I am typecast as a BPM opponent, but nothing could be more wrong. I am a firm believer that business processes need to be well attended to and supported explicitly. If anyone bothers to really read what I write — admittedly at times lengthy — then one can see that I am just opposing flowcharting for human collaboration and unnecessary BPM bureaucracy. I focus on what the business needs now and in the future — not pimped up BPM looks that impress analysts.
That bureaucracy overhead is caused by two things: a) outdated BPM technology and b) BPM methodology needed to solve the technology limitations. When I say that then clearly the BPM consultancy crowd does not agree: Technology does not solve process management issues. True, but it can empower the business to focus on the right thing. Consultants can still help the business to rethink their processes. A key problem is a focus on cost cutting and the other a focus on IT control. ‘No, Sir! We can’t have the business go off and do their own thing for business process management. We need to properly design, architect and implement it.’ While that is true, it must be an IT effort dealing with technology, and a business effort dealing with process goals, guiding rules, and related data and content. IT just has a technology support role.
We provide the performers with a business language to execute their work by creating goals, content and rules and map them quite easily to business data. But often the reaction to the default user interface for executing and managing tasks is: ‚This is not how we work.‘ When we then point out that the UI is freely definable and that we/IT/they can modify it to use THEIR terminology (actually ontology) without programming, they respond: ‚We do not want to customize. We want out-of-the box software.‘ That is like saying that MS-Word should contain all the letters and layouts that I will want to use in the future. But in fact this is where the industry is going with Smart Process Apps.
There is a substantial gap between IT or consultants doing it all and user empowerment. Businesses do expect more and more that even the processes that they need are already defined in the ACM/BPM solution. There is in principle nothing wrong with that and we offer in our Solution Setups process templates too. But the unfortunate Smart-Process-Apps direction involves putting old BPM technology into place that has been pimped to look cool, modern, ready-out-of-the-box — and obviously ‚adaptive‘. SPA are mostly black boxes that the business can’t handle. But the appeal of the apparent simplicity of dropping in the ready-to-use process is understandable.
We have seen enough projects where the business tried to do the right thing and IT and consultants made a big mess of it by bringing in everything from Best Practices, to PMBOK and ITIL — also just there to solve technology issues. The overhead is immense, the projects run over time and budget and miss their targets by a mile because for example the vendor is not allowed to speak to the business in fear of project creep. There is a lack of focus on core function.
When we find those down-to-business-reality people then things are actually simple. We demo, do a proof of concept, install and the focus is not IT architecture, power plays between IT and business or demands for unreasonable ROI. The focus is doing business — just driving and winning. My mechanics don’t tell me how to drive the car, while I tell them how to set it up. Business knows how to drive their processes and can tell IT what they need. Just like pimped-up racing looks are for the sponsor or the media, a pimped-up BPM is for marketing and analysts.
Core function is not just the business process. What businesses truly need when they are serious about business process and the effectiveness of their staff is modern technology that enables them to define verifiable goals for the business capabilities that represent the end-to-end processes. They can’t buy that! A fancy dashboard is according to analysts more important than embedded content functionality or the ability to dynamically add data to the process. Why do experts and analysts still ignore that there is no process without content?
To be competitive you do not want to carry all that weight around and therefore the list is not long at all:
- Goals that can be verified by either rules or the customer (handover, output)
- A dynamic link to the relevant business data (federated Business Data Objects)
- Incoming and outgoing business content (ideally fully digitally processed)
- The ability for performers to ‚do their thing‘ without prior analysis or design
- Turn the work that fulfills the business goals into reusable templates
- Iterate, guide with rules and innovate to taste and liking
Check that pimped BPM system you bought or are ogling to look beyond the blue led strips, chrome wheels and the booming speakers. A real racer/workhorse is usually simple, sleek and functional but most certainly not cheap.
Make your choice!