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Successful Workplace recently quoted Satya Nadella, the new CEO of Microsoft, as saying:
Any organizational structure you have today is irrelevant because no competition or innovation is going to respect those boundaries. Everything now is going to have to be much more compressed in terms of both cycle times and response times.
Do you think Business Process Management and Adaptive Case Management are key to achieving this future restructuring of the enterprise?
Tuesday, February 25 2014, 09:49 AM
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Responses (14)
  • Accepted Answer

    Tuesday, February 25 2014, 10:07 AM - #Permalink
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    BPM, and more importantly Case Management certainly can play a significant role. They contribute greatly to being able to create systems of engagement that can be delivered faster, while providing agility when it comes to changing those systems constantly in order to evolve. However, to support such change in the most effective way will mean shifting our thinking, the key in the statement above is that the old ways of working won't work in the future. So to use BPM and or Case Management to simply replicate what we have will not resolve the issue. First we have to rethink how we work, then build the systems that are needed to support new ways of working. The other point stated above is that the "organisational structure is irrelevant" - so rethinking work will also mean rethinking structures. I suggest this means less hierarchy and more dynamic teams, which of course assumes that we will be willing to empower people on the front line. Here again BPM and Case Management when applied correctly helps, they can help to make sure that frontline staff have access to the information and knowledge they need in order to service the customer, first time every time. So, yes, they can play a major part and surely are the way to support such a strategy, but the strategy to change needs to come first.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Tuesday, February 25 2014, 10:13 AM - #Permalink
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    Peter, without a doubt. BPM and ACM provide greater visibility, control and compliance with the additional promise of faster turn around time (TAT), rapid innovation to new market conditions, and quick deployments of new solutions. What we're also hearing from customers is the need for reusability. This is a function of lowering costs, but it is only achievable with a few platforms such as BPM and ACM. With BPM, organizations can leverage process models, forms, data models, UI's, reports, and integrations across departments, regions, and lines of business. For example, parts from a solution for policy administration should be reusable for claims and customer service. BPM will be around for a long time.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Tuesday, February 25 2014, 10:21 AM - #Permalink
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    There’s no question that BPM and ACM tools will need to rise to the challenge of new organizational structures – but the core question is the basic chicken-and-egg: will the move to more agile, innovative organizational structures drive a corresponding innovation in the supporting tooling, or will increasingly agile technologies enable greater organizational change? Here at EnterpriseWeb, as a vendor of an agile BPM/ACM platform, we’d like to believe that we’re empowering our customers to have more dynamic, innovative organizational structures. But I’ve been working with enterprise architects at large organizations long enough to know that technology rarely drives organizational change. Organizations must make the difficult choices necessary to compress their cycle times and institutionalize innovation, and only then will tools like ours reach their maximum potential in such organizations.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Tuesday, February 25 2014, 10:47 AM - #Permalink
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    No. Apples and oranges. Evangelical statement from the CEO, equal proselytizing from the peanut gallery here responding to the forum question. Satya Nadella is speaking, at large, about organizational change and agility within the scope of running an organization. This query's more appropriate framing would be can BPM and ACM facilitate that? Maybe, depends as always upon execution. They certainly won't drive, be fundamental or "key" to the achieving of that goal. "Disruption" is the latest "buzzword bingo" addition to the lexicon. If our industry is mainstream, "mature," why can't we just focus on what we do and do it well? I wonder if the CRM, ERP crowd - or any other space for that matter - engages in the same bloviation we do regarding the importance of our space in the ecosphere.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Tuesday, February 25 2014, 11:23 AM - #Permalink
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    Only one thing drives change and that is people. Many talk about culture which is really a consequence of management style. The dynamics of today can't be dealt with through the corporate bureaucracy and cost-cutting to be more competitive is detrimental. We deal with Microsoft a lot and I have rarely seen a worse process-straightjacket. Some organisational and some IT-driven. Corporate structure is not irrelevant but everything. So Satya Nadella is more than wrong because a stricty process-bound organisational structure actually kills competition and innovation. You can't organize innovation but you must leave room for it. The compressing can't be done by shortening process cycles and telling people to innovate faster. The only thing that drives innovation is empowerment and orthodox BPM is the antithesis to that. So strict process management must be used sparingly if you want bottom-up innovation. ACM has the advantage that it doesn't prescribe the process but just its goals and makes the achievement transparent. That does require a different management perspective but not style. It enables empowerment while targeting corporate objectives. You can no longer just pronounce more agilty as a corporate strategy but you must provide the tools too. Software eats the world as Marc Andreesen put it. Change the strategy and at the same time you need to throw out old software. No chicken or egg but it has to be one concerted move to adjust your business for the future.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Tuesday, February 25 2014, 11:46 AM - #Permalink
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    Satya Nadella's comment goes straight to the core of why an adaptive approach is needed. By saying "Any organizational structure you have today" he is speaking of the formalize, externally explicit organization structure that has either been purposefully put in place, or at a minimum recognized as an agreed upon organization. Adaptive Case Management allows people to organize and work in ways that are not formally recognized. Instead, the real organization emerges from the group of people working together, they way that real organization has always emerged before people starting thinking it was a good idea to formalize it. What he is saying is that the formal, explicit structure is no longer relevant. The emergent structure is how people get things done. Predictable processes between well defined roles are no longer relevant. Confluent relationships and interactions on an as-needed basis can produce a more efficient working arrangement -- if the right feedback information is available. What he is also saying is that traditional BPM -- the kind with a process diagram -- is similarly no longer relevant because, quite clearly, that process diagram is a formal recognition of organizational structure. It is a radical thing for a Microsoft CEO to say.
    • Patrick Lujan
      more than a month ago
      Ummm... I'm going to go with "no" on both things he's "saying" in your third and fourth paragraphs and that both are largely your opinion conflated to his statements. Largely sure he wasn't saying or thinking anything "BPM" in that full interview.

