Wednesday, July 22, 2009

5 ways to green BPM

In all the turnmoil on the global crisis, but also the media storms on "clouds" within the BPM community, I hope there is still some space left for sustainability, people/profit/planet and environmental issues.
In my opinion, a process-focus can strengthen our ability to improve the sustainability of our business and reduce the negative environmental footprint: P4 (people, profit, planet - and process).
BPM, as a framework for seeing your company through the lense of process, aims at understanding, measuring and improving your processes. While the traditional focus for BPM is things as cycle-time, cost, customer value/service, environmental aspects can be easily incorporated in the BPM approach.

I suggest 5 possible ways to use BPM in greening your processes and business:

1. Analyse - Measure - Select
As part of most BPM efforts current processes are modelled/documented and measured. This provides important insight to know where improvement-areas are. For sustainability we should be able to come up with "GPI's" (thanks to my collegueas for this term) - green performance indicators. Measurements based on these GPI's can give a company insight in their processes: which processes (and even which steps in these processes) have a large environmental footprint.
You can use this information to define an actionplan, and select the processes where the "biggest bang" can be reached. The starting-measurements can later be used to compare to improvement-results. And you might even want to decide to incorporate periodical measurements of your "GPI's" in your Green Balanced Score Card.
As a sidenote: measurement can also support benchmarking, which could help entire industries (why do we need 10 kg of paper in processing 100 insurance-policies, while our competitors can do with 1 kg?)
As part of the process-analysis, the company could attempt to find aspects of the processes, thay may drive environmental footprint - for instance: is there a lot of paper used, a lot of km's traveled, a lot of interaction between various locations/people to execute this process?

After step 1, a number of other steps can be taken:
- Optimize
- Recycle
- Innovate/Re-engineer
- Synergize

2. Optimize
Using techniques from Lean and Six Sigma, various Green optimizations can probably be found. The 7 Waste approach could for instance identify unneeded transport (CO2!). The Six Sigma Root-cause analysis could help identify unwanted environmental effects and their causes.
All these results can be used to gradually improve the process
Case: by stepwise improvements paper-production companies are lowering the amount of water needed, and reduce the water-pollution
Case: a company allowed people to work from home on certain days, using a PC, which reduced CO2 / transport

3. Recycle
It might be possible to recycle materials used as input or output (either process-products, or supporting material). In many industries bottles, glas, paper, etc. is being recycled.
Case: diary factory sells milk in bottles, which are being returned by customers for reuse

4. Innovate/Re-engineer
Taking the BPR approach, one might be able to totally reengineer the process, so that a radical better environmental effect can be used. In some radical cases, the process might not even be needed anymore
Case: various companies re-engineered their invoice-processes, making them all digital instead of paper. Paper and transport went down considerably.

5. Synergize
By closely looking at your process (inputs, outputs) and other processes (within you company or outside), it might be possible to identify ways to create environmental synergy.
Case: an IT-company located their datacenter in a greenhouse-area. The heat of the datacenter is used to warm the greenhouses.
Case: a Shrimp-farm located their farm next to a large energyfactor, the emitted heated water is used to warm the shrimp-bassins.

One might think that these steps can only be applied to production-industry. But....
In many administrative factories, processes consume large amounts of paper, storage and transport of paper, and transport of people for meetings. The 5 items above, combined with BPM technology, supported by ECM and Collaborative tools (videoconferences) can deliver great green effects (and hard Euro/Dollar-savings!).

Cases and Ideas welcome!