The APQC Blog

A Better Way to Implement Business Software Solutions: Aligning Process, Information, and Technology

I was recently able to speak with Tim Allen, vice president at Project Consulting Group (PCG) about the common pitfalls of implementing ERP, CRM, and BI systems.  Often these implementations are driven by rapid execution strategies designed to save time and money, with little or no consideration for the correct alignment of the technology with the company’s mission critical process. In many cases, the company is not able to garner true ROI from the software investment and employees actually end up using only a small portion of the software functionality. According to Tim one solution is establishing a four phase approach for process, information, and technology alignment (PITA).

APQC: In your PITA approach you differentiate an organization’s processes as: strategic differentiators, core, and infrastructural process. What methodologies or practices should organizations use to determine which category a process falls within?

Allen: We advocate using a cross-functional, cross-level (executive to shop floor), workshop that includes input form customers (voice-of-the-customer) to come to a consensus on what really differentiates the business from competitors and influences customers to buy the companies goods and services. It could be the company wins because of superior quality, lowest cost, speed to delivery, or follow on services after the sale. Once these factors are identified, the processes that support these factors can be deemed “strategic”. The key for strategic processes is focus – that is you can’t be everything to everybody – you need to make a conscious choice and invest time and effort in a few processes versus many. This does not mean you can execute other processes poorly or ignore them –it means you don’t have to be the best in these areas just on par. Once the strategic processes are defined you can move down to the next levels. Infrastructure processes are the easiest to define as they are “the basic business processes that are not industry or competitive specific – that is you perform these process the same in every business. A good example of an infrastructure process is accounting which is typically prescribed by standards like GAAP requirements. The core processes are a little more difficult to define. In general the core processes are supporters or “connectors” to the strategic processes. For example if our customers deem “speed of delivery response (how quick we can execute on an order)” as a strategic value then the strategic process could be ordering and transportation processes supported by the core processes in warehousing and inventory.

APQC: What phase of the PITA approach do most organizations struggle with?

Allen: Typically most organizations struggle in phase two, define information. This phase looks at defining information requirements and the reason companies struggle in this phase is they do not have a clear understanding of the processes being used and subsequent information that is required by the processes for good decision making, performance management and execution of each process step. In many organizations processes simply evolve in a non-structured environment without serious thought and analysis around the information required for each step in the process. This leads to disparate and diverse information sources being used by employees operating the processes leading to a “tribal knowledge” mentality versus a structured approach were information requirements are clearly defined and thus can be planned for and delivered in a rational data strategy.

APQC: Who is responsible for reviewing and rating process and information alignment with best practices and technology?  What role do process owners and front-line employees play in this approach?

Allen: We advocate a cross-functional team consisting of process owner, process users (front-line people executing the process,) and an IT representative/knowledge expert familiar with the functional area/module within the software application. The process owners and process users are responsible for documenting and communicating the process requirements from a business perspective and working with the IT representative to translate these into technical requirement (sometimes called the “use case”). If you don’t use a blend on both the IT (technical) and the business process users/owners you will typically end up with a mis-alignment in process and technology since only one side or view is represented. In some rare cases you may have an employee with the capability to represent both sides (business need and the corresponding technical requirement) – but that is usually pretty rare.

Join us on Thursday, August 27 at 11:00 a.m. CDT to hear Tim discuss the PITA approach and learn how to plan and implement ERP, CRM and BI systems to increase the effectiveness of the software implemented ensuring customer and employee satisfaction and the appropriate application of the software to streamline processes and garner true ROI.

For more process and performance management research and insights follow me on twitter at @hlykehogland or connect with me on