Magazine article Management Services

BPR Enabling Software for the Financial Services Industry

Magazine article Management Services

BPR Enabling Software for the Financial Services Industry

Article excerpt

Sponsored by FINSEC - the Financial Sector Specialist Group of the Institute of Management Services, three MSc students at the University of Portsmouth conducted a survey during 1995 of the various software available to support Business Process Re-engineering, particularly aimed at applications in the Financial Services sector. An initial literature search revealed some 70 different packages, broadly grouped into three categories: a mapping the present process; a analysing possible improvements; a facilitating new ways of working. This article summarises the findings of software in the first category: Mapping the present process.

Subsequent articles will give the results of the other two areas of research. The method of research was to visit companies using some of these packages in order to understand the features important to users. Nine packages were then chosen ( 3 in each Category) which were representative of the different types of software available and were currently used in Financial Services companies. Copies of the software were obtained on loan from the vendors, and reviewed.

A survey in November 1994 (Cooper, 1994) identified 122 BPR exercises being undertaken in the UK, of which a high proportion (30%) were in the Financial Services sector. BPR has had some bad press in the last two years (Cole, 1994) with many applications being reported unsuccessful. However research at Portsmouth University (Capon, 1995) indicates that BPR is particularly appropriate in large, established companies with a high administrative work content, which is true of many Financial Services organisations.

Financial Services have also been under particularly strong pressure to improve efficiency, due to:

deregulation eg banks offering mortgages

recession eg stagnant demand

innovation eg direct providers

legislation eg disclosure and compliance which encourages the use of a technique like BPR to increase speed, accuracy of processing and to reduce costs.

Why map the existing process?

Given the original definition of BPR as a 'clean sweep' approach (Hammer,1993), there is a case for not mapping the existing situation at all. However all the companies interviewed believed it to be essential:

a 'so that duplicity of effort, nonvalue adding work and delays can all be clearly seen.' (Meyer,1993)

b 'so that those involved can learn the failings of it and thereby be less resistant to any proposed changes and improvements.' (Weaver et al.,1994)

c 'to provide a baseline from which improvements can be measured.' (Capon, 1995)

Why use a computer tool?

The Financial Services companies we interviewed indicated that the use of a computer tool at the early stages of a BPR project is not vital. This is supported by researchers in other business sectors. (Classe,1994) Whyte and McKay and American Airlines both adopted 'brown paper' and the use of post-it notes in the initial phase.

Using a computer tool too early in BPR creates the risk that the mapping process is seen to be 'owned' by the person using the computer, not the group as a whole. Also using a computer can encourage the mapping exercise to become an end in itself, with excessive detail, delaying evolution of improvements.

However the use of computer mapping tools does provide benefits:

1 Communication

Many iterations are required to agree a process map. After initial very unstructured group sessions, using either white boards or post-it notes, many companies tidied up the results using a computer tool, and circulated the results to group members for confirmation of accuracy.

2 Decomposition

For the best results from BPR, the boundary of the process being studied needs to be wide enough to encompass all activities across different departments involved in satisfying a specific customer need. The resulting process map is therefore often large, and a computer tool which allows a summary presentation with decomposition to increasing levels of detail is often welcome. …

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