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Empowering Business Users To Embrace Change

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Connie Moore of Forrester presented on empowering business users to embrace change and began with a great quote from a customer – “Change NEVER settles down”! You need to embrace change and accept it as a norm – to accept that business processes and dynamic business processes. In this environment, business people play an essential role in continous process improvement, in driving it, while IT must help the business implement this change.

Connie used the example of a sub-prime auto loan company. They installed BPM to avoid spending days on each contract and to develop a process that was more rigorous the more the customer was a risk. With BPM they flagged contracts that needed more documentation and identified which dealers needed more help.  While they were implementing they changed their world view from assembly line style processing to a more case management environment. Their learnings included focusing on the process not the software and that the value came from thinking about the process – from the business discipline of designing the process. This is an object lesson in the need to focus on the process not the software.

  • The ability to keep changing process definitions to evolve them as they get used and as more is learned. These changes might be small ones, made every few weeks, or larger ones – new process versions – that come out every 2-6 months. The support for iteration and change in BPM is critical to ongoing success. Yet the idea that the business is making constant change makes IT departments very uncomfortable. You must balance empowerment and control while proving a governance strategy that works for you. Every company will answer questions about who identifies change, who makes the change and who tests the change differently. A focus on the software can obscure these questions rather than illuminate them. Some examples:
  • In one credit card LOB, the business users prioritized the changes and handed them to a business analyst/process architect/developer team. They differentiated between defects and functional changes, met every 2 weeks, and they had new releases every 2 months. Testing was critical to this company to make everyone comfortable with the business-led change. The company invested in training the business on change management and allowed plenty of time.
  • In contrast, a software company using BPM for internal processes, used a blended team. They started with a focus on ISO 9001 certification then moved to process automation before finally moving to a continuous process improvement. In the end they linked Agile approaches to their BPM deployment and set up competing teams who each mocked up and prototyped possible solutions. The ability to use BPM to rapidly iterate small projects became a powerful tool to change their business. The blended teams included off shore developers, QA, business people and auditors. Their use of Agile helped with communication buy-in and fear of change.
  • Final example was another bank. The process changes were run entirely by IT. In this case the traders had to be left facing the market and so they could not distract them with anything to do with systems. The team used offshore developers to make changes overnight or in 24-48 hours. Larger changes rolled out weekly. This company was explicit that the rate of change never slows or tapers off. In addition, frequent organizational changes drove process and rule changes. For them, the rapid iteration of changes (even though IT led) was critical.

You can be conversative about this – leading with IT – or you can be more aggresive and get the business to lead. You can choose where on the spectrum you want to fall – let the business set priorities or make the changes, put IT in charge of change management or teach the business to participate, create merged teams or create new roles. And so on.

Business analysts are critical to BPM, taking the lead on process modeling and optimization. While business users might collaborate and IT have a role, business analysts take point. Business analysts, of course, come in many flavors. They can be IT or business-oriented. They can be in IT or in the business. They can be experienced in a specific line of business or a particular technology area. Any of these can work but you must understand the kind of analysts you have, the skills they have and how this impacts your process management efforts. Most business analysts are generalists but each company must manage its resources carefully and provide the technical support they need. For instance, 60%+ of process project leads have no or very limited IT skills.

A lot is riding on these analysts and yet their skills must be developed systematically. Too few companies are focusing on adding skills and far too many analysts are forced to build their own skill base. Lots of companies are struggling with this and yet the demand for more process change is just growing. Forrester feels you need to create Process Analysts – either business people with IT skills or IT people with good soft skills – to lead projects. They must have a collaborative and evolutionary mindset and have both business and IT skills. The profession is “growing up” but this is still a challenge.

Forrester also recommends a Center of Excellence. There is a strong correlation between companies with BPM success and those with CoEs. The cause and effect is hard to prove but clearly broad adoption requires some investment in this area. Communities of practice are an alternative that requires less investment and allows some sharing of experience and best practice. CoE teams can be quite small, it should be noted, so the investment need not be huge.

The other thing Forrester has found is that the analyst lack critical tools. Word, Excel, Visio are common but inadequate while some specific tools are too heavy – too technical, too cumbersome. Things like BlueWorks are good because they are lighter weight and more focused on collaboration. Similarly new widgets for business managers and analysts make it easier for business analsysts to participate in the design, monitoring and execution of processes.

Connie wrapped up with some data on the skills that were most important and the soft skills – oral communications, anlaytical skills, written communication and facilitiation. Interestingly business rules design was the next skill, ahead of process design!

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