Thought for the day:When is a process not a process?

Outsourcing and communications expert Martyn Hart looks at a hot issue of the day.Many suppliers and users boast about their...

Outsourcing and communications expert Martyn Hart looks at a hot issue of the day.Many suppliers and users boast about their knowledge of business process, often taking a process from one market segment and applying it to another as "a proven process".

But what makes a good process? Is it just documenting what happens as entities pass from one place to another, then copying that in software?

Or maybe it is a flow chart, on which you implement the systems of choice?

Whatever is recorded, many National Outsourcing Association members have said that there is a fundamental weakness in taking a strict process approach. You need more than understanding of how the process works and how to record it, especially if your supplier is proposing business process re-engineering.

The real skill to understanding business process and, especially, business process outsourcing, is capturing what happens when there is no process!

In other words, when the process breaks down.

This is the key to successful business process outsourcing. You need to understand (as does your supplier) what happens when the process does break down. Answers like "but it doesn't break" get automatic dismissal from procurement processes. And how do you get over it - what's the remedy?

So it's not what you do know, but what you don't.

When you carry out process analysis you need to ask, what happens if this piece doesn't work? Do you have a remedy for that? The remedy has to be there. It can range from the simplest - take an alternative route - to the most complex, a backed-up data centre.

The remedy may be dependent on the way the outsourcing processes are implemented. Your existing remedies may no longer be valid, even if the process remains correct. And if you're changing business processes at the same time . . .

Could the key to business process outsourcing be what you don't know?

What's your view?
What do you think is the key to successful business process outsourcing? Let us know with an e-mail >> reserves the right to edit and publish answers on the Web site. Please state if your answer is not for publication.

Martyn Hart is chairman of the National Outsourcing Association and practice director at Mantix, a consultancy that delivers value from complex programmes.

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