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.

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?