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Accelerating BPM Adoption

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Table of contents for Brainstorm BPM San Francisco 2009

  1. Accelerating BPM Adoption
  2. Using Business Rules to Make Processes Smarter, Simpler and More Agile
  3. Making complex policies visual for the web

I am speaking at the Brainstorm conference in San Francisco and blogging a couple of sesssions. First up today is Michael Melenovsky (formerly of Gartner) on Accelerating BPM Adoption – creating a vision and establishing a roadmap. Michael made the great point that companies sometimes get started with BPM to try it out and then bog down because they don’t have a plan for getting to some defined future state – they don’t have a roadmap. Any roadmap requires an understanding of where you are and what direction you want to take.

Michael sees BPM initiatives starting in one of three areas – each with their own focus and challenges:

  1. Executive Leadership – top down with an objective of strategic alignment and an increase in corporate performance. But this can only be pushed down so far creating a limit on its effectiveness.
  2. Line of Business Management – bottom up with a focus on business unit productivity, reducing cost, increased agility. Can be a very long term approach and it can flag if there is no comprehensive approach.
  3. Middle Management – middle-out focused on operational improvement and improving cross-departmental coordination. Process modeling and standard procedures dominate and the approach runs into problems of too many process maps and not enough buy-in from top and bottom.

Regardless of which approach is taken, the process layer makes explicit the role people and systems play in each step of the process. Instead of IT focusing on the system elements and the business on the people to people elements, the process layer gives both sides a common view. In doing so, it also allows non-technical folks to make changes to it. Lastly, and most important, the process model increasingly drives execution.

It is common to use the classic Michael Porter model of people, process and technology as supporting the business.  Line of business managers tend to believe that the people in an organization are the critical differentiation “our most important asset is our people”. IT organizations tend to believe that technology is the critical advantage. And this difference in belief systems is a big element in the business/IT gap. But process is a third leg with Six Sigma and other process people regarding that as the competitive differentiator. These folks are guiding people and technology and trying to make fact-based decisions. But if process is to be important, someone has to own it. Process ownership cannot be handed off to either IT or the business – it must be handed off to PROCESS people. This requires incentive and compensation processes to reflect this.

So, back to the roadmap. Michael argues that the value of BPM represents the vision. This can be defined in terms of  the value to the business and the value to the IT organization. First, the value to the business:

  1. Deliver productivity increase
  2. Ensure strategy execution
  3. Create a more nimble, agile organization
  4. Making possible greater innovation

Value to IT:

  1. Significantly reduce development time
  2. Create more comprehensive architecture
  3. Greatly reduce application maintenance costs
  4. Shift attention to higher value topics by eliminating firefighting

Given these values, and the implied vision, there are some critical success factors for accelerating BPM adoption the folks at Babson have identified 6 CSFs:

  • Strategic alignment
    Continual linkage of organization priorities to processes – from strategy to process to applications and systems/tools.
  • Culture and leadership
  • People
    You must get people and groups to apply process related expertise.
  • Governance
    Processes and policies for managing processes. The organizational structure must adapt to create process owners and process teams. Michael also believes that a process office and a process council/transformation steering committee make a huge difference.
  • Methods
    Successful adoption requires a consistent set of methodologies and approaches. You must find the real process and exceptions (XMBL or IDS Scheer AVE), drive alignment (Balanced Scorecard, Rummler Brache), analyze performance (Six sigma), value continuous improvement (Lean), and finally optimize process (value stream).
  • Technology

While these are pretty generic, and true for more than just process, any successful process implementation is going to need to focus on all of them. And even technology folks see culture and people issues as the major barriers. Addressing these CSFs requires cross-functional process teams involving business and IT.

Finally, crafting a roadmap involves critical steps:

  1. Identify key stakeholders
  2. Define BPM in terms of the benefits we expect to get
  3. Determine the phases for delivering this value
  4. Gap analysis using scenarios to see what will work
  5. Develop a three year roadmap for BPM
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