The Second Renaissance in Process Improvement

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A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure to chair, present at and run a workshop at the IIR Telecoms Business Process Management conference in Barcelona. Over four days, we listened to industry speakers talk about how they were improving business processes, the challenges they faced and how they were overcoming them.

There is clearly a second renaissance in telecoms process improvement underway, to judge by the dozens of process people I talked to.

The first renaissance took place after the publication of Michael Hammer’s infamous article, Reengineering Work: Don’t Automate, Obliterate in the Harvard Business Review in 1990 and Hammer & Champy’s follow-on book, Reengineering the Corporation, in 1993. I spend much of the 1990s reengineering major telcos using the principles set down by Hammer, Davenport and Rummler & Brache amongst others. It was an exciting time teaching companies what business processes were, how to radically improve them and how to make their companies process-centric. Some years later, every telco had been through reengineering and most had survived, fitter, meaner and more competitive. Then it went quiet as telcos were swept up in successive bouts of deregulation, new technology development and CRM systems implementation.

But business process improvement never really went away. Instead, it was being quietly improved through on the one hand, the adoption of telecoms industry process templates such as eTom and process management templates such as NGOSS, both from Tele Management Forum, and on the other hand through the adoption of Lean Thinking from Toyota, (to remove non-value-adding waste from processes) and Six Sigma from Motorola, (to remove unnecessary variation). The second renaissance currently taking place in telecoms takes these standard templates and implements them using Lean and/or Six Sigma to customise them in the individual telcos. But that is only half the picture. Telcos are also adopting the Kaizen approach pioneered by Masaaki Imai in his book Kaizen to continuously improve reengineered proceses as the needs of the marketplace change.

The combination of eTom/NGOSS and Lean Six Sigma is proving a winner for telcos. Despite their early reservations about reducing their competitiveness by adopting a common industry process template and of the applicability of Lean Six Sigma in downstream processes, telcos have found that together, they are a winning formula for improving their basic business processes. Their initial fears were unfounded. They provide a foundation for increasing their customer-centricity, for driving process innovation and for increasing competitiveness in turbulent markets.

What do you think? Is the second renaissance of industry standard templates and Lean Six Sigma a great way to do business basics better? Or should telcos be reinventing the process wheel from first principles like in the first renaissance?

Post a comment and get the conversation going.

Graham Hill
Independent CRM Consultant
Interim CRM Manager

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