We love hiking in the mountains near our home in Southern California. We hike on vacation, and we even hike when we can on business trips. Even so, when we made the decision to go to the World’s most renowned trails (Nepal, land of Everest, Annapurna and much more), we knew we needed to step up our footwear game. Hiking and trekking are not the same animal, so a great pair of boots was necessary.

Boot acquisition

One trip to REI made it clear that we had choices between all sorts of sexy materials and styles. But what caught our attention immediately were the leather Asolo boots on the top shelf, not surprisingly the most expensive. Mike Oliva, our sales guy (known locally as ‘the shoe whisperer’) made the choice easier when he explained that leather has always been the most durable and breathable material for the money.

He went on to say that these old-school-looking boots were a great combination of leather, Gore-Tex, metal lace guides, Vibram soles, a state-of-the-art ankle support and a classic alpine look. We were sold. We just completed our second long trek in the Himalayas in those boots and we can’t say enough about how smart that purchase was. We were the ones with dry feet, no blisters and happy smiles.

Of course this story has parallels to the business process world.

Best of all worlds

Don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t more expensive to have the best of all worlds in BPM, either. It simply is, but with good reason. Simply jumping to new designs is tempting mostly because there’s so much more W-O-R-K required to know what constitutes the best of both worlds.

To make it just a bit harder, shiny and new (‘to-be’ in business process terminology) is always more attractive and seemingly easier to create than the drudgery of first spelling out the as-is. The reality is that we can’t know what to keep unless we know what we have. We need to build on the best of what is already in place.

A very common question in business process consulting is whether or not to capture the as-is, and how much effort to expend on it. The usual argument is that if we know it isn’t working well, why spend the time? This argument couldn’t be more wrong.

Reality stories

Nestlé last year used 80 executives and SME’s over six months to gain an understanding of what they had, a task made more complicated by a history of many acquisitions and divergent business models. By carefully creating their as-is processes, they were able to look at consolidating–with detailed info–into a best-of-breed plan that they can own and operate World-wide.

Their analysis allowed them to know what to keep, what to improve, what the impact was on other process areas and opened the door to BPM success.

From another angle, the world’s top manufacturer of networking gear initially told me that it takes two years for the ‘stamp’ to be placed on new acquisitions and for the purchase to show returns. Two years? That’s a very long time to wait…but I’ll bet this is a safe time buffer if two parties don’t have a business process system that spells out what they themselves do and a system for merging the best of both worlds.

And how does that stamp work? A company’s decision to buy another is likely tied to aspects of the target’s as-is that should be kept, not ‘stamped’ out. It is just as likely that some aspects of the acquisition’s way of operating are even better than those of the acquirer.

They are busy documenting for the present and next time they acquire and are on a great path. They know that without clear knowledge through the capture of the as-is, it is unlikely that the to-be will reflect the best of all worlds, like our awesome leather boots.