By David Vergun, Army News ServiceApril 10, 2018
WASHINGTON -- The Army itself can be thought of as a large enterprise whose mission is fighting and winning America's wars.
But within that enterprise are many sub-enterprises supporting that mission, from human resources and finance to logistics and information technology.
Not all of those enterprises are operating at maximum efficiency all of the time, said Crystal Chadwick, director of the Army's Business Process Re-engineering Center of Excellence at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.
The Army is really good at managing cost, quality and scheduling for new systems, or for sustainment and operation of existing ones, she said. But oftentimes, the most overlooked aspect of business operations is the interplay between people, processes, technology, and policy. That oversight can reduce efficiencies, Chadwick said.
As an example, Chadwick offered the case of one Army organization that had asked for a Business Process Re-engineering, or BPR, evaluation of its access controls -- those processes that allow employees access to the organization's business systems.
An apparent problem there was that once employees transferred out of or separated from that organization, their access to the organization's network systems was not revoked as it should have been. Personnel in the organization, she said, assumed that the solution to their problem would be to purchase different software.
A team of BPR CoE experts versed in IT and business practices was sent in to evaluate the system, she said. After conducting a root-cause analysis, the team discovered that there were disconnects between the staff at HR and those in IT -- there was no process in place for sharing information about the status of employees.
So the BPR team recommended a process change in reporting. As a result, HR and IT were communicating with each other and the problem was resolved without an expensive technology solution, Chadwick said.
Chadwick also mentioned another RCA that was conducted at another organization last month. The problem there was that senior leaders in the organization were not receiving reports about how well the organization was doing and what activities were being conducted in support of their mission.
In this particular instance, the RCA determined insufficiency in role-based training was more significant than the perceived issues with the systems used.
In both examples, problems were solved without spending a lot of money on new IT software.
The BPR CoE team is not opposed to new IT solutions, Chadwick said, but believes those types of solutions should be a last resort after other avenues have been exhausted.
MORE THAN LEAN SIX SIGMA
One of the common questions people ask, Chadwick said, is if BPR isn't just another name for Lean Six Sigma.
While both BPR and Lean Six Sigma involve process improvements, BPR is much more broadly focused on how well people, policy, processes and technologies integrate across organizations and enterprise, Chadwick said.
To get that kind of a holistic view requires a lot of work, she said, including interviews with senior leaders and those at the lower levels who are responsible for implementing policy, procedures and IT work.
Part of the challenge can be getting people to open up and talk and share their records and procedures, she said.
The reward for the BPR team comes when organizations realize efficiencies and employees feel empowered to affect positive change, she said.
The BPR CoE was stood up in 2016, Chadwick said. Since that time, the organization has offered a three-day basic and four-day intermediate course on its APG campus, as well as at Army Logistics University at Fort Lee, Virginia.
The basic course involves an overview of BPR, while the intermediate course goes into a case study with hands-on problem solving by the students, instead of lectures, she said.
Toward the end of this year, the BPR CoE will start an advanced course pilot that will provide BPR certification, she said.
Besides training, the BPR CoE has teams of experts that will travel to an organization to evaluate its enterprise upon request, she said, mentioning that most requests come from students who have attended one of the training courses and see a need for enterprise reform within their own command.