The Convergence of Six Sigma and BPM

While the company today has one of the largest field forces in the country, they wanted to further improve investment results by leveraging their financial advisers to secure longer-term relationships and achieve better client retention. It came down to instituting a better way to recruit, train and retain advisers across the enterprise. The hiring process was distributed across multiple owners – both internal and external to the organization. As a result, tracking and status reporting were inconsistent thus creating a duplication of efforts that was labor intensive and inefficient.

The financial services company required BPM to align with the Six Sigma methodology in use and to provide an end-to-end view of the hiring across departments, regions and work-groups. Indeed, the combination of Six Sigma problem solving methodologies with BPM tools worked well to model processes, identify bottlenecks and test scenarios. In addition, by leveraging the rigor of the Six Sigma methodology with the automation improvement capabilities of BPM, the company was able to quickly design an optimal process flow for recruitment across the company. As a result, this new and more efficient process saved 20-30 percent in time and labor cost and created at least another 20-30 percent efficiency improvement by deploying and automating the hiring process across the financial services group.

The Convergence of Six Sigma and BPM Since the late 1990s when Six Sigma started to move beyond the manufacturing industry and into the service sector, the adoption of Six Sigma among U.S. companies with revenues greater than $200 million has been around 28 percent, according to trend analyses by Don Redinius of Agillist Group, Inc, a business performance improvement solutions company.

While growth of Six Sigma has been significant, it has not been as effective as it could be. Collecting and tracking huge amounts of data across multiple departments/business units has been difficult for Six Sigma due to a lack of standardized process monitoring technology. As a result, improvement projects tend to be department or function specific with poor integration between processes across the enterprise. Finally, although the Six Sigma methodology for solving problems is one of the best because of its discipline and rigor, it falls a bit short in the ‘control’ phase. Six Sigma’s control phase tends to use manual methods for managing and sustaining improvements over time. Six Sigma is just now starting to realize the benefits of automating the process and controls using BPM methods. BPM brings a paradigm shift of process control efficiency and effectiveness.

BPM, and associated integration, workflow and modeling technologies, has the potential to augment Six Sigma to create a more robust approach to process improvement, management and control. The strengths of BPM compliment the weaknesses of Six Sigma and vice versa. For example, BPM readily characterizes process inputs, outputs and their performance but lacks the analytical tools to solve difficult and complex problems. By using BPM tools to model, simulate and connect processes together to visualize how they link to critical success factors, gaps in performance are identified. Then the problems creating the performance gaps can be solved using Six Sigma improvement tools. Finally, BPM technologies can electronically execute change and continuously manage and improve a process. BPM tools are especially good when a variety of processes and associated resources need to be connected across an enterprise.

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