beliefs and new cultures, which give rise to new strategies plus new work that converts strategies into actions. And to further the degree of change, new work dominoes change from organizational realignment to redesigned technology support.

Tough to achieve? You betcha. But some companies have already made the transition. In fact, some companies have been customer-centric since formation. They’re the lucky ones. But how did companies having to migrate to customer-centricity get there? There’s one common factor,“Outside-In.” They didn’t call their journey “going Outside-In.” In fact the term only surfaced several years ago, in conjunction with a Virgin Mobile customer-centric initiative. But they’ve all followed the same pattern. Now, more companies are following in their footsteps. And when something new happens frequently enough, spurred by champions “spreading the gospel,” we give it a name (hopefully not a three-letter acronym). Hence “Outside-In.”
So what is it?

Outside-In is the fusion of planning and process design into one, integrated, customer-centric activity.

The planning part redesigns strategies from a thoroughly customer perspective. And by “strategies” I don’t mean marketing, promotion, branding, stuff that advertising agencies do. I’m talking products, services, delivery, in some cases core business direction–all invented or renewed with an adult dose of innovation. It starts with “finding your inner customer,” “seeing through customer eyes,” “standing in customer shoes,” or whatever you want to call it. And results in companies raising the competitive bar, often high enough that others can’t clear it. If, that is, new strategies trigger new work.
That’s the process piece. Defining what work should be done to implement new strategies; who should do it; how it should be done; and ­enabling technology[1]requirements. Some call this “customer-centric infrastructure,” others “customer-optimizing operations,” but it doesn’t matter. Just no TLAs.
Worked together, these two Outside-In elements align strategy to customers; process to strategy; and technology to process–creating the spine of a customer-centric company.

Outside-In creates a framework for designing, organizing and simplifying the migration to customer-centricity–true customer centricity. The type that adds new value to customers as the only reliable means of adding new value to the company. Not that the transition is ever “simple.” But business will have to get there. Because when one player in a sector goes Outside-In, others will have to follow, or risk being left to an unhappy fate.

Just look at what happened to consumer electronics chains in the U.S. once Best Buy went Outside-In. Circuit City and CompUSA might as well have been bugs beneath a work boot. Squish. But that’s the usual fate when a competitor beats you to putting customers in the center of your business circle. Squish.
True, some companies survive by scurrying to change reactively. UPS has stayed profitable while scrambling to match customer-centric moves by FedEx. But how many companies have the strength and resources of UPS?

Despite the probability of facing dire consequences sooner or later, many change-averse companies continue to sit rather than change. As a past client once said to me, “I know we have to change, but we can’t stop doing what got us here.” They circle the wagons to protect themselves from customers fighting to take over the center of their circle. Or, perhaps a better analogy, they engage in a tug-of-war with customers over who controls buyer-seller relationships. Just one problem. There’s an 800 pound gorilla on the customer end of the rope, and she ain’t budging. And just wait until she gets impatient and starts pulling. When she does pull, companies will have to get Outside-In quickly, if they’re not already–or risk going upside-down.

Don’t wait until you’re forced to go Outside-In. Proactive change works so much better than reactive. Twice the gain with half the pain. So best to get a handle on Outside-In now, while you can still leave competitors behind.

[1] We italicized the four Outside-In process components because they represent transformative change in the process world. This isn’t your father’s process. For that matter, it’s likely not yours–yet.

Dick Lee
Dick Lee is the founder of High-Yield Methods, a Outside-In consultancy focused on helping clients align strategy with customers, process with strategy and technology with process. In 1996, HYM launched the first, formal, Outside-In process approach, Visual Workflow. In addition to consulting with clients including American Express, Honeywell and Microsoft, Dick is a speaker, educator and author of several books and numerous white papers and journal articles.
Dick is an Executive Advisor for Towers Associates and sits on the board of the BP Group.

Steve Towers
Steve Towers is the founder of the Business Process Management Group a global business network exchanging ideas and best practice in Business Process & Performance Management, Transformation and Process Improvement. He works with many of the leading fortune 500 companies as a mentor, coach and sometimes consultant specializing in the implementation of performance improvement, process change and transformation. He has written several books, many business articles and appears on radio and TV. Steve previously worked for Citibank where he led restructuring and business process transformation programs both in the US and Europe.
Steve is an Executive Advisor for High-Yield Methods and sits on the board of the BP Group.

The BP Group
The BP Group is a global ‘not for profit’ business network originally founded in 1992.
As a ‘not for profit’ the vision is to connect and network people interested in significantly improving organisation processes and as a consequence business performance. Our mission is to help improve individual and corporate performance through advanced process management.