Operations Management: Critical Analysis

| March 25, 2020

Question

1. Decide on THREE topics in the area of operations management.
2. Following reading these articles, you are required to produce ONE detailed analytical report (3000 words) emphasizing the critical analysis of each article you have selected. In the report, you need to provide your personal reflection and debate as a team supported by practical examples and highlighting your recommendations for improving the ideas discussed in these articles

Answer

Name of Student:

Institutional Affiliation:

Contents

Introduction. 2

Business Process Management. 2

SWOT Analysis. 5

Operational Resources Management. 6

SWOT Analysis. 9

Project Management. 10

SWOT Analysis. 11

Conclusion. 12

References. 14

Introduction

            Operations management plays a vital role in companies by addressing various ways through which processes can be managed for the production and distribution of products and services. Operations management research focuses on the efficiency of processes relating to production and distribution such as quality control, knowledge management, operational resource management, logistics, and project management. The aim of this analytical report is to provide critical analysis of and personal reflection on nine journal articles focusing on three topics: business process management, project management, and operational resource management. The report also uses SWOT analysis to determine how each of the topics can be applied by companies.

Business Process Management

            Many researchers have examined the issues of business process management. This analytical report analyzes three articles that relate to this issue. In the first article, Cronemyr & Danielsson (2013) provide insights for process management in order to examine various ways in which process management can be improved. The article seeks to solve a recurring problem, whereby many current management concepts have failed to bring about the expected outcomes. According to Cronemyr & Danielsson (2013), the problem arises because some companies start from an advanced level, thereby neglecting the necessary prerequisites. It is against this backdrop that the article presents a maturity model for process management that involved academic and industrial cooperation.

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            Promoting cooperation between industry and academia is an excellent way of promoting business process management. Thus, Cronemyr & Danielsson (2013) have made an important contribution to business process management through the arguments presented in their article. Companies can use the model to assess whether their process maturity has reached a point where they can embrace advanced business process management approaches. The article has maintained a high level of specificity in terms of theme, with the objective being to emphasize the need to avoid the risk of failure that comes with starting off at a very high level.

            The second article on business process management is by Natek & Lesjak (2013), who investigates ways of using higher education institutions (HEI) process data models to improve knowledge management. Natek & Lesjak (2013) argue that there is an association between the idea of knowledge as a substance and the notions of knowledge bases and databases. Based on this association, one can validly associate the knowledge process with the business process. In this article, Natek & Lesjak (2013) focus on the business process and its relationship with knowledge bases and databases. Natek & Lesjak (2013) conclude that for improvement in knowledge management to occur, HEIs need to integrate their data and process models to be in line with contemporary knowledge management perspectives.

            In the third article on this topic, Cao, Thompson & Triche (2013) address the various ways in which knowledge management systems and business processes affect performance. This study uses the technology-task fit framework and multi-case study methodology to investigate the relationship between knowledge management (KM) systems and business processes. The study embarks on an important objective of extending the technology-task fit approach. In this undertaking, the explanation provided is simple and straightforward in the sense that the authors provide clarity on how KM systems jointly contribute to the utilization of available knowledge resources, thereby influencing both organizational and individual performance. This view is validated by the researchers’ reliance on the ideas elaborated on in the theoretical framework to derive three propositions, an approach that is in line with conventional academic research practices. It is equally important the study has tested the validity of these propositions using the multi-case study methodology. Cao, Thompson & Triche (J2013) justify their decision to develop propositions before collecting data by pointing out that theirs is not a descriptive study but rather one that seeks to investigate causal explanations for a phenomenon.

            The article produces inconsistent results regarding whether the KM system-Business process fit affects utilization, although results appear to depend on job title. The article also discovers that the utilization of KM systems and the KM system-Business process fit have a positive influence on business performance. This means that the knowledge that is stored and used within the KM system by organizations, departments, and individuals across the value chain plays a critical role in making a collaborative network more effective and increasing performance.

            From a manager’s perspective, business administrators can rely on this framework to make sense of the fit between KM systems and business processes in order to improve performance at both individual and organizational levels. For example, managers can gather information from this article on how to improve the quality of data obtained from non-routine business processes. Similarly, the article encourages administrators to spend more time ensuring that content obtained from various KM systems is compatible with existing content and that it can be located easily. These efforts can improve the competitive advantage of business through increased business performance.

