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BPR: A journey in business, personal transformation

As most of you have heard by now, there’s a new department on campus working to improve the effectiveness of our business processes. Led by Tim Werth, director, and Amber Thompson, manager, the Business Process Reengineering (BPR) department began in early 2016 with a plan designed to provide faculty and staff with the best processes and tools possible to be successful in their respective roles.

From the beginning
The vision for BPR is to provide a holistic view and approach for process redesign. While Purdue has had successful assessments and process improvement activities in the past, our overall administrative foundation complexity continues to grow at an alarming rate.
According to Thompson, we were able to collaborate with our colleagues to step back and ask ‘why are we doing certain tasks in the first place?’ Through discussions with stakeholders and an in-depth analysis of reengineering opportunities, three projects emerged as priorities.

The three areas of required transformation identified are:

  1. General Ledger Transformation (GL)
  2. Human Capital Management (HCM)
  3. Enterprise Asset Management (EAM)

These three projects are overarching and will touch every employee at the University.

Building the team
“We have built an exceptional team to lead the projects as our administrative departments have allocated key leaders and subject matter experts to our project teams,” Werth explained.  “Our Core teams are led by accomplished Purdue veterans such as Eva Nodine, Linda Baer and John Higgins and supported by expert colleagues in technology and reporting.  Our teams also include experts like Stacy Umlauf, Allison Harris, Tonya Yoder, Diane Windler and many others who hail from various departments and levels in our organization and each brings with them a passion for improving Purdue. Our colleagues have made much appreciated sacrifices to allocate these important resources to our team.” 

For example, Melanie Bell, talent acquisition specialist in Human Resources, was approached about the BPR opportunity in mid-August by her then supervisor, Brenda Coulson, director of Talent Acquisition.

“We had heard about the Human Capital Management project and how it would impact recruiting,” Bell said. “It sounded really exciting to me. I had seen a demo of SuccessFactors and sat in on meetings about why we were examining HCM processes and why we were moving in this direction.”

A first-hand perspective

For Bell, the opportunity aligned with her desire to learn more about everything. As a relatively new employee to Purdue in general, she realized that she knew very little about how everything was interconnected and how it all came together.

“That’s what drew me to this project and excited me,” Bell shared. “I knew this would provide a unique opportunity to see and learn how everything is connected and better understand how changing one piece of a process impacts other areas at the University.”
One of Bell’s first tasks in her BPR role was to document all of the central HR processes. Not only did she help document specifics such as the number of paper-based processes, Excel usage, frequency of processes and duration of processes, but she also gathered the first-hand perspectives from the employees on the front lines as well as their supervisors and area leaders.

“We asked employees about their pain points in regards to these processes that they routinely perform for their respective jobs,” Bell said. “Asking people to share what they felt to be the most painful parts of their jobs was very eye-opening and even cathartic to some people, I think. It helped them build a stake in the project, and it also helped us identify where the inefficiencies are in their day-to-day worlds.”

This process documentation plays a vital role in supporting the design phases of our projects and is being accumulated not just by Bell, but also by other team members like Andrew Bean, Nathan Manges, Whitney Beutel and others. The team is taking the process information collected and using it during recently started design workshops. 

“Melanie has given a voice to people that understand the pain in their processes but don’t have the channel or empowerment to make those changes themselves,” Thompson said. “Showing that we’ve heard them and using that information is what we are doing within our projects. It is our goal to make sure the pain points are addressed and also to challenge the status quo.”

While asking the difficult questions has resulted in much growth for the projects, Bell admits that’s been the most challenging aspect for her in her new role.

“Coming from HR, I came from a position where my goal was to make my customers happy while maintaining compliance,” Bell shared. “In this role, I have to adopt a different mindset. I have to be ready and willing to ask difficult questions about existing processes, knowing full well I’m probably going to make some people uncomfortable. It’s been challenging, but it’s been very good for me. It’s an asset of a mindset to be able to go into a room and not be afraid to challenge people.”

Thompson agrees.

“We should all feel free to challenge,” she said. “Through these workshops and sessions we can get more comfortable asking the hard questions. We all have the same goal in mind – to create effective processes so our colleagues can spend more time doing meaningful, value-adding work.”

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