Erasing the Divide

By Fred Nelson Posted January 07, 2016 In Business Process Management
Erasing the Divide

I'm a big football fan and one thing I notice every year as the season progresses is that the perennial championship contenders are usually playing their best football around this time. Everyone seems to understand their role, offensive and defensive execution is better, and the elementary aspects of the game, like tackling and "ball security", are solid. The best teams know that it's a week-to-week season and they cannot rest on this past week's victory, but are constantly looking for ways to improve. This means not only fixing the defective aspects of their game from the week before, but also looking at where they can enhance their team's execution overall.

Similarly, a flourishing BPM project will not only look for process execution, but consistently look for ways to ameliorate the process as well. Let's look at how we can gear our mentality towards erasing the false antithesis of "system stability and new functionality" vs "process refinement" and seek to possess a stable, first-rate BPM application system that is truly BPM.

After the successful deployment of an IBM BPM project to production the temptation lies in thinking, “Now that we’ve deployed our process, what else do we need to add and what needs to be fixed?”

Certainly, additions and fixes are necessary components of any BPM project, but this is where I think it’s crucial that our form follows our function. The form being the BPMS process, and BPM being the function.

A BPM application's essentiality lies in its name… an application of Business Process Management. When building a BPM application system, we should remain loyal to our practice, by designing and building a system that executes BPM theory.

With increased complexity and breadth of process, the inertia can sometimes lead the BPM team to focus primarily on adding the necessary features and fine-tuning the system to account for additional departments, etc. Such a concern is a win in and of itself because it signifies that BPM is expanding within a business. With that said, it is equally important, despite vastness and intricacy, to vigilantly seize opportunities to improve the process. Striving to, but not limited to, the following:

  • align processes to overall business performance
  • streamline activities and make them visible
  • foster interconnectivity of departments and spheres of work, getting rid of silos, to benefit the overall process
  • compiling metrics that predict performance not just track it (Hammer p.83)

Malcom Gladwell, writing about the late Steve Jobs, details how Jobs’ genius lied not in his ability as a visionary forward thinker, but in his capacity to take a concept, a design and ‘tweak’ it until it was perfect (Gladwell, Nov.14, 2011). The ‘tweaking’ of our processes, in the form of continuous process improvement, is the means by which businesses attain optimization in time, costs and gain. I posit to you that this 'tweaking' should invariably take place from the inside out and the outside in. The inside consisting of: interfaces, dataflow, performance, etc. The out being: process design, metrics, visibility, etc. The nature of BPM projects and their adherence to Agile methodology provides ample opportunity to revisit where we are in our BPM endeavors to bring about the aforementioned "tweaking."

Furthermore, we mustn't become so "high level" in our thinking that we neglect customer experience improvements. We want our interfaces to be easy to use while at the same time improving the means by which businesses carry out their daily activities. In order for business users to buy into the BPM discipline there cannot be an unnecessary burden on them when executing their work in the BPM system. Conversely, our end goal cannot just be state of the art screens with complex calculations and such. Rather, those user interfaces are only part of the tools necessary for process actualization. A process that delivers the faculties for companies to measure how effective their process is in meeting their corporate goals. (READ: I SEE PROCESS IN EVERYTHING)

Hammer, Michael, and Lisa W. Hershman. Faster Cheaper Better. New York: Crown Business, 2010.

Gladwell, Malcom (2011, November 14). The Tweaker: The real genius of Steve Jobs. The New Yorker, November 14, 2011 Issue. Retrieved from http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2011/11/14/the-tweaker/

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