SWOT Analysis

The topic of business process management is important for business because of the insights it provides for enhancing performance. Companies that embrace business process management are likely to benefit from various strengths, one of them being the ability to focus on necessary prerequisites is an excellent way of building competitive advantage (Cronemyr & Danielsson, 2013). Another strength is that businesses tend to benefit from increased cooperation between industry and academia. Thirdly, KM systems are an excellent resource for companies since they contribute to the utilization of available knowledge resources, thereby impacting positively on both organizational and individual performance. Business process management may also portend weaknesses for companies as well. For instance, HEIs have not yet integrated their data and process models to be in line with contemporary knowledge management perspectives, meaning that companies that rely on HEIs for capacity building within their business processes are likely to achieve sub-optimal outcomes in terms of performance. Another weakness is that results on whether utilization of KM systems and business processes is beneficial for a company to vary depending on one’s job title, meaning that different managers hold different views regarding the effectiveness of business process management.

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            Companies that embrace business process management also get a number of opportunities. To begin with, the idea of process maturity creates the notion that companies have an opportunity to use various business process management models to assess whether their process maturity has reached a point where they can embrace advanced business process management approaches. Moreover, using higher education institutions (HEI) process data models can greatly improve knowledge management. Lastly, business administrators can rely on business process management to improve performance at both individual and organizational levels. On the other hand, companies must confront a number of threats as well. A case in point is the advanced-level processes, which can pose a threat to the survival of a company if not handled well. To thwart this threat, companies must avoid venturing into advanced-level business processes before handling the prerequisites (Cronemyr & Danielsson, 2013). Another threat arises from inconsistent results regarding whether the KM system-Business process fit affects the utilization of knowledge management strategies. This inconsistency is a threat because of the resulting lack of clarity on whether KM systems constitute a viable investment for companies.

Operational Resources Management

            The first under this topic is by Akcay, Balakrishnan & Xu (2010) and its focus is on the benefits of resource flexibility. According to the analysis presented, resource flexibility entails making decisions regarding accepting incoming jobs and the resources to be assigned to each job that is accepted. This element of flexibility should be capitalized on through the making of appropriate operational decisions. The findings of this article are applicable to the contemporary workplace training industry, where variables such as job types, multiple resource types, and resource flexibility structures, resource assignment, and job acceptance are critical for proper management of operational resources.

            One finding of this study is that managers can accept jobs but defer to assign resources until the problem scenario has been properly defined (Akcay, Balakrishnan & Xu, 2010). Postponing assignment decisions may be valuable for a company but this may vary depending on the operational circumstances of the company. On the other hand, employing specialized, flexible resources enables firms to keep broadening their service offerings in a manner that also enables them to reduce lost sales and maintain high resource utilization. The study also examines prior work on the importance of flexibility in terms of deferring resource assignment until the right level of demand has been realized. The downside of this assumption is that it is not applicable to service that needs to make decisions dynamically on whether incoming jobs should be accepted or not. The same case applies to dynamic decisions on what resources should be assigned to jobs that have already been accepted. The study also finds that these decisions have far-reaching implications for the profitability of a company (Akcay, Balakrishnan & Xu, 2010).

            By providing comparisons among three policies being used to guide decisions on accepting jobs and assigning resources, the study provides valuable guidelines on how companies should go about the task of address the issue of flexibility in the management of operational resources. The three policies include DCA (Deterministic Capacity Allocation), BCR (Bottleneck Capacity Reservation), and DCA (Deterministic Capacity Allocation, DCA). Each policy has its advantages; the DCA policy addresses capacity interactions in relation to flexibility structures, the NCR policy focuses on randomness in demand, while the BCR policy is based on the strengths of DCA and NCR.

            The second article under this topic is byBirdi et al. (2008), whose objective is to assess the relative merits of various SHRM practices, specifically empowerment, teamwork, and extensive training. Emphasis is on the impact of these practices on performance and competitive advantage. In terms of performance, the concepts being emphasized include just-in-time manufacturing, lean production, integrated manufacturing, supply-chain partnering, and the adoption of advanced manufacturing technology. The study supports the SHRM theory based on the finding that performance is impacted positively by extensive training and empowerment. On the other hand, teamwork is seen to enhance both extensive training and empowerment, thereby contributing, albeit discretely, to performance. However, these operational practices did not exhibit a direct relationship to productivity. Moreover, they did not show interactions that demonstrated consistency with the principles of lean production and integrated manufacturing. These findings seem to reinforce mixed views regarding the effects of psychology-based practices and organizational-level outcomes. To understand their value better, it may be necessary to examine them in the context of related initiatives whose aim is to promote operational management.

