May 02, 2013

Herding cats and calling it a circus. Why scientific process management matters

May 2, 2013 - Practitioner is a widely abused word. It tends to be associated with people who have done things for a long time, and as a result they are expected to know them well. Often, they are brought in as consultants. Our business is full of practitioners – those who have done F&A or core banking operations for twenty years, and they know them inside out. Practitioners are sometimes awesome – they have an answer for everything.  

One issue with adoring practitioners is that their reliance on experience might inadvertently impede innovation. Like medieval healers couldn’t really develop advanced pharmaceuticals because they understood symptoms and palliatives very well by heart, but they didn’t grasp – and didn’t feel the urge to understand - the inner workings of the body. Practitioners also sometimes hoard knowledge, because it is power and helps them to become indispensable – which might make large organizations intransparent to senior management and hard to evolve. 

The other issue with some practitioners is that in some cases they can be poor managers of large organizations, because they don’t need to rely on tight documentation and analysis of processes – and their teams, not being as knowledgeable as they are, might underperform. Some practitioners struggle with the subsequent firefighting – of sometimes gargantuan magnitude because of their work’s global span.  

Those operations, despite all the efforts in up-skilling and motivating employees, might end up looking like a never-ending herding of stray cats. And for the sake of looking good in an organizational hierarchy, calling it a circus – The show might end up being really rickety.  

Some practitioners however, many of them with our clients, grasp the possibility of industrializing those operations – applying Lean six sigma practices to processes, understanding them end to end, customizing related HR practices, applying appropriate technology, and really using analytics intelligently to capture performance and inform decisions.  

When business process management, and related transformation and outsourcing of services through BPO, took off a decade back, practitioners ended up divided in two camps. Those who saw the innovation opportunity and tried things out, and those who didn’t.  A decade later, the story is still unfolding but the practices have improved – and practitioners are increasingly experienced in running those operations at scale. Finance and Accounting is a classic example of that maturation. Analytics operations is getting there. A number of areas are emerging, such as banking and financial services where practitioners are pushing the industrialization of their operations such as in the case of AML or KYC. Commercial operations in Life Sciences is another good example.  

There are billions of dollars that can still be saved, gained, and related volatility managed, by utilizing advanced industrialized operations relying on smart enterprise processes.  

All it takes is a different type of practitioner – the one with potential for executive management… 

Can we get more practitioners to embrace industrialized operations? Let’s debate – I am on Twitter too @ggiacomelli

About the author

Gianni Giacomelli

Gianni Giacomelli

Chief Innovation Leader

Gianni serves as Chief Innovation Leader where he drives and sponsors Genpact’s strategic initiatives aimed at sustaining clients’ transformation into digitally-enabled companies. He also co-leads the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) efforts to set up a Collective Intelligence Design Lab.