Have you found the Problem?

On one side of my world is the process management brick-wall, the other side is the chasm of process theory. Criss-crossing the terrain are the fast flowing reality rivers. This is often what it feels like when I am trying to get buy-in for developing a Business Process Management program.

Why is selling BPM so difficult?

Over the past few years, nearly every BPM conference, user group or meeting of the Australian BPM Roundtable has had a session about executive buy-in, selling BPM or simply, Why don’t they get it?

At the February Australian BPM Roundtable, Andrew Spanyi gave an interesting presentation on Leading Process Change (registration is required to access the BPM Collaboration.com site). One of Andrew’s rare practices for leaders is to have A Compelling Case for Change. Too often BPM is interesting but not compelling.

What is often compelling to leaders is single-points of process improvement; I cannot change the organisation – but I can fix the process in front of me. Andrew covers this in his summary, “No one single successful process improvement, innovation or transformation effort is likely to convey lasting competitive advantage; Process Management across the enterprise does!”

Therefore, there needs to be a compelling reason to do Process Management at the enterprise level – which may be much easier to find in a struggling organisation than in one that is already successful. So what are some of the common problems the may be compelling?

  1. A desire to create “one” organisation – when it is recognised that silos of operations are dysfunctional and there is a desire to create consistent processes across the organisation.
  2. Reducing costs – when there is a need for far cheaper processes.
  3. Improving customer value – often after a poor customer satisfaction survey identifies the need to vastly improve the service and value being delivered to customers.
  4. Poor financial or sales performance – a need to adopt a different approach to save the company!
  5. Increasing visibility – executives want increased visibility of the performance of the organisation, usually coming from a renewed strategic approach.
  6. Fad – a desire to implement process management or a process management system to be adopting an architectural or business approach that is thought to be desirable.

This was just a short list off of the top of my head. I want to explore this further at the Australian Process Days conference “birds of a feather” sessions; please add a comment; sharing problems that we an discuss at the conference session.

Finding the Business Problem

One approach to finding the business problem is to use an analysis tool to understand where your organisation is and where do they want to be, in relation to Business Process Management. The measured desire for change can represent the problem to be solved.

One way to determine the desire for change is to conduct an audit (survey) of key stakeholders and use the information to develop a process model, where is process management in the organisation today (as-is) and where do we want to be (to-be), what are the requirements (KPI’s) and what change is needed to get us there (the process project).

This can be done using an existing BPM Maturity Model, which is not an area I have had much experience in; however my initial experience has been that finding and adopting a suitable tool is not easy; either to find or to use. What’s your experience?

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?

Method in my BPM Madness!

At the recent Australian BPM Round table session I did a quick survey of participants to see, amongst other things, what BPM Frameworks are being used in Australian organisations?

I was not surprised by the result, however it is interesting that out of 20 organisations there was not 1 recognised BPM Framework that had been adopted; and comments were even made that they are not necessary. I think this last comment related to the terminology being used.

I have recently added a new page to the Executive Guide to BPM explaining what a BPM Framework is and why they are needed. See the Process of Process Management. For me, implementing BPM is implementing a Business Process and therefore you need a guide on how you are doing it!

What BPM Frameworks are there?

The challenge is finding and evaluating a Framework. There are three main sources;

  1. Books
  2. Training
  3. Vendors

I was introduced to my first Framework by Roger Burlton of the Process Renewal Group. The Process Renewal Group Framework is based on Roger’s book, Business Process Management: Profiting From Process; however the best understanding of the Framework and the techniques to implement it came from attending Roger’s training course and being mentored by the Group.

There are other Frameworks that come from similar sources, and consequently I have not had the opportunity to review any of them, I just know that they exist from web research. Frameworks from BPMInstitute.org and Management By Process are examples of training / consultant led offerings.

Another option is to adopt the processes recommended by your BPMS vendor. The advantage of this option is that the framework is tailored to the tools you have available. This can also be a disadvantage if you do not already use the tool as the training seems to be inherently linked, even if the framework is generically good. An example of this may be the framework promoted by Appian.

There may be some more generic options, such as the Association of Business Process Management Professionals (ABPMP) Common Body of Knowledge. As I am not a member I have not reviewed this framework; however there is a good summary presentation available, see Guide to BPM CBOK.

The Round Table also attempted to develop a common methodology which was called The Process of Process Improvement (TPPI). The output of the exercise can be found on the BPM-Collaboration TPPI Wiki (registration is required).

At the moment I am evaluating the BPTrends methodology that is based on the book Business Process Change by Paul Harmon. This methodology is supported in Australian by Leonardo Consulting who have written an excellent summary of the methodology and the certification program that they offer; see Achieving Process-Based Management.

I am sure there are many BPM Framework offerings that I have not covered here. If you know of one or you have a framework or methodology to offer – please leave a comment to let me know. I am also keen to collect or create reviews of the Frameworks that are available.

What Framework are you using or considering?

Process 2.0 – Collaborative and Adhoc

Most Business Analysts have a reasonable idea about how to develop a Business Process. We don’t all do it the same way (far from it), however the general approach is usually much the same, it goes something like this…

  1. Gather requirements from the business
  2. Design and validate a process model
  3. Implement the new process with the business
  4. Move on ..

What will this look like in the world of Process 2.0?

I recently asked the BPM Collaboration community about Process and Google Wave (check out the forum thread to follow the discussion). Bernie Clark provided me with a link to a great YouTube video prepared by the SAP Research centre, it is titled “Gravity, the best example of Google Wave”. This is well worth 7 minutes. Well done to the research team for a quality presentation.

Using this kind of collaborative process development, the Business Analyst becomes more of a facilitator and educator about the way to build processes, without needing to get too involved in the business. With this kind of approach, an organisation would be capable of developing and deploying Business Processes in record time!

Add to this, adhoc process modelling. This concept, introduced to me as a new feature in the webMethods 8 product suite, provides the ability for knowledge workers to model processes as they are being executed. Generally there is marginal value in mapping a complex process that is not executed regularly, especially where human judgment is involved!

However, if you can capture the process as it is completed, then you can measure what has been done and learn from the experience in the future.

My first reaction to adhoc processes was, “It is hard enough to get people to map processes and execute them, what incentives would be needed to encourage adhoc mapping?”.

What if we mixed both collaborative and adhoc process modelling?

Back to Feed

After my recent hiatus I am planning a comeback!  I had not been involved in the BPM community over the last few months as I had heavy work commitments, that were not really BPM related (it was more like being a Systems Analyst).

However I have recently said goodbye to BHPBilliton to take up a BPM Consultant role at APA Group. This means that I will be back to thinking process. The better for you!

During the last few months I found it very difficult to keep track of all the different BPM postings across the internet. Jamie at BPM Collaboration had a great idea to create a page that displayed a summary of BPM blog sites; however you have to open his page directly to read it. I was looking for an aggregated source that could be accessed easily during my day, on the train, on my phone!

So I created BPMBlogs. BPMBlogs is a Twitter account that provides a summary of BPM blogs postings. You can follow this account on Twitter and see what is being posted to the BPM Blog space as part your regular reading.

You can also access the combined BPM Blogs as a Yahoo Pipes Feed, if you want to read the entries directly or import the feed into your own RSS reader.

Check it out!  It is still a work in progress, so let me know what you think – What sites should I add to the list?

note: I did have to remove some sites that I originally wanted to add as their RSS feeds were not compatible with Yahoo Pipes!