By Anne-Teresa Patt
To read this interview in German, click here.
Signavio: Ms Ibe-Göhler, tell us a bit about Verka
Claudia Ibe-Göhler: Verka is a pension fund which caters for the large Protestant churches of Germany, but which also has customers in non-religious sectors. Surprisingly, the subject of company pension schemes is actually much older than one would think; Verka was founded in 1924. I’ve been working here in various roles since 2007, although I’ve remained fairly loyal to the subject of Project Management and am currently coordinating Project and Process Management in the “IT-O” (IT and Organization).
Signavio: What brought you into the field of Process Management?
Claudia Ibe-Göhler: My journey began in 1997 with a trainee program on Process Management. I became familiar with various approaches before later taking over the responsibility of coordinating Process Management at Verka. While doing this I also became aware of how one shouldn’t approach a Process Management initiative and it was exactly this which motivated me to approach things differently here. I discovered my personal preference to be a collaborative approach. Employees should be actively engaged in designing processes and to such an extent that they are able to recognize themselves in the process. Only when everyone is on board can the complexity of the subject matter be reduced and an awareness of processes be promoted.
Signavio: Was Process Management introduced in the same way as all other projects at Verka?
Claudia Ibe-Göhler: Yes. At the moment we have three big enterprise content projects. For this, functional Process Management is an important requirement. Ultimately, the ECM projects succeed and fail with the processes they are based upon. If we’re to ask ourselves how we might reach our goals, for example minimizing backlogs or improving customer service, then the answer is “through good processes.” The project and process group is therefore extremely important and supports good Process Management with the aim of reaching company goals.
Signavio: Where are you looking to go with your Process Management initiative?
Claudia Ibe-Göhler: That is a very good question, and a very significant one too, which I’m asking myself quite often actually. In order to successfully carry out a project you must regularly confront yourself with where you’re currently at and where you would like to go. For this reason I find it really important to always be conscious of the common thread running through the project and the end goals. This isn’t always easy, as digital transformation creates quite a few challenges, challenges that we are overcoming with targeted enterprise content management. I would argue that Process Optimization is also supporting us in our attempts to master digital transformation.
Signavio: What concrete goals are you aiming for and where is there room for improvement?
Claudia Ibe-Göhler: Our aims are going in two main directions: The Adherence to Minimum Requirements for Risk Management is one of those. Through this regulation, the Federal Financial Supervisory Authority makes it very clear that we must know our risk-prone processes and document them in a standardized way. With Signavio we are not only documenting these processes, we are also working on Risk Management with the help of the internal control system. We initially look at what risks exist, and provide appropriate controlling measures to reduce them. We were able to define a significant goal through a SWOT analysis and this consists of sustainable Process Optimization through which the organization of the insurance sector has become more efficient.
Signavio: Where are you currently up to with these aims?
Claudia Ibe-Göhler: At the moment we’re still documenting current state processes and defining the way we’d like them to be. We purchased Signavio a year ago and back then, we’d envisaged that we’d be further on at this stage, but you also have to be realistic about the number of employees you have. Carrying out an adequate Process Management initiative and anchoring it throughout the whole organization is a herculean task. However its usefulness is becoming clearer and we’re following our goals more strongly than ever as a result. I often compare BPM at our company with a swarm, at first it was pretty small and now it’s gathering more followers.
Signavio: What do you do with the documented current state processes?
Claudia Ibe-Göhler: Firstly, we test them. I want to finalize the process landscape in such a way that everyone is able to recognize themselves and the spirit of the organization in it. The processes will be optimized until they reflect our expectations.
Signavio: How was BPM taken up in the organization?
Claudia Ibe-Göhler: The subject was always well known as things here are pretty transparent. For certain departments, BPM is now very much present, others still need a bit of help getting to that point. The words process optimization is definitely on everyone’s lips though.
I feel that we’ve gone for a good BPM tool and that we’ll be able to win everyone in the organization over with it. Collectively, our understanding of the tool needs to mature a little so we’ve also planned internal training sessions. An openness to the idea and a willingness to work with it are definitely there though, and those are the most important requirements. Our accountants have already had a look at Signavio and it was a resounding thumbs up from them, which makes me very happy!
Signavio: Who’s modeling processes at your company?
Claudia Ibe-Göhler: There’s a central team consisting mainly of employees from the administrative side of things but also from other departments. All are involved in the designing of processes but not to the same extent. The process owners are the ones who have the real responsibility.
Signavio: How do you imagine this collaboration to unfold in practice?
Claudia Ibe-Göhler: Firstly, we’ll have to define two fundamental components: the process owner and the process aim. Before this, no one should even start to document processes. There are also other stakeholders besides the process owner: a risk manager will have a look at what risks there are in the process and how we might minimize these. We need her just as much as we need the process coordinator who ensures adherence to internal modeling conventions. We’re constantly refining these practical considerations.
Signavio: So, the documentation of processes is a process in itself?
Claudia Ibe-Göhler: Yes, pretty much. This is how we arrive at the securely defined steps which we must all follow, and ultimately to optimized standards.
Signavio: Keyword, attributes: are there special KPIs that you are measuring?
Claudia Ibe-Göhler: (laughing) This is a favourite subject for some people but not for me. This doesn’t mean that we don’t value efficiency, the opposite is true. The results that we’re trying to reach are not really qualitative and can’t be easily reduced to figures. There’s optimization potential in the search-times, which will improve as soon as we introduce electronic files. Before we can introduce them however, we’ll firstly need functional document management based on Process Management – this is how we’ll be able to bring everything together in future and achieve sustainable efficiency. If we’re able to send a customer real-time information as a result of electronic files, then that’s an operative use case that we’re currently working on with Process Management.
Signavio: How do you assess your market position, wouldn’t KPIs help you to distinguish this a little better?
Claudia Ibe-Göhler: Our priority aims operate on a qualitative level. Of course there are also high level perspectives in the market. One has to recognize however, that we’re not competing at the level of claims settlements at Allianz. We’re a specialist insurer and we have a sustainability concept – those are our strongest USPs and with this concept comes strong customer loyalty. We inspire confidence not because of our figures, but because we share the same guiding principles with our customers, principles that we realize in our work. I don’t really see the value in making everything immediately measurable. For me, it’s much more important that I carry out the fundamentals that I’ve been working on properly, rather than attempting to get into abstract ideas that ultimately bring us very little. The value for us lies with our employees, their motivation is a precious commodity to us. We would be sending out the wrong message if we were to start measuring their work and focusing only on KPIs.
Signavio: Back to software: was there a clear preference for On Premise or SaaS?
Claudia Ibe-Göhler: Long story short: the cloud was never an option for us. Our IT department requires us to manage all internal software on our own servers, in this respect, insurance companies can be quite conservative.
Signavio: What potential do you see in your project and how can we speed up your services?
Claudia Ibe-Göhler: My aim is to inspire everyone with process-oriented thinking and to continually improve processes. Everyone should be able to call up their own processes and immediately recognize the potential for improvement. I want to be able to transparently demonstrate to management what is going on in each department. I see the potential of our BPM initiative as comprehensive in its ability to ensure that we are not just working week to week or month to month, but that we are approaching things holistically and making them better. I really believe that we can achieve this. What we’re looking for from Signavio going forward is more shared experiences in the form of customer references. How do other companies implement the collaboration concept? What are their challenges? I really value useful information and am happy to share and learn from the experiences of others.
Signavio: What does BPM mean to you?
Signavio: What do you think of, when you think about Signavio?
… without Signavio, there is no Process Management. It comes to life through this.