Can BPMS ensure ‘Effectiveness’?

The short answer is: ‘No.’ The slightly longer one is: ‘No, because effectiveness requires verification of outcomes by means of substantial additional, costly bureaucracy outside the BPMS. If that cost would be properly accounted for, BPMS don’t even provide efficiency.’

In my ACM video and my presentations I use Peter Drucker’s ‘Effectiveness is Doing the Right Things’ and ‘Efficiency is Doing Things Right’. Scott Cleveland in difference suggests that efficiency is ‘Improving Process Throughput’ and effectiveness is ‘Reducing Process Steps,’ which I heartily disagree with. He documents however the BPM cost-cutting mindset in which the customer outcome has no place. The 2009 AIIM study he mentions to support his argument also proves that BPM is mostly used to cut costs and still only usable for 20% of processes. I have said so many times. Thanks, Scott.

I think that Scott is guilty of misquoting Peter Drucker, who clearly said that effectiveness is ‘Doing the Right Things’ FOR the customer and not reducing process steps. It doesn’t improve anything if you do the wrong thing in less steps. Once you are doing the right things it is impossible to reduce work steps as it will change the outcome, except for the most minimalistic, overly bureaucratic activities that undoubtedly do exist also, but shouldn’t be the reason to do BPM. The oversimplification of real-world business problems by BPM proponents is really astonishing. Are they really completely unable to look up from their flowchart illusions?

So how is efficiency achieved if not by step-reduction?

System hierarchies have evolved in nature because they ARE more efficient as local entities do not have to waste time to consider the things going on at other hierarchy levels. The problem is  however that resistance and rule-beating are inherent to chains of command.  The efficiency of hierarchical systems is not achieved by nailing down minute work steps for each individual on each hierarchy level, but by ensuring transparency for goals, outcomes and achievements. That requires authority, goals and means – a.k.a. as empowerment.

‘Doing Right Things Right’ is therefore a causal dependency map between:

  1. Outcomes -> fulfilling customer expectations
  2. Skills -> providing means to achieve the outcome
  3. Goals -> authorize process owners to fufill targets
  4. Targets -> making the short-term numbers work
  5. Objectives -> achieving long-term strategy


The MEANS-VALUE Model as used in Adaptive Case Management

To show why I propose ACM rather than BPM, I created the above MEANS-VALUE causal map. ACM’s (more than just social) customer interaction verifies outcomes and perceived value and does not require the illusion of predictability or the self-fulfilling prophecies of predictive analytics. The causal map also shows that the key element is people skills and not process goals, but that these are necessary to ensure that the process also fulfills the business targets. ACM provides the real-time connection between means and value, which drives revenue and profits.

The causal map shows that strategic objectives balance efficiency and effectiveness and the dependency of outcomes on skills. Revenue and profits are consequences rather than targets. Achieving individual outcomes, process goals and targets requires the skills of the actors in a changing environment. Rigid processes are blind to outcomes as they focus on reliability of execution only. To achieve individual outcomes requires that individual entities can act locally and independently. This is the kind of dynamics needed in process management to make the business resilient to inevitable changes. Processes have to be adaptable, because ONLY what the customer perceives as a good outcome is relevant. Additionally it has to match the expectations that were created by the value proposition. More here in a previous blog post about ‘Perceptions are Reality’.

Efficiency is an internal perspective!

A typical BPMS has no means to improve effectiveness, because there are no definitions or functions in that respect. Steve Towers’ ‘Outside-In’ methodology is the best proof that BPMS do not have such an embedded capability. BPMS only execute, while improvement or verification of outcome requires bureaucracy such as Outside-In or COEs. Even if there are KPI’s related to customer satisfaction they are not causally connected to the value proposition and customer perceived value. The common management model of pushing revenue with marketing and driving down cost with BPM really ignores the customer. And extrinsic motivation to pay employees to achieve BPM enforced KPI’s has been a failure, because people don’t feel responsible.

Let me also say that I don’t even believe that BPMS are really improving efficiency in the larger business sense. They can reduce the locally observed cost of some processes without regards to the BPMS operation expense and thus create a measurement illusion that is used as self-justification. In a long-term, overall business sense BPMS do not pay off, but due to the lack of ANY long-term BPM studies this just remains my intuition.

Effectiveness is linked to the value proposition!

Even if customer satisfaction is defined in a scorecard it has no direct influence on what happens. Consultants recommend to executives to ‘change company culture,’ which is really a useless and lame directive. Only intrinsic team-motivation supported by the right tools works. To be efficient AND effective, a business does not have to deliver more than it has promised, but it certainly shouldn’t be delivering less! Therefore effectiveness is strongly connected to the value proposition.

ACM – Adaptive Case Management is technology that is focused on customer-perceived EFFECTIVENESS, while BPMS are focused on predictability and consider being predictable as being effective. That maybe true for an assembly line, but not for human interactions!

I am the founder and Chief Technology Officer of Papyrus Software, a medium size software company offering solutions in communications and process management around the globe. I am also the owner and CEO of MJP Racing, a motorsports company focused on Rallycross or RX, a form of circuit racing on mixed surfaces that has been around for 40 years. I hold 8 national and international championship titles in RX. My team participates in the World Championship along Petter Solberg, Sebastian Loeb and Ken Block.

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Posted in Adaptive Case Management
6 comments on “Can BPMS ensure ‘Effectiveness’?
  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Freddie van Rijswijk. Freddie van Rijswijk said: RT @maxjpucher: Can BPMS ensure 'Effectiveness'?: #ACM #BPM #social […]


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  5. Thanks, Max for pointing me to this excellent article.

    I agree with your observations/ conclusions. The foundation for much of what we focus on today (my opinion) can be traced back to “The Practice of Management” (1954) by Peter Drucker.

    I like your Means-Value Model.

    For me, building competitive advantage is what allows organizations to satisfy current customers and to adapt infrastructure, staff, product portfolios (i.e. making effective use of strategic corporate resources), so as to be in a position to satisfy future customers with as-yet-undeveloped products .


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Max J. Pucher
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by Max J. Pucher. All rights reserved.

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