#IBMImpact: Erik Keller, Sirva, and the Process-Driven Organization

Scott Francis
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I came just a couple minutes late to this session, Tuesday morning.  When I opened the door, a packed house greeted me – not a chair to be seen.  I joined a row of people standing along the back row, and made my way to a corner, where I sat on the floor for a while so that I could take some notes.  Quite a few people opened the door, assessed the lack of seating and left, but several more joined us along the back row… Erik Keller, CIO of Sirva, gave a talk titled “One CIOs Perspective”.  He painted the picture when he started on the BPM journey with Lombardi – when Sirva had CAGR of 40%, but in the face of that growth, operational productivity and effectiveness were trending downward. The original goals of the BPM initiative were to support the growth without a loss of productivity or effectiveness as the business ramped – this was during the height of the real estate boom, and the relocation business was booming along with the economy.  But when the economy started to go south, Sirva’s business was dramatically affected.  And the goals shifted from managing growth to managing risk and cost.  Erik called out one of the big benefits of BPM was that it (or Lombardi’s software at any rate) were flexible enough to make this shift in objectives and still support the business. Erik described the old work flow – colored folders for different parts of the process – very paper-based.  The amount of integration to legacy systems was difficult.  They were clever about their approach, but it was still difficult to get it all done.  Some of the keys to success from Mr. Keller’s point of view:
  • Focus on the most critical business priorities
  • Implement changes incrementally (and the capacity to do this)
  • Build competitive advantage through the BPM platform
  • Apply consistent technology and process across service centers
  • Leverage existing components
  • Full participation (everyone needs to participate to make it a success)
  • Gain control and visibility with software
There were originally 7 core processes scoped for phase 1 – but they realized that it was simply too much scope (integration, process definition, etc.) and so they are now working on 3.0 to bring in the rest of the 7 core processes.  A key lesson here is, just because your initial assessment of scope is wrong, doesn’t mean you should give up – Erik and his team were able to pivot and focus on the most important processes first, and branch out from there. Responding to a question, Erik mentioned that they had 10 people on the first project, and they have 20 now.  We at BP3 had the good fortune of working with the Sirva team on part of the 2.0 delivery, and the core team is really good – very strong technically, and they have a great understanding of the business *and* the technology to support it. Erik reinforced that there is a huge dependency on the quality of people and the quality of their interactions.  What a great way to phrase the human capital part of the equation. Previously in my summary of Toby Cappello’s session on COEs, I mentioned the “wall” that people hit as they roll out BPM.  Erik described such a situation as Sirva came freshly off of a rollout of APEX 1.0 to their local service center. The service center loved it and it really supported their business, so Sirva set out to roll out the process to two more service centers…. who immediately rejected it! Sirva took a step back and incorporated changes to support the other service centers’ needs, but also to get agreement on the “right way” to execute these processes – compromise, but require standardization as well. Some thoughts on roles: At Sirva, BAs are Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) on the business.  Sometimes the gaps aren’t obvious til you go live or to a pilot – and they had some luck bringing in outside help to mediate between IT and the business, or to find gaps in requirements. Sirva is now rolling out enhancements every couple of months, doing good work to support the business.  Agility is tied to how big your chunks of delivery are – the bigger the chunks, the less agile you are. Great session, with a good Q&A at the end.  Erik does a good job answering but also facilitating getting answers from members of his team who were at the session.

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