      Clearly.
    • Keith Swenson
      more than a month ago
      Was he talking about BPM? Go back and look at the definition of BPM: http://social-biz.org/2014/01/27/one-common-definition-for-bpm/ BPM is the practice of improving the way your organization works - however you do it. Chris Taylor clearly thought he was talking about BPM when he the next sentence after the quote said he was speaking about "continual transition to newer and better ways to do business" He might not have called it BPM, it is nevertheless the subject he was speaking on.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Tuesday, February 25 2014, 11:50 AM - #Permalink
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    Agility is the key, so the question becomes "does your BPM / ACM approach make your enterprise more agile, or less"? But there's more to enterprise agility than process management. BPM is typically tactical / operational in general, especially to the extent that the process is somewhat rigid. That is, a sales order -> picklist -> shipping process in and of itself doesn't necessarily reflect how agile and adaptive your overall enterprise is. The bigger questions are at the level of organizational structure and organizational learning. Now, if you are pushing towards an "adaptive enterprise" approach, and using fairly autonomous business units linked with a Commitment Negotiation Protocol, then you could certainly have higher level BPM processes for managing interactions at that higher, more strategic level. Which takes us full circle, back to the point about "Do your BPM processes make you more agile, or less"? Ideally, your organization is using a Commitment Negotiation Protocol and is using BPM at the strategic level. But experience tells us that most firms aren't there yet. To summarize, I'd say that BPM / ACM certainly can play a key role in helping your firm become that adaptive / agile firm that can quickly respond to competition. But I'm not sure it's either necessary OR sufficient. In fact, I'd say it's definitely not sufficient, as you need targeted mechanisms to support organizational learning and knowledge transfer as well. As Arie de Geus said "The ability to learn faster than your competitors may be the only sustainable competitive advantage".
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  • Accepted Answer

