Fattening the Pig: The Importance of Measuring Process Improvements

Written by Lucas de Boer | 3 min read
Published on: October 2nd 2018 - Last modified: September 24th, 2021
Continuous Improvement for Business Transformation - Process

Measuring process improvements is important because it allows you to see whether the actions you take are actually helping your business thrive. Combining effective measurement with a clear set of goals outlining exactly how you want to improve the way your business works is a a combination crucial to your continued success. But what does this have to do with a piece of pig-related farmyard wisdom? Read on to find out!

Setting the scales

Many of us working in the process management field are familiar with the saying, “You can’t fatten a pig by weighing it.” In other words, while measurement is important, it cannot be treated as the sole basis for improvement. The implied advice is to take action to improve things, and worry less about the importance of measuring process improvements. If we continue the analogy, this means helping our porcine pal pack on the pounds, and forgetting about how accurate our scales are.

In a real-world context, it is impossible to develop a process or transform a business using measurement alone. However, without measurement, it is impossible to quantify the effect of any given action across your business processes, either positive or negative. Therefore, action and measurement must work in harmony.

Getting the balance right - Process Management Trends Across Industries survey

To better understand the balance between action and measurement, Signavio commissioned a survey on the differences and similarities between how process management is used across various industries. Responses from more than 100 C-suite executives, IT specialists, VPs, managers, and directors make up the data set for Signavio’s statistical report on Process Management Across Industries.

Unsurprisingly, many of the respondents were very focused on quantifying the results of their process management improvements, including how they evaluated the success (or otherwise!) of business transformation initiatives. They had the scales ready, and the pig was being pushed towards them. The question that can often be missed, of course, is “Why?” To over-extend the metaphor, why bother heaving that pig up onto the scales, with all the struggling and squealing that involves?

The importance of measuring process improvements

Measuring process improvements is important because it allows you to see whether the actions you take are actually helping your business thrive.

As an example, most respondents to the Signavio survey considered improper documentation and the resulting time inefficiency as a significant problem in their industry. However, despite this, only a minority listed ‘improved documentation’ as part of the business transformation they needed. Even among this minority, fewer than half actually used ‘better documentation’ as a measure of the success of their business transformation initiative. In other words, a good chunk of respondents knew they needed better documentation, but weren’t measuring whether the changes they were implementing were actually leading to better documentation.

Think of it as feeding the pig to make it fatter, then taking its temperature instead of weighing it. You'll certainly get information, but it won't be meaningful, and it won't help with the goal you have in mind!

How process mining can help

The combination of action and measurement is a powerful one, but as the example above shows, there is often a gap between the two. Process mining technology can fill this gap, allowing organizations in any industry to monitor processes in real time, and generate automatic reports on deviations. Process mining also creates the backlog of information you need to compare the effect of your actions over time, as well as measuring process improvements on a continuing basis.

By setting a clear goal for your business transformation or process improvement initiative, and deciding exactly how you will measure progress towards that goal, you can make clear-eyed decisions about which improvement actions are working, and which can be discarded. Keep a clear goal, decide on the most useful measure of your success, and pretty soon you’ll be bringing home the bacon.

Next steps

If you’d like to know more about implementing your own business transformation initiatives, and the importance of measuring process improvements, Signavio has a 7 Step Guide to Effective Business Transformation that is just right. If you’re ready to see for yourself how Signavio can help you get started, why not sign up for a free 30-day trial today?

Published on: October 2nd 2018 - Last modified: September 24th, 2021