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Identifying core business processes

The first step toward customer satisfaction and expectation management 

In today's business environment, organisations know that to be competitive, they need to respond to change, especially as customer expectations increase. Customers are more demanding, mobile and informed than ever. Global and distributed organisations need consistency in the quality and levels of service regardless of where and how they conduct business.

It is extremely difficult to meet these challenges in a timely manner if business IT processes are widely dispersed, silo-based and inconsistent. Consistent core IT business processes, language and data representation is essential to allow decision makers to respond quickly to the changing market.

Defining and maintaining consistent IT business processes is a lot easier said than done but critical if an organisation is to survive in today's market. This article will define "core business" processes and explain how to differentiate these processes from their implementation. It will also review how to prioritise which processes to investigate first.

Defining the core business processes

A "core" business process is defined as the minimum individual tasks to be accomplished to provide a certain level of consistency in output, without any consideration to hardware, software, people resource or performance.

When a core process is implemented, anything can be added to make the process more efficient, but nothing should be eliminated. When the core business process states that certain tasks must be performed in sequence, then it must be reflected in the implementation. In the same manner, any specified steps associated with a task must also be reflected within the implementation.
When asked, most organisations will claim that their core business processes are documented. Yet, typically, it is not the core business process that has been documented but the implementation of that process within a particular system or function. In this scenario, the documentation contains system or application process models reflecting implementation details such as "enter username." Most times, documentation of a core business process doesn't reflect whether a user is identified by a username, badge number, ID-card, or some other method of authentication, as long as the organisation is satisfied with the accuracy of the documentation. Identifying and authenticating a user is an implementation issue, not a business process.

It's not easy to separate implementation from the core business process. Just take one business process and see how readily you can identify the major tasks involved without letting implementation issues creep into the mix. And it only gets more difficult when core business processes become more intricate and critical within the enterprise.

Using the right process methodology
The methodology and approach used to identify, derive, or create core business processes will vary with an enterprise's size, industry and culture.

There are several proven methodologies and supporting tools for deriving and improving business IT processes (e.g. ITIL® and ISO/IEC20000).

Your first steps

  1. Investigate and remove hurdles relating to organisational cultural issues, governance processes, and supporting infrastructure up front
  2. Educate participants on what a core business process is, how it will benefit their respective business area, and the chosen methodology that will be used to derive these processes
  3. Don't try and do all of the critical business processes at once. Suggest a phased approach with a sound transition strategy.

Once you've identified core business processes, it's important to prioritise which ones to tackle first. A new business channel or service is a good place to start, as business analysis and requirements gathering have likely already been done, which should provide a good jumping-off point for identifying core processes. Next, tackle any business process areas featuring disparate results between business units. Then, look at processes for which new enabling technology is being considered. Rounding out the list are those processes supported by different implementation and those supported by more than one location or business.

Process empowerment

It is import that all parties involved in executing the process clearly understand that it is the process that should be empowered, and should not be confused with the organisational function and position performing it. For example the Service Desk working on a major payroll incident, which requires immediate response and resource from the development team.

Process review 
Your core processes should be a living entity, it is therefore essential to regularly review the performance of your process and adjust as business demands change.

Its never to late to start 

If enterprises are to remain competitive; they need to reduce the complexities resulting from widely dispersed and often disparate business processes. Establishing consistent empowered core business processes is just one step toward meeting increasing customer expectations in today's market.