Part III: Our Insight and Advice on Business Process Improvement: Book and Software Recommendations

(initially published on EFA® in March 2011, republished in March 2013 as the third of a four-part series in the retrospective Above Average: The Best of Escape from Averageness®, 2009-2012, updated and republished here)

In terms of resources, there is no single, comprehensive reference or guide to all of the areas of Business Process Improvement.  At SAI, much of what we know, we learned by doing, by seeing what worked – and what did not work – in the real world.

However, most of us who want to learn start with what those who went before us know and took the time to write about.

Here are my book recommendations:

For processes generally, I think Business Process Improvement (Harrington) and Beyond Reengineering (Hammer) are still the best.  Although there is a newer handbook, Harrington is dated because of its TQM approach;  nevertheless, it is a process classic.  Hammer is also dated, but still has the best understanding of enterprise-level processes, if you set aside the focus on reengineering.  Hammer and Champy’s precedent Reengineering the Corporation remains a worthwhile read.

Depending on your level of experience and expertise, you might also pick up The Horizontal Organization (Ostroff) or Process Redesign (Tonner, DeToro).  They have their limitations, but they can help, if you are new to improvement.

For the mapping of processes, I recommend The Basics of Process Mapping (Damelio);  Process Mapping: How to Reengineer Your Business Processes (Hunt);  Workflow Modeling (Sharp, McDermott);  Process Mapping, Process Improvement, and Process Management (Madison);  BPMN Method and Style (Silver);  and The Practical Guide to Business Process Reengineering Using IDEF0 (Feldman).

Damelio covers very basic flowcharting;  Sharp has more of an IT and project perspective, and is better on implementation issues;  Madison is a good practical guide in all three areas in its title;  Silver does a very good job of explaining BPMN 2.0 as an emerging standard.

Hunt and Feldman both cover IDEF0 process modeling, but Hunt covers IDEF0 in a broader, more thorough reengineering context, while Feldman is a more complete guide to IDEF0.

Somewhere in between are books like Improving Performance: Managing the White Space on the Organization Chart (Rummler, Brache), Cycle Time Reduction (Harbour), and Fast Cycle Time (Meyer).  These books tend to focus on processes and process mapping, but usually in the context of their views and methods on their own areas of practice, like strategy and change management.  They are also somewhat older books.

I do not recommend Business Process Mapping: Improving Customer Satisfaction (Jacka, Keller):  the use of interviews instead of cross-functional teams to document workflows;  ineffective process and operating measures;  processes that are not redesigned by the people who actually do the work;  outdated, manual process mapping methods and techniques.

Almost every book ever written about the design, analysis, improvement, and documentation of business processes is in the SAI library, including all of the ones that I recommended.  I have personally read all of them.  The recommendations are not a comprehensive list, nor are they the only worthwhile reading on the subject, but it is a good starting point.

Here are my software recommendations:

As far as business process mapping software, we use and recommend the iGrafx ( suite of process applications.  iGrafx applications support a wide range of process methodology, including basic flowcharting, cross-functional flowcharting, BPMN, Six-Sigma (SIPOC) process documentation, IDEF0, Lean Six Sigma, and Lean Value Stream Mapping (VSM).

We are an iGrafx Consulting Partner, not a seller of iGrafx products.

My first recommendation is to find a true, dedicated business process mapping application, not an application that is just a drawing tool (like Microsoft Visio).

There are a number of worthy business process mapping software applications – BizAgi, BizFlow, IDS-Sheer/ARIS, Global 360, Metastorm, others – mostly for very large enterprises, but the differentiator, in my view, is that there are only two software providers – iGrafx and KBSI-Knowledge-Based Systems – that support an IDEF0 process notation and modeling module.

So – my second recommendation is to select a true, dedicated business process mapping application that supports IDEFO process notation and modeling.

Next:  Part IV:  Final Suggestions