\u201c90 percent of the organizations I know have failed at standardization,\u201d says industry expert Steve Stanton, Managing Director, FCB Partners. Doing business in our global, tech-driven and consumer-oriented world is becoming more and more complex. \u00a0\nThanks to the Internet, even micropreneurs can sell to customers in different regions and overseas. This broadening of the market brings with it the need to take multiple factors into account, including country-specific regulations and a wide range of customer attributes.\nHow can companies deal with this requirement to balance the benefit of process standardization, and the need for process variations to enable them to stay agile and advance their organizational objectives?\nFirst, let\u2019s look at standard processes and why they tend to fail.\nStandard processes\nIn theory, creating standard processes should help unify an organization and reduce complexity. However, in today\u2019s global market, imposing a single standard isn\u2019t always feasible.\nFor instance, a large healthcare organization with locations in multiple states may want to roll out a new process for the recording, storing and safekeeping of electronic health records (EHRs). While the goal may be to develop a standard process that allows time and cost savings to healthcare professionals, there\u2019s one significant hurdle to overcome: while HIPAA regulations govern the fundamental aspects of patient privacy and the security of EHRs, each state has its own additional regulations.\nClearly, the standard process \u2014 no matter how good it is \u2014 isn\u2019t going to be achievable without some tweaking. For every state where the organization operates, a variation will need to be designed to ensure the process is in compliance with local regulations.\n3 unsuccessful responses to process variation management\nMany process owners are fully aware that their standard processes don\u2019t meet the precise requirements of the teams that use them \u2014 and that as a result, they won\u2019t be adopted.\nThere are three overarching responses to the challenge of managing process variations:\n\nThe creation of high-level standard processes: This scenario is commonly found in early maturity organizations. The standards are summarized at such a high level that they\u2019re ineffective as practical guidance for teams or as a platform for process improvement.\nThe creation of mega processes that include every possible variation:\u00a0This approach is commonly found among technical teams and during large transformation projects. Detailed process variations are extensively documented. However, this approach often fails because business teams find the documentation too complex and process owners lack the confidence to apply process improvements.\nThe creation of separate individual process variations by owners:\u00a0More mature organizations often allow this approach, which inevitably leads to process sprawl and siloed processes. Unsurprisingly, this makes administration and change management far more complex.\n\nWhen process variations are managed ineffectively, they can result in high costs, project overruns, inconsistencies and increased complexity. As a result, they\u2019ll fail to deliver the desired efficiencies and compromise the organization\u2019s agility.\nCreating effective process variation management\nHere are seven steps organizations can follow to establish effective process variation management:\n\nEstablish a global standard process.\u00a0The standard processes are established by global process owners. They provide the foundation upon which all variations are built and provide a benchmark against which to measure KPIs. With global process owners forming a centralized governance team, it becomes possible to accurately monitor and manage local process variations.\nCreate justified local variations.\u00a0Process variant experts are responsible for creating local variations of the standard. These variations must be highlighted so they\u2019re clearly visible against the standard.\nEnsure visibility of all variations on standard processes.\u00a0Robust reporting and comparison capabilities facilitate the discovery and review of all adaptations per process.\nProvide intuitive access to processes.\u00a0Users are automatically routed to the right process variations for their location, business unit or other relevant characteristic. If this isn\u2019t possible, they should have access to a list of variations where they can select the one that\u2019s most appropriate.\nIssue change management notifications.\u00a0Local process owners of variations are notified of adjustments to the standard process. They can either reverse those changes or incorporate them into their variation \u2014 whatever is more effective for their specific purposes.\nFacilitate global reporting.\u00a0This allows global process champions to review \u2014 and approve or reject \u2014 the lists of variations for each process.\nCollect time and cost metrics.\u00a0Tracking and analysing these metrics enables the comparison of variations against standard processes. This facilitates data-driven decision making as to whether to maintain or eliminate specific variations.\n\nThe standard is a starting point\nCreating process variations should always be approached with care in order to reduce unnecessary complexities and inefficiencies. With these seven steps providing visibility and control, organizations can efficiently design, implement and manage process variations where required, reap the benefit of process standardization, and still be agile and responsive to change.