Why Processes need Projects and Projects need Processes

In a recent post, and some back and forth with The Process Ninja, we discussed the Good and Bad of Process Projects; this led me to think about my days learning about process and projects, both of which I am quite passionate about.

Whether you call it a project or not, the only way to make a significant change in an organisation is through a project, as defined “A temporary endeavour … undertaken to meet unique goals and objectives”; however I believe a project is not where a Business Process is made!

How are Business Processes conceived and enacted?

Business Processes have existed in organisations forever, and they will exist regardless of any specific Process Management activities. A Process Management initiative is about improving the way a Business Process is defined, resourced and operated. Therefore, a process project is really about creating capabilities to support the Business Process, not the process itself!

A common theme across my favourite BPM methodologies (Process Renewal Group and BPTrends) is that;

First the organisation understands it’s processes at the enterprise level;
Then, governance at the enterprise level decides to improve a particular process;
A process project is born.

Contrast this to a more traditional approach, where a project is created to improve an area of the business and one of the many outputs of the project is to model the related processes!

So what’s the difference? Firstly, improving the Business Process is why a project exists – so doing process analysis and design is fundamental – not just another output, then once the to-be future process is well understood, then the project is about building capability. This is why a project is necessary – we are changing the organisation to be able to enact the new process!

Roger Burlton defined six areas of capability that projects build to support processes, they are;

  1. Human Competency
  2. Business Rules
  3. Organisation
  4. Facilities
  5. Technology
  6. Motivation

The outputs of the project are to build the required capabilities to support the business process, e.g. The required people skills, decision model, organisational structure, capital equipment, computer systems and reward structures that match the requirements of the business process.

This leads me to a key point; A project does not implement a Business Process; instead the organisation uses the outputs of the project to execute the process the way it has been designed!

  • Projects are created to improve a Business Process (or part of one).
  • Project OUTPUTS are the capabilities that support Business Processes.
  • Improved Business Processes are OUTCOMES of Projects.