An approach to business process management at a higher education institution
Nel, Maria Elizabeth
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Business processes can play a fundamental role in the improvement of quality of an organisation's services and products. Management is responsible for the organisation as a system and can improve it by defining policies and procedures, and by optimising processes. When an organisation's processes are well-designed and well-managed, the organisation institutionalises its success through its processes - it does not merely rely on individual heroes, their insight and talents to create the organisation's success. Business process management (BPM) is the structured manner in which business processes are designed, implemented and managed to achieve business objectives and improve operational performance. Successful implementation of BPM proved historically difficult. It is expected that process-based change will be complex within the study area, being the North-West University (NWU), due to its history, culture and the recent merger activities which resulted in major organisational change on strategic as well as operational levels since 2004. The main objective of the study was to develop an approach to implement business process management at North-West University. This objective was achieved by performing a literature study and an empirical investigation. The literature study focused on process concepts and factors relevant to business process management in the study area. According to the literature, complexity can be limited by structuring process redesign as series of smaller projects, each with manageable steps and with concrete, measurable payoff. Process management should not necessarily begin with automation. In organisations with low process maturity, it is advisable to follow a 'business-case' approach, in which smaller process redesign/design projects are launched within departments or divisions. Priority processes are identified; involved staff educated about processes; the processes are redesigned and implemented and relevant measurements are introduced. The second part of the study entails an empirical investigation, in which ways were explored to: (i) determine process maturity of selected processes; (ii) determine the level of process orientation of selected departments; and (iii) comment on the usability of the instruments that were utilised during (i) and (ii). Two separate investigations were conducted using modified questionnaires based on the Hammer Process and Enterprise Maturity Model (PEMM) and Reijers process orientation model. The first PEMM-based investigation was conducted within two support departments, namely Human Resource Operations and Finances. The second Reijers-based investigation was performed within an academic department, being the School of Continuing Teachers' Education. The PEMM-based model investigates three aspects, namely: process maturity of a process; enterprise maturity of a department; and aggregated process orientation, which is a combination of process maturity and enterprise maturity. The Reijers-model investigates only process orientation. The most important observation was the different process maturity ratings between the three respondent groups of process owner/s, performers and customers. As far as overall process orientation of all three departments is concerned, there is also a significant difference in maturity ratings between the process owners and performers in two departments. Further investigation is necessary to determine the reasons for this. The PEMM instrument was experienced as difficult by respondents but provided more specific pointers to process or enterprise maturity problems. The Reijers instrument is easy to use but does not provide detail on possible problem areas. Further refinement of the instruments is recommended. Implementation of business process management at the NWU should be structured in a series of smaller, manageable steps. It is advised that the "business case" approach is followed and priority processes be identified. Business process implementation projects should be carefully planned and executed, taking into consideration the level of process maturity of relevant processes as well as the process orientation of the department involved.
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