Strategic Process Management: How Deutsche Telekom Is Harmonizing Parts of the Company

How can a company organize various parts of the company centrally? And how does it harmonize diverse processes at the same time? Our interview partner is Dieter Bollenbach, Head of “Deal & Process Excellence” and Head of Strategic Process Management at Deutsche Telekom. He works in the cross-unit division “Planning & Control” at Deutsche Telekom Business Customers where he is inter alia in charge of strategic process management. He gives us an insight into the workings of the B2B Powerhouse. 

What were the challenges before the introduction of strategic process management at Deutsche Telecom? 

The B2B Powerhouse was created by merging certain units of T-Systems International and the Business Customers unit of Telekom Deutschland. Let’s begin by looking back at the past. The mobile communications sector joined the traditional business customers of the telecommunications sector, and in 2020, the telecommunications parts of T-Systems were added. The consequence was that we had many disjunct process paths and differing process management in the separate parts of the company. 

There was no central process management as it had been decentralized at Telekom and integrated into the business departments in the previous years with the aim of achieving greater agility. However, this left a certain gap at the top — there was no overarching, i.e., no strategic process management. Each business department was independently responsible for its own processes, and no one acted as an overall coordinator. The challenge was to establish strategic process management from the ground up, so to speak. 

What were the specific aims for strategic process management as a business unit? 

We have an integrated management system that regulates general cooperation. However, there were no guard rails for processes, meaning there was a lack of a higher-level authority that defined and established processes at the high level. This was also noted by the ISO audit during one of the recertifications. Our aim was to follow up on the action from the ISO certification and at the same time create added value by means of a standardized overarching process description. 

What were the elements of the road map for the implementation? 

We first had to lay the foundation; one of the basic principles was the development of the B2B framework. Preliminary work for the development of a standardized process framework with process levels 1–3 for the B2B Powerhouse had already been done. These levels are independent of any products and describe the process map, business processes, and primary processes. We then established a governance policy as the first major milestone. It regulates the integration of process management into the B2B Powerhouse and defines the strategic and operational roles along with those of the business process manager. The governance policy also describes the committees of the process improvement teams and the process communities so that intercommunication about the processes in the company is possible. Finally, we set up blueprints at process level 4 that provide product developers with a template and that enable the creation of product-by-product process documentation for the so-called “customer-to-customer processes.” 

What adjacent business divisions play an important role and where is cooperation necessary? 

In our position as strategic process management, we must consult all important divisions, including the operational departments, the sales segments of the B2B Powerhouse from micro to large enterprises and including the public sector as well as the presales units SSE and the delivery unit SBU, the solution business unit. It is equally important to involve the enabler units such as portfolio management and IT development in relation to digital transformation. These units develop new products and tools to drive digitalization within Telekom. 

What are the material benefits of a standard process in the company? 

I’ll start with those who use the processes — the employees. For them, the benefit of standard process management is having the same understanding of tasks — where they begin and end. This means that we define the same responsibilities in the process roles for employees across the board. Product developers benefit from the use of blueprints so that they do not have to start with a new process model every time, but can build on the blueprints, adapt them individually to their current product development, and use them for process documentation. 

Obtaining and maintaining ISO certification are also key points during the establishment of strategic process management. Using quality management such as ISO 9001 leads to verification of quality standards in the company, and this is a building block of crucial significance. 

In your view, what are the success factors for the establishment of strategic process management? 

This is continuous process improvement that employees can truly experience. Processes evolve and complexity is reduced. Our wish, of course, is for our framework to be used in all divisions, and we want to create an overarching harmonization. To return to the point from the start of the interview — the goal of the harmonization is decisive for the implementation of processes with overarching standards in the various parts of the company. 

Dieter, do you see any trends for success in the next five years, whether technological or organizational? 

The topic of digitalization will continue to be crucial. Everyone is talking about AI, and it will certainly find its way into our daily working world. Robots or AI will take over certain process steps that were previously performed by human beings. From a technological perspective, this is certainly one of the key areas where we will feel changes. 

Organizational challenge: How can we introduce agile integration of process improvement into the organization without falling back into rigid process management? On the one hand, we will have responsibility in the business departments, and, on the other, we will drive forward central strategic process management with a small, lean team. 

What do you regard as the main difference as well as the boundary between operational and strategic process management? How can the two work together best? 

Operational process management is responsible for turning specific processes into activities and documenting them. When it comes to a specific product such as the preparation of an offer in mobile communications, you must clarify who has to do what at what step, what tool is to be used, what is input, what is output, and subsequently concretize and document your findings. 

Strategic process management is more about making sure that the process framework is the same for everyone, that the general conditions are clear, and that all steps, no matter what the product, always happen at the same place. For example, offer releases, whether mobile, fixed network, or IT, must always happen at the same point. There must be a central specification so that the same process steps always happen at the same point, regardless of the product. In summary: strategic process management is independent of the product while operational process management is indeed dependent on the specific product, on the actual task. 

Thank you for the interview, Dieter Bollenbach! 

The interview was conducted by