    Tuesday, February 25 2014, 12:08 PM - #Permalink
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    1 votes
    "There are five frogs on a log. One decides to jump off: how many are left on the log?" So goes the children's riddle. The answer, my kids will tell you, is "five." Deciding to jump and actually jumping are two very different things. In modern business we are too frequently stuck on the "deciding to jump" stage. We get caught in the analysis paralysis of needing more data. So we develop ever more elaborate ways of reporting and visualizing the information our BPM systems deliver and all the while the our more nimble competitors, who have nothing to lose and everything to gain, are jumping off their own logs onto better ones and on to our log. And the more they are successful the more they reduce their decision time. And the longer we wait to act the harder it becomes to act. Despite all of this we still feel superior because we have more data. Colonel John Boyd of the USAF added two more steps to the Decide/Act process. He added Observe and Orient before Decide and Act. We now call this the "Boyd Cycle" or "OODA Loop". Observe: In business we should be constantly reviewing how we collect data and interpret it. We must observe the trends in the internally gathered telemetry as well as publicly available data. Anecdotes from sales calls, information from job interviewees and blog sites like this one. Data needs to be shared among all the decision makers in a consistent manner. Orient: Is where we filter that information with what we know about the business, the market, the technology capabilities. But this is this everyone's weakness. We tend towards "happy ears", we treat with higher value the information that confirms our point of view. Scientists call it confirmation bias: we have have to teach ourselves to embrace ideas that conflict with our own and improve our filtering system. Decide: The decision making process also needs to step up its cadence. If we delay we will miss the market, miss the first-mover advantage: we will not get the worm. But in Boyd's process we should not be making decisions serially: we should make the next decision and the one after that and the one after that so that by the time our competitor responds we have already pivoted and seized the next market advantage while they are uselessly trying to address the old ones. Act: Empowerment is key. Once the decision is made teams should be empowered to act and execute the plan. Again it is vital to train the team that the tempo of business is going to accelerate and the rate of change will be rapid. Loop: Throughout this cycle we are gathering more information, filtering it and analyzing it, modifying the next (and next-next and next-next-next) decisions and adjusting the actions in place. At the USAF Weapons School in Nevada, Colonel Boyd was called "40 second Boyd" because he bet that he could defeat any military pilot in air-to-air combat in 40 seconds using the OODA principles. He never lost that bet. BPM and ACM are powerful tools that observe the information our business is collecting and orienting that information for executive consumption. We do let those tools take the next step and decide how that information should flow and we permit them to act on our behalf without human intervention. But we don't do that very deeply into the decision making process. The horror stories are real: Knight Capital losing $400m in 45 minutes when the automated trading system sold low and bought high. If it had made $400m in 45 minutes we'd celebrate it as a victory of automation. (My own confirmation bias is showing up very clearly here). So there is room between superficial automation that manages hand-offs amongst team members and complete abrogation of decision making to technology akin to SkyNet. Staya Nadella is right about one thing, cycle times are short. We can respond with our gut, or we can respond with technology, or we can follow Colonel Boyd and respond with both. Last week I was at a conference where a VP of Customer Support spoke and said "If we don't hear from the customer for a while, we call them to see how things are." This is being inside the OODA Loop, this zigging before the customer zags, this is solving problems before they are reported, this is compressing cycle times and response times. This is using BPM and ACM to inform Customer Support Advocates where they should direct their outreach. So I would say Microsoft's new CEO is also wrong, or at least out of date, about one thing too. We should not be focused on cycle time and response time at all but perhaps in pro-active, prescient time. It's brave, new, science-fiction-come-true, world out there.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Tuesday, February 25 2014, 12:58 PM - #Permalink
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    BPM as the discipline putting people first and ACM as the adaptive applications will deliver that flexibility across old IT imposed silos of data. This will indeed address the restructuring of the enterprise to reflect they way business really works! People will be empowered with real time feedback to aid good decision making, strategic and tactical. The old IT models will need to be harnessed with such new software to deliver in a much more responsive manner. Bill Gates saw it in 2008 when he announced plans to build a declarative modelling capability reducing the need to code calling it the “holy grail of development forever… the dream the quest”, "You should be able to do things on a declarative basis," “….a lot of business logic can be done in a declarative form. “…you should write a ton less procedural code, but that's the direction the industry is going," "And, despite the fact that it's taken longer than people expected, we really believe in it. It's something that will change software development but more like in a five- to eight-year time frame than overnight,” See the report here http://www.infoworld.com/d/developer-world/gates-talks-declarative-modeling-language-effort-386 We know this approach from a BPM perspective delivers the adaptive requirements after some 20 years R&D working with early adopters ……so does Satya Nadella know something not yet announced; the time frame is about right? The big challenge for Microsoft will be it is highly “disruptive” a big pill to swallow for them as the sale and build is business driven not really for their traditional coder developer community……It is going to be an interesting decade…….?
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  • Accepted Answer

