Combining Six Sigma with Business Process Management

A Marriage Made in Heaven: Combining Six Sigma with Process Management to Reach Unprecedented Levels of Business Performance

By Michael Forster, Chairman/Chief Executive Officer CommerceQuest Inc.

Abstract: Given the competitive nature of corporate business, companies are constantly seeking the most effective ways to improve productivity and maximize monetary gain. Consequently, companies are demanding more control over their business processes. Serving as a bridge that joins technology with business, Business Process Management technologies aid streamlined workforce efforts, reduced task times, less process variation, and more predictable results. This, in turn, makes the business more robust and profitable.

Companies are discovering the benefit of combining Business Process Management (BPM) technologies with Six Sigma methods and tools to advance the performance level of business processes. With BPM and Six Sigma, companies can better characterize, understand and manage entire value chains. People and systems, as process participants, can now perform to unprecedented levels of control and predictability. Sustainable enterprise improvements that were previously unavailable are possible through the integration of BPM and Six Sigma. This article illustrates how organizations in various industries combine BPM technologies and Six Sigma to enable their most important initiatives. Projects as diverse as assimilating new employees, streamlining management processes, and improving a corporation’s ability to visualize and optimize necessary operations can be heightened as a result of this implementation. The results of aligning BPM and Six Sigma are a significant indicator of what businesses could accomplish to contend as a legitimate competitor in their industry.

A couple of years ago, a leading Fortune 100 financial firm committed to improving their business by instituting Six Sigma process efforts in specific departments across the company. They expanded Six Sigma training and used the methodology to reduce errors in existing processes. They even applied Six Sigma to product development to build in quality from the start. As a result, the company increased efficiency, reduced costs and created revenue-producing opportunities.

Now, in a strategic effort to further optimize business processes by aligning them with enterprise objectives and integrating them with other processes across the company, the financial services firm needed more than just Six Sigma. The company needed a tool that would augment the principles of Six Sigma to provide an enterprise view of processes and more direct control and manipulation over improvements to those processes. They turned to Business Process Management (BPM).

BPM is the practice of dynamically aligning processes across an enterprise while using technologies to provide visibility and management at any point in the process lifecycle. BPM and associated technologies model the flow of data, people, systems and physical resources and build or modify ideal processes in alignment with business objectives and market needs. All improvements are in real time, with no additional systems, rebuilding or development needed.

To test the alignment of Six Sigma with BPM, the financial services firm applied it to one of its most critical business functions – the recruitment and retention for new and experienced financial advisors. Within the firm, there is a segment of advisors offering financial planning and services to individual customers, businesses and institutions. A key strategy in 2003/2004 was to continue to grow its advisor force while many of its competitors cut back on their recruiting efforts.

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