            Meanwhile, the study by Birdi et al. (2008) has its strengths and limitations as well. One strength is about using a longitudinal design to measure multiple performance-related variables. Another strength entails using a large sample size. In terms of limitations, the first concern is about the way practices were measured. Expert interviews and literature review formed the basis on which practices were described. This approach may not have created room for variation in the way firms have adopted those practices to be captured. Another limitation is about the respondents’ frame of reference, whereby the effects of differential practices in different sections of the firms’ workforce were overlooked. In this regard, it may be appropriate for future studies to focus on a comparison of different teams within the sample companies. Lastly, Birdi et al. (2008) focused on the mere use of practices instead of delving deeper to examine effective use. This limitation arises from the widely held view in recent literature that the impact of SHRM practices depends on whether they have been implemented in the right manner.

            In the third article, Jain (1986) describes the need to enhance the operational thrust of human resources development (HRD). It examines this subject in the context of both national socio-economic policies and global influences. It highlights HRD problems and suggests possible solutions to those problems. For example, the conflicting demands arising from HRD as highlighted by policymakers have been outlined. One suggested solution is a national training, which, the author argues, can act as a way of compensating for the inadequacy of formal education, thereby leading to a tendency for training policies to be pulled in different directions by diverse objectives. Jain (1986) also points out that HRD efforts should be geared towards reaching to those who are at the margin of national socio-economic development, and that the youth need to be retrained to address the negative effects of technological change.

            In this article, the section on operational issues affecting HRD at the national level highlights a number of issues, including the societal changes that continue to affect HRD, and the continuing relevance of labor market mechanisms in creating an operational thrust for HRD.In the section on the human resources element and national development, Jain (1986) has described the main challenges being encountered during efforts to address HRD issues as part of problem-solving at the level of national development. An important observation at this point is that human resources issues should not be isolated from the mainstream debate on national development. A useful practical example provided at this juncture is the wrong notion that human resources management is always someone else’s job. Another crucial observation is that the ideal situation would be one where the impact analysis of human resources is incorporated into the processes of formulating policies and planning projects. Jain (1986) recommends the adoption of shared responsibility in terms of training, primarily through alternate training, training center assistance, and in-plant training in order to instill an element of operational thrust in human resources development.

SWOT Analysis

One major strength arising from operational resources management is that companies promoting resource flexibility are able to make good decisions regarding accepting incoming jobs. Additionally, extensive training and empowerment have a positive impact on performance in companies. Moreover, the workplace training industry can embrace the principles of operational resources management to improve both output and outcomes. In terms of weaknesses, one thing that should be pointed is that societal changes such as technological changes have impacted negatively on HRD due to poor operational resources management practices.

Operational resources management also portends opportunities for companies as well. For instance, principles of resource flexibility are yet to be fully embraced in the corporate world. This means that companies still need to exploit all opportunities relating to this practice to enable them to manage their operational resources more appropriately. As for threats, a major concern relates to the adoption of new technologies. The adoption processes of many companies pose a threat to operational resources management because it is rarely accompanied by proper choice of HRD and SHRMapproaches and practices

Project Management

            In the first article under this topic, Pollack & Adler (2015) set out to test the common assumption that project management brings about positive outcomes for the business. This research objective arises out of a lack of clarity on whether project management should be treated as a core skill that has a positive impact on sales and profitability in small- and medium-sized business enterprises. The study’s findings indicate that project management indeed impacts positively on sales and profitability. Other business skills that were also found to have a positive effect on business outcomes include IT professional skills, financial skills, and IT-support technician skills. The study’s main limitation is that it has not accounted for the many variables that affect profitability in small- and medium-sized business enterprises. Nevertheless, Pollack & Adler (2015) demonstrated that using project management significantly increased the probability of small- and medium-sized enterprises reporting a rise in profits.