    Tuesday, February 25 2014, 01:47 PM - #Permalink
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    So, it is confirmed that the org structure is secondary to processes! Considering that, finally, classic BPM and ACM are working perfectly together, nevertheless, some org structure MUST be in place (sorry Keith) to guarantee, in particularly, the separation of duties. For example, via http://improving-bpm-systems.blogspot.fr/2013/04/addressing-security-concerns-through-bpm.html Thanks, AS
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  • Accepted Answer

    Tuesday, February 25 2014, 04:09 PM - #Permalink
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    Any organizational structure you have today is irrelevant because no competition or innovation is going to respect those boundaries.
    Well... no. This is just not how humans behave. It might be a desirable scenario, but, you know, so is world peace.
    Everything now is going to have to be much more compressed in terms of both cycle times and response times.
    That part is true (although an odd non-sequitur with respect to the first sentence). Fortunately, BPM has that covered. There are simply fewer and fewer business applications that cannot be implemented using BPM, requiring no (or many fewer) coders and yielding more flexible and maintainable results. The view of BPM as simply a way to automate business processes is much too limited; BPM is, in fact, a rapid solutions development platform.
    • Scott Francis
      more than a month ago
      to me it just read like standard microsoft corporate speak, which to outsiders sounds like klingon run through an obfuscator. Not as harsh to the ear, but even harsher to rational thought in the brain.

      (i like your take on it though :)
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  • Accepted Answer

    Tuesday, February 25 2014, 04:11 PM - #Permalink
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    Not sure I fully agree with comment that org structure today is irrelevant, as I believe there are plenty of orgs that are relevant and strong when it comes to beating down competition and having the ability to innovate. I do agree that org structures are constantly challenged and at some point whether short or medium term, they will be forced to change. The question is how to position an organization to facilitate change, be nimble and not crumble, and adopt change quickly. And that is separating process from org structure. BPM is the mechanism to enable organizations to evolve and manage change more effectively. Org structures can wrap around processes, change when process changes or vice versa, processes can wrap around org, processes can change when org changes, but if you don't separate (recognizing that there are some interdependencies) org from process and have a BPM focus the business will become a goliath that will topple with David's infamous stone…….
    • Scott Francis
      more than a month ago
      Right. If org structure is irrelevant, then try an experiment- put a really BAD org structure in place and see if that hurts you. It does. A lot.

      Org structure reflects, and influences culture. Culture trumps strategy most of the time. It's important stuff.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Wednesday, February 26 2014, 04:29 AM - #Permalink
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    I think what Mr. Nadella had in mind was an open innovation business model as a source of continued competitive advantage. While BPM/ACM may assist by orchestrating roles and choreographing organizations, they're just tools in a much larger game, a game that has a heavy social component: how do you work towards open innovation goals by creating and shepherding (wrong word? sorry English is not my native language :-) ) communities of interests, tribes. How do you account for such innovations and how do you maintain motivation in such tribes that have no hierarchies, have fuzzy goals and are very volatile? Yes, there are "BPM-ish" tools in the works to address such a challenge in a platform approach (yes, I am working on one :-) ) There are very few successful deployment examples of such a model: P&G's connect+develop, the open-source software movement etc. But to me we are forcing a bit the BPM/ACM conversation into Mr. Nadella's mouth :-)
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  • Accepted Answer

    Wednesday, March 05 2014, 10:30 AM - #Permalink
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    I think the problem is that Nadella didn't say what he really means. I don't know what he really means, but what perspective does the COE have about org structures not mattering, since they all report to the CEO? :) And I was really hoping we'd get a more refreshing communicator at Microsoft after Ballmer, but I just don't see it. And if we believe org structure doesn't matter- try implementing a really bad one and watch the wreckage. The Org matters. It can foster or it can impede. cycle times and response times - he's talking to Microsoft here. In psychology they call that projecting. Projecting your own problems onto other people. Then again, looking at upgrade cycles at most companies for IE, maybe it is a universal problem after all ; )
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