What does BPM mean .. in reality?

When I use the word PROCESS in a meeting or presentation; is everyone thinking the same thing? Even when I had just put a definition up on the wall only minutes earlier?

The answer to that question is probably: “No, of course everyone has interpreted it differently!”

This is an on-going challenge for anyone involved in organisational change, and a key source of resistance and conflict. I think BPM is the toughest type of organisational change as it crosses all areas of the business, introduces a new way to manage what we do and a new way of thinking.

Even on this website, I will use terminology in a different way to my peers, and it will cause comment and conflict! To help you out I have added a new page to the Executive Guide to BPM that provides a Glossary of BPM Terms in the way that I use them. The glossary will never be finished, I will continually add to it. I hope it helps.

What process terms are causing conflict?

One term that I have problems with is SERVICE, or BUSINESS SERVICES. What is a service? How does it relate to processes, work practices and IT systems?

A related question was asked on the BPM-Collaboration website, “What is the difference between a process and a service?”. This generated an interesting discussion (registration to the website is required to access).

I see a business service as a discrete function that is provided to abstract over a sub-process or software solution, e.g. Create a New User. Multiple business processes can utilise the business service without any knowledge of how it is implemented, only that it will achieve the desired result. The functional manager of the service can then change the implementation without needing to change any of the referring processes.

If all of the functional requirements of a business process are met in this way then they become very easy to sustain; however there is a requirement for strong governance and change management to ensure each business services continues to deliver the agreed results.

One solution to the terminology problem is to adopt an organisational Process Taxonomy, describing the meaning of all of the terminology used. When this is linked into a Process Methodology that is trained and adopted across the business, then you will have a much better chance of achieving real common understanding. My glossary may be a good place to start!

Do you have any word based war stories to share? How would you achieve common understanding?

Finding the End to End Customer Perspective

A constant challenge for me is explaining to my colleagues what the difference is between an organisation’s existing processes and this Business Process Management stuff I keep talking about.

I usually start by describing the attributes that change an ordinary process into an effective Business Process. I have added a page to the Executive Guide to BPM on this very topic, see Business Processes Explained.

A key aspect of Business Processes is to have a perspective that stretches across all of the steps that need to be completed to achieve the right successful outcome. All too often functional managers only focus on their part of the process, missing the end-to-end perspective of what really needs to be done.

The perspective chosen can have a dramatic affect on the design of the process, for example:

Scoping the Recruitment Process

A typical recruitment process will concentrate on, and be measured by how efficiently the Human Resources department responds to requests to advertise positions, find and collate candidate responses and finish off the paperwork. I think you would have to visit many organisations before you would find a recruitment Business Process that actually measured how successfully the right candidate was selected.

As a candidate and as a recruiting team lead, I have had far more experiences where the process has been very inefficient (taking much more time that it should), has caused serious concern to candidates and frankly has not selected the most suitable person for the actual role, when they were required. Why do you think this is the case?

Generally this is because the process is not designed and measured, end-to-end. It is the difference between the Human Resources department being responsible for just their bits of the process, compared to being responsible for the end-to-end result; which in my example may be the performance of the successful candidate once they are in the position they were recruited for.

If one executive was held responsible for the performance of all new recruits, then the design of the process, especially in the steps of initial job design and the conduct of the selection panel would be done very differently. No longer would Human Resources blame the business for a defunct process or the other way around!

I could go on with many similar stories, in fact I would bet that you have a story of your own that you could share?  Please do…

A second look at the Customer Perspective will follow in a future post – Does the Customer have a place in our Process?

Starting with Customer Value

I have had several conversations recently where I have been asked to describe what I do and what is Business Process Management. As part of the reply I have referred the inquisitive person to this website, however I realised that there was no simple description of BPM here – until now.

The Executive Guide to BPM provides some basic information about Business Process Management and what I see as being key to implementing BPM. This page will also be a springboard to a number of artefacts that I will be creating about Process Management and how to implement it!

While writing the guide, I realised that many of the concepts will require further explaining, along with a few good stories to support them. This is a story about Process Thinking and understanding Customer Value.

Eating out in Canberra

A few years ago I was in Canberra for a training session ran by Roger Burlton, a large group from the class went to dinner at a local restaurant. At the end of the evening we all pooled our money and went to the counter to pay.

One of our group was visiting from overseas and needed to separately pay for and get a receipt for their meal to be able to claim a refund from their organisation.

The restaurant had a “We do not split bills” policy, we asked nicely if we could pay for this one meal separately and explained why. The proprietor was serving us and he was sticking to his policy. After some back and forth conversation he was heard to say “It is my restaurant – I set the rules”. By the end of the conversation, he had finally agreed to separately charge for this meal – if we agreed to pay a very small processing fee (we are talking $1 added to a $500 bill).

This is a great example of a policy that is focussed on efficiency, however it clearly destroys customer value – which do you think is better for the business long-term?

I’m a Process Tragic!

Roger Tregear in his first BPTrends Column on Practical Process asked “As you go through your day, do you find yourself mentally redesigning the processes at the supermarket, airport, theatre and most other places you go?”

Yes, that’s me. I can join the club, I’m a Process Tragic!

In this article Roger describes his interest in process-based management, a passion that I share. I have spent many hours developing a message to describe the process centric view of management behaviour.  Sometimes I find someone who grasps the concepts and is enthusiastic, more often confusion or disagreement is the result.

Roger suggests that we need to build a body of knowledge about the compelling reasons why organisations would benefit from adopting a process-based culture.

I have my own Compelling Reason Body of Knowledge to build, to strengthen my message and help organisational managers not only get enthusiastic, but influence them to join the club!

Let me know if you are a process tragic (or would like to be convinced). There are plenty of us around – another Craig is a good example, the Process Ninja.