            The second article is by St-Hilaire (2014) and it investigates mechanisms of operational risk control in terms of how they affect the effectiveness of projects. The main finding in the study is that good operational risk control enables company managers to produce reliable financial information, build investor confidence, and attract investments. The study also found that good risk control provides an excellent platform for mitigating conflicts of interest by nurturing company management practices that are anchored on transparency and accountability (St-Hilaire, 2014).

            In the last article, Spalek (2014) addresses aspects of scope, time, and budget in project management in the context of three industries: information technology, machinery, and construction. According to Spalek (2014), a project should ideally deliver efficacious outcomes within a stipulated duration using lower budgetary costs. The study concludes that for most companies, efforts to improve scope, time, and budget outcomes involve making a choice between agile and traditional approaches to project management. Machinery and construction industries are seen to use the traditional approach while the agile approach has taken a dominant position in the information technology industry. Lastly, Spalek (2014) concludes that continuous improvement is not necessary for the survival of a company in today’s turbulent market.

SWOT Analysis

            One important strength of project management for business is that it has been proven to be beneficial in terms of both sales and profitability. Another outcome is that many companies are reaping positive business outcomes by pursuing transparency, accountability, and operational risk control in management. On the other hand, the main weakness is that many companies find it difficult to achieve the effectiveness of projects due to the challenges of scope, time, and budget. Moreover, so many variables influence the profitability of small- and medium-sized business enterprises, meaning that the benefits of project management are not always fully acknowledged.

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            Two important opportunities for companies in relation to the project should be highlighted. First, the agile approach has not yet been used in the machinery and construction industries. Companies that choose to embrace this approach are likely to have a competitive edge over their competitors. Second, companies can continue adopting foreign ownership as a strategic project management approach aimed at promoting access to new technologies, new managerial skills, and efficient ways of monitoring managers. Lastly, project management in companies is being confronted by two threats. First, the pursuit of continuous improvement is a threat to the survival of many companies simply because the costs of pursuing this objective outweigh the benefits in today’s turbulent market. Second, conflicts of interest are a hindrance to good project management practices in the current business environment.

Conclusion

            This analytical report has provided a critical analysis of nine journal articles in the context of three topics: business process management, operational resource management, and project management. This analysis shows that there are many areas of consensus, dispute, and ongoing discussions on how best to enhance operations management in terms of both practices and outcomes. Researchers continue to test existing operations management theories, methods, and models in light of the changing business environment. Thus, each of the ideas that have been expressed in the articles portends certain strengths and weaknesses depending on the context of use. This explains why the paper used to provide a SWOT analysis based on each of the three articles. To improve effectiveness in operations management, companies need to continue adopting new ideas relating to business process management, operational resource management, and project management in a manner that enhances performance, flexibility, and profitability.

References

Akcay, Y, Balakrishnan, A & Xu, S (2010), ‘Dynamic Assignment of Flexible Service Resources’, Production and Operations Management, vol. 19, no. 3, pp. 279–304.

Birdi, K, Clegg, C, Patterson, M, Robinson, A, Stride, C, Wall, T & Wood, S (2008), ‘The impact of human resource and operational management practices on company productivity: A longitudinal study’, Personnel Psychology, vol. 61, pp. 467–501.

Cao, Q, Thompson, M & Triche, (J2013), ‘Investigating the role of business processes and knowledge management systems on performance: A multi-case study approach’, International Journal of Production Research, vol. 51, no. 18, pp. 5565–5575. 

Cronemyr, P & Danielsson, M (2013), ‘Process Management 1-2-3 – a maturity model and diagnostics tool’, Total Quality Management, vol. 24, no. 8, pp. 933–944.

Jain, S (1986), ‘The need for an operational thrust to human resources development’, International Labor Review, vol. 125, no. 6, pp. 627-640.

Natek, S & Lesjak, D (2013), ‘Improving knowledge management by integrating HEI process and data models’, Journal of Computer Information Systems, vol. 5, pp. 81-86.

Pollack, J & Adler, D 2015, ‘The relationship between project management and small to medium enterprise profitability’, Global Conference on Business and Finance Proceedings, vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 344-354.

Spalek, S (2014), ‘Finding a New Way to Increase Project Management Efficiency in Terms of Time Reduction’, Inzinerine Ekonomika-Engineering Economics, vol. 25, no. 5, pp. 538–548.

St-Hilaire, W (2014), ‘Operational risk control and project effectiveness in strategic project management’, Gestion, vol. 5, pp. 17-47.

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