Business process improvement methodologies: common factors and their respective efficacies

Nickerson, Winston (2014) Business process improvement methodologies: common factors and their respective efficacies. DBA thesis, University of Gloucestershire.

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Business process improvement (BPI) methodologies play an important role in increasing a business’s performance and its competitiveness. Since World War II, a number of these methodologies have been developed. Each of these held to a different philosophy as to what drives process improvement. Therefore, each focused on a seemingly unique aspect or parameter of business processes. These leverage points included, amongst others, process cycle time, quality, process efficiency, on-time delivery and error rates. The methodologies were delineated from one another not only by these focal points but also the terminology, structure and emphasis used by their creators. The result was a spectrum of seemingly unique approaches. This spectrum was enlarged by practitioners (consultants and businesses) who tweaked the base methodology so as to make their product offerings stand out. This palette of business improvement approaches was further augmented by certain techniques, tools and methods being presented as complete methodologies. The result was that business managers are confronted with a seemingly confusing array of ostensibly unique options. The author, being a business process improvement consultant, felt that these options were not as unique as they might appear. He believed that beneath these individualistic exteriors lays a common set of factors that enable the methodologies to bring about sustainable improvements. Therein lays the theoretical framework of this thesis. The author further felt that identifying these common key factors and their respective importance to business process improvement would contribute significantly to both knowledge and practice. Upon completing the research, it became evident that the contribution was not just limited to the enlightenment regarding composition, commonality and efficacy. It also involved ways of delineating targets such as methodologies from a chaotic population. Most importantly, a significant contribution to knowledge was made by showing how to synthesize information out of a set of seemingly unique data points. This uniqueness having been created by the different terminologies structures and emphasises found in the evidence. In the thesis, four unique challenges were encountered. The first was to identify the current, core business process improvement methodologies out of the total field of offerings. The subsequent challenge was to analyse these methodologies for possible common constructs and components. The third challenge involved evaluating the efficacy of these common key factors. The final challenge was to characterize these key factors in the context of a theoretical, model-based methodology. The intended result was to create a holistic perspective of process improvement practices with justification at the constituent level. A lengthy literature review was required in order to identify the current methodologies. Surprisingly, the sources normally rich in research evidence such as journals and articles did not give a comprehensive overview of business process methodologies. The candidates had to then be further researched via books and other lengthy publications. The end result was that six unique and sustaining families of methodologies were identified during the systematic literature review. Each of these had been developed by a different business improvement innovator using a different orientation associated with the methodology’s core philosophical position. It appears that, for marketing reasons, each had strived to develop unique selling points and intellectual property that set their methodology apart from the others. As a result, the language, style and emphasis applied in each methodology were seemingly distinctive. These conditions made further analysis for commonality of key factors amongst the six methodologies difficult and time-consuming. Further research involved analysing the six BPI methodologies and synthesizing qualitative evidence in order to identify the key factors common amongst those methodologies. Again, journals and articles played only a minor role in this activity. For the most part, these sources focused more on application than on composition. In addition, those dealing with application of the methodologies tended to avoid justifying applicability in terms of critical composition factors. Other sources such as books provided a framework for the composition analysis but with significant voids and confusing entries. Therefore, in addition to the series of literature reviews, interviewing intellectual property owners and BPI practitioners from both business and consulting firms was necessary. Once the interviewing process had closed the gap and provided clarification of entries, a research method had to be found which could extract the common factors and make them apparent. The appropriateness of various research, analysis and synthesis approaches were reviewed and evaluated. As a result of this ancillary literature review, a form of reciprocal translations was viewed as the best means of dealing with the research evidence as well as the issues of languages, styles, cultures and subjectivity. The final results of the synthesis, after a follow-up round of literature reviews and interviewing, showed that 12 common key factors existed amongst the six BPI methodologies. Research into the efficacy of these 12 common key factors required yet another series of literature reviews and additional interviewing. Due to the nature of the topic, interview respondents outside of the business process improvement community also had to be included. Those respondents included individuals from human resource and industrial psychology disciplines. The result of this descriptive research enabled characterization of the key factors’ efficacies independently as well as holistically in the context of a theoretical, model-based methodology. These characterizations indicate that the 12 key factors appear to form the backbone of BPI methodologies in general. The research process and its findings have contributed to both knowledge and practice. It has provided insight into using a holistic approach in delineating targeted elements of a mixed population. It also contributed to the understanding of how to apply the reciprocal translation technique to qualitative evidence outside the field of ethnography. Additionally, it enables improved business practices by demystifying the various methodologies and furthering the understanding of their value adding components.

Item Type: Thesis (DBA)
Thesis Advisors:
Thesis AdvisorEmailURL
Additional Information: Doctor of Business Administration
Uncontrolled Keywords: Business process improvement (BPI) methodologies, process efficiency
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HF Commerce
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Business, Computing and Social Sciences
Depositing User: Susan Turner
Date Deposited: 25 Mar 2015 10:54
Last Modified: 02 Aug 2023 08:34

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