Are Your Processes CustomerFocused

While it’s true that these routine tasks need to run smoothly, companies that look at processes solely as a way to improve the quality of a project or improve lead time, are missing a golden opportunity to positively affect the customer experience and spark innovation within their company. So says David Hamme, author of the book "Customer Focused Process Innovation," and managing director of Ephesus Consulting.

“Your customers are changing, your suppliers are changing, your competitors are changing, and you need to adjust your processes to take advantage of that,” Hamme told CMSWire.

“If we think about the structures and how we’re managing our organizations, there’s a lot of opportunity to make innovation, and manage that continual change a lot more easily. We just haven’t evaluated our structures, our processes and the way we conduct business in a long time.”

Time to Ditch the Org Chart

Hamme advocates taking a hard look at how the business has worked in the past, and questioning things that might not make a lot of sense in today’s world -- things like the org chart.

“I attack the org chart a lot, because to me, it’s a fallacious way of looking at an enterprise,” he said. “It’s a command-and-control structure, and command-and-control structures are, by nature, not very good at adapting to change.”

Why? Because they’re dependent upon the qualities and characteristics of leadership, and the information flows back to those leaderships, he said.

Further, the organization chart lacks two major elements, believes Hamme: 1. the customer, and 2. the workflows involved in delivering product to that customer.

“To me, anything you have that represents your organization and does not have your customer included (or the flow of the work to the customer) is artificial, and it doesn’t represent what is truly occurring inside any enterprise,” he said.

Enter the Enterprise Process Blueprint


A better strategy, according to Hamme, is to create what he calls the Enterprise Process Blueprint -- a plan that identifies the process flows of an organization, where people are within those flows, and how those processes connect to the customer.

“Processes have historically been used as a means to set up a base for efficiency efforts,” he said. “What we haven’t looked at is process as the actualization of strategy, and a simple process is not the appropriate construct to do that. What you need to do is take those processes up to the next level.”

Hamme defines four levels that make up an organization’s overall process network, beginning with the Enterprise Blueprint at the top. Level 2 consists of the major processes -- “those that are going to keep lights on for another day” -- followed by Subprocesses at Level 3, and Activities and Tasks at the bottom.

“What I try to get organizational leaders to think about is the output that comes out of those processes at the end of the day -- that is what the customers are receiving,” said Hamme. “There are a lot of attributes around that -- price, delivery, quality -- but, if you can link what your customer wants to that overall process network, you have a very efficient mechanism for understanding what your organization does, which is half the challenge sometimes.”

Companies that use this type of foundation to really understand what their strategy is, can then determine how they need to change in the future to deliver more value to their customers, as well as how they need to differentiate themselves from competitors, added Hamme.

Educate Your Employees

Simply running a process-based organization without thinking about training people on basic process methodologies is a recipe for failure, said Hamme. “All that knowledge has to be trained to people,” he said.

Hamme advises training employees on how to read process maps, as well as helping them to think in terms of the customer (where to get information about them, and how the process map might change as a result of that new information).

Learn to Say No

Hamme concluded with a final piece of advice for business leaders who are looking to spark innovation, change and efficiencies within their organizations via customer-focused processes:

One of the best things I teach my organizations is how to say no,” he said. “Initiatives and strategies have a momentum to them. If you have a good portfolio management function, it knows when to say yes, and it knows when to say, ‘No, kill it.’”

He added that his aim is to help people think about what they’re doing, and to see if there are better ways to do it.

“I think we do a lot of things just because we’ve inherited them from the people who are our predecessors, and if we really question and think, ‘What is the benefit of all of this?’ we can create organizations that do a lot more for all of us.”

Title image by James Lee (Flickr) via a CC BY 2.0 license