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Leading Change

Leon Raeven on BPM at Royal DSM

Interview: Gerben de Roest and Ad de Goeij

In the picture: Leon Raeven

This contribution describes the way Royal DSM is using Business Process Management (BPM) within its organization, based on an interview with Leon Raeven, Manager BPM & Operational Support at Process Advisory & Services (PA&S), a department within the DSM Expert Center (DEC).

Leon, a biologist with a PhD degree, started his career as a fermentation technologist working for DSM Anti-Infectives in Delft. For a number of years he was active in R&D, including the role of R&D Manager for DSM Corporate Technology in Germany. Subsequently, in 2005, Leon switched over to a business compliance project, and after another two years he focused on the implementation of standardized processes, including the supporting SAP platform. After concluding a number of implementation projects within DSM, Leon assumed the position of Business Consultant BPM in 2011. His activities – in conjunction with the Global Process Owner BPM, Titus Looman – involve the development of a vision for BPM on the one hand, and taking the necessary steps to realize this vision on the other. From September 1, 2013 Leon has been managing the BPM & Operational Support (BOS) Department within DSM Process Advisory & Services (PA&S). Apart from lending operational support to all projects and services within PA&S, this team is also responsible for maintaining the BPM platform and documentation standards for business processes and for creating insights into how these processes are used. This enables Global Process Owners – in conjunction with their business consultants and the process experts in DSM’s various business units – to control their business processes to the greatest possible extent and also to improve them continuously.

Why is BPM important to DSM, and what does it involve?

“First and foremost, DSM feels that BPM can be most helpful in handling the increasing complexity in the world, by making business processes, including supporting IT solutions, easier to maintain. Secondly, DSM aims to be in a position to adapt more rapidly to a constantly changing environment (‘agility’).”  On the basis of these objectives, the PA&S BPM team is therefore working on three areas: a) creating a central BPM platform in which all business processes are maintained; b) process orchestration which enables the model of a business process to determine the implementation, and c) measuring and comparing the performance of business processes in daily practice with DSM across the world.

Having content-related knowledge of the business processes is not a primary area of interest within the BPM concept – this is more a matter for the functional teams focusing on the business processes, such as Procurement and Sales. BPM gives support, offers insight, and also provides the required aids, tools and technologies to enable increased integral maintainability of that expertise with regard to business processes. In addition, it enables the creation of the desired flexibility, wherever necessary, and the smoother and faster implementation of adjustments. “The Process Owners and Process Experts at DSM remain responsible for the quality of their business processes, including the implementation of improvements supported by methodologies such as Lean/Six Sigma.” A global view of DSM supported by business reporting, adequate risk management and master data management are competences that are accommodated separately within DSM. Here, too, DSM needs to find an integrated way of working, as the design of business processes is closely connected with the reporting structure and vital master data elements.

It is essential to capture content-related structured knowledge with regard to business processes in so-called “models”. At the same time, however, these models are becoming increasingly necessary for the purpose of guiding employees. “Instead of having to look at what they should be doing when and in what order, the use of process orchestration makes the lives of employees a lot easier.” Depending on choices that are made at the start of, or even during, the process, process orchestration automatically determines which steps are required to achieve the desired result. Employees are involved only if an action is required (giving approval, providing additional information etc.) within the business process.

BPM also includes the competences and means to measure and improve the performance of business processes, in other words: how effectively and efficiently do the processes actually work out in reality? BPM supports DSM in identifying and coordinating improvement tracks for business processes. Important elements in this specific area of BPM are Process Performance Management and Process Discovery. “Process Performance Management focuses on measuring processes on the basis of pre-defined performance indicators and on identifying causes that explain why the relevant indicator is lower in one business unit than in the other, for example.” Especially regarding the latter, Process Discovery is very helpful: a graphic representation of the business process shows how it has actually been carried out, apart from the desired implementation. This method provides insight into the process variants and streams, and shows which variant ensures that one procurement order is processed more rapidly than the rest, for example. On the basis of this kind of insight, DSM continues to realize improvements in business processes. Clearly the two topics are aligned with one another as well as being mutually complementary.    


Figure 1. BPM cycle at DSM.

Where does DSM stand in the field of BPM?

DSM’s central BPM platform

All standard business processes are currently collated in a central repository (by means of ARIS, from Software AG). Not only are the standard business processes depicted; so too are the local variants. The processes displayed in ARIS are linked to the supporting SAP ERP application via the SAP Solution Manager tool. This information allows one to see the differences between the DSM business components at process, sub-process and even system-configuration levels. At the same time, this construction ensures that business processes and SAP remain aligned with one another, and that the right people do the right things in the right order when changes are needed.

Process orchestration

DSM has implemented the process orchestration platform of Software AG (BPMS/webMethods). “Via so-called ‘use cases’, such as in the areas of HR, Finance and Master Data Management, for example, we have demonstrated that all kinds of business processes can, wherever necessary, be automated using a layer on top of existing applications. By this means, the application as such becomes almost invisible to users, and process activities are governed by requesting proactive (inter)action from the user in the BPMS/webMethods layer (a user receives an instruction to execute a certain action via the BPMS/webMethods layer).” Within a business process, a user must analyze options and make certain choices that determine which process variant will be executed. “The process orchestration platform operates all process variants automatically, allowing the user to focus on taking rapid, intelligent decisions instead of thinking about what the next step should be and in which application he should be doing it.” In the long term, this system will replace all existing independent work-flow management systems.

Process performance management and process discovery

At present, the DSM Fibre Intermediates business group is running its first pilot project in the field of Sales (Order-to-Cash). An increasing number of DSM units are showing interest in deploying this for business processes other than just Sales. “For Global Process Owners, this is the opportunity par excellence in the field of business processes to obtain insights into the way their area is performing within the whole of DSM, as well as in relation to other companies, and into where improvements can be implemented to make DSM yet more successful.”

What has made BPM successful within DSM?

“Primarily the awareness that the optimization and governance of business processes bring inherent benefits, such as the shortening of lead times for the implementation of changes to business processes so as to capitalize more rapidly on new opportunities.” These benefits have not been quantified specifically for BPM, but more in the functional areas, such as Purchasing and Sales. “The Managing Board regards BPM as a ‘must do’ project because it has realized that the various existing BPM concepts, which were outdated, no longer provide adequate support in the increasingly fast-changing business environment in which DSM operates. In other words, the tools of the craftsman do not determine whether he is a good or a bad worker, but without good tools he will never be a good craftsman.” In addition, it is also important to have a good Process Owner for BPM: someone who has the confidence of the Managing Board and other important stakeholders within DSM. Leon concludes: “It is important to visualize, in a simple way and at an early stage, what BPM has to offer via real demos, because the BPM concepts as such do not immediately fire the average person’s imagination.”