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Suggested by John Morris from this article, which states: "There’s a good chance we could see the rebirth of reengineering based on a single new technology: process automation (sometimes called 'robotic process automation').” What do you think?

Thursday, March 10 2016, 09:47 AM
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, March 10 2016, 09:56 AM - #Permalink
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    Yes. Now that the supporting software can readily change so opportunities to "reengineer" ways to work will be not just taken seriously but encouraged.

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    Thursday, March 10 2016, 10:15 AM - #Permalink
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    Well, it should actually. But perhaps not just because of RPA only.

    What we lack (big time IMO) is overview (and insight) of process knowledge with all that other related stuff. Something I would define as: knowing WHAT it is you try to achieve, WHEN you want to achieve it and, guess what, WHY you want to achieve it.

    The WHY (are you spending time, money, your life on this activity) is the (only) justification of the WHAT. Then add the WHO (is responsible, accountable, consulted, informed etc). Now... if you have all that, you can think about the HOW. And really important: In the right context that is.

    This being said... and in order to be able to reengineer, you do need to start with full E2E process knowledge. Otherwise you're walking in the dark. As we have so incredibly complex situations nowadays, tools such as process mining can be of great help here. But it starts with ownership and the above mandatory insight.

    • Emiel Kelly
      more than a month ago
      It's indeed the first lesson for real BPM, but unfortunately still forgotten often.

      Ok, let's become efficient in things nobody needs.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, March 10 2016, 10:16 AM - #Permalink
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    Yes, as re-shoring takes place, manufacturing plants will install new infrastructure, dig out their old processes, and possibly want to update these for the new infrastructure.

    If things have changed too much, they will invent new processes to go with the new infrastructure.

    One word of caution . . . I often find clients trying to find industry "templates" - usually it's more troublesome to adapt someone else's best practices to yours than to simply bring a few stakeholders in a room and map out a process.

    We try to get clients to give us images of all of the forms they were using/have been using - this allows us to inventory these at a drawing canvas and do drag and drop as we build a workflow. Much better to have them see their forms posting along workflows than placeholder fake forms.

    The key to efficiency when posting form images on forms to include a memo field so that when you roll out a workflow for piano-playing, stakeholders can type in comments,

    Very easy from there to take note of bad logic, bad forms, make changes and roll out an update of a process.

    • John Morris
      more than a month ago
      The re-shoring angle is important, because as Dr. Davenport highlights, BPO ("business process outsourcing") is a big part of the business context around process automation tech and business cases.
    • E Scott Menter
      more than a month ago
      +1 for "usually it's more troublesome to adapt someone else's best practices to yours than to simply bring a few stakeholders in a room and map out a process", with a bonus point for staying under 1000 words. :)
    • Bogdan Nafornita
      more than a month ago
      I think the opposite to "industry templates" will happen... which is assembling smaller generic business patterns into larger industry solutions.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, March 10 2016, 10:36 AM - #Permalink
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    Maybe it's because English is not my native language, but when I read the article the message I get is 'you can execute your processes in a different (assuming that also means better) way when you apply automation.
     
    My only response to this could be; Ok, what's the message?
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, March 10 2016, 10:49 AM - #Permalink
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    +1 on Emiel's comment. I've always thought BPR was "Can we do it better than the way it's being done now and, if so, how and why?" In that context I think it's never gone away. Maybe just renewed instance in something that's been there all along, but now some technology(ies) presents more opportunity for doing it better?

    Just my tuppence.

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    Thursday, March 10 2016, 11:07 AM - #Permalink
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    I was at the PEX Financial Services event this week. Many of the attendees were executives / business analysts focused on operational excellence. They are LSS, master black belt professionals learning and sharing best practices for transforming operations and the customer experience. What I see happening more and more is the unification of Lean and BPM. More and more OpEx / Lean professionals are discovering BPM as the platform to extend SIPOCs and Charters into real solutions.

    While there I also heard about Robotics. I don't know that it means. I find it confusing. In manufacting real robots do work to accelerate processing and packaging. What do robots do to automate purchasing, AP, on-boarding, claims, referrals, and customer service? If robots are the equivalent of software functionalty based on rules, forms, and web services, then I get it. But let's use the word software or business rules or integrations to explain what we're doing to automate process.

    • Emiel Kelly
      more than a month ago
      As I read the article, what they mean seems something like automatic data entry. But I might be wrong because that is not something really new as capture software (what indeed contains some machine learning) has been around for a while.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, March 10 2016, 11:28 AM - #Permalink
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    Dr. Davenport's article (originally from WSJ, July 2015) is fascinating because he reports on the colliding worlds of:

    1. ERP as delivery vehicle for business processes
    2. BPR as history, practice, ideology and new relevance where re-shoring is concerned
    3. RPA ("robotic process automation") as the hot new version of process automation
    4. Lean and Six Sigma as technology-free practices
    5. Business cases built on hype

    Note that RPA is receiving a huge amount of attention in the BPO ("business process outsouring") world, not surprisingly given the nature of a lot of BPO work.

    Interestingly, BPM either as acronym or phrase is not included in this particular item by Dr. Davenport.

    Conclusion? With a little imagination, Dr. Davenport's insights can be interpreted as supporting a growing BPM opportunity, because . . . 

    1. ENVIRONMENT ... outside the world of BPM practise and technology, there are business changes (in economics, business organization, management practices) which add up to demand for more process automation and

    2. TECHNOLOGY ... inside the world of BPM itself, we see continually improved BPM software technology, and ancillary technologies such as business rules, which make satisfying that demand easier with process-specific solutions.

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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, March 10 2016, 11:28 AM - #Permalink
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    As Garth (and Dr. Davenport, in his article) point out, "robotic" is confusing in terms of it's application to process automation. And intriguingly, RPA ("robotic process automation") is the latest term for that humble 3270-related technology originally known as "screen scraping"!

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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, March 10 2016, 12:01 PM - #Permalink
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    I saw a marketing piece from a competitor the other day touting “business process automation”. No mention whatsoever of BPM. I guess what's old is new again.

    • karl walter keirstead
      more than a month ago
      The easiest way to automate a business process is to outsource it, so it seems like the competitor does not have the right focus.

      I see a huge difference between having BPM provide background guidance vs going for a "look ma, no hands" approach.

      Much of office/services, i.e. insurance claims processing/healthcare services delivery needs to be performed by knowledge workers.

      A reasonable goal is to automate the mundane bits and let these folks better spend their time converting information into action but not try to replace them with auto-branching decision boxes.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, March 10 2016, 12:09 PM - #Permalink
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    My main take away from this is "Comeback? You mean re-evaluating and reengineering processes is (was?) a fad?" I find that surprising as well as disturbing. If companies aren't constantly looking for ways to improve their processes (whether through technical or non-technical means), you have to wonder how long those companies will stay in business.
     
    Davenport rightly points out that improved or automated processes doesn't necessarily mean the need for lay-offs. In an example where BPMS or ECM is applied to get rid of paper files moving from desk to desk, those people handling the files move to sorting and batching the paper for scanning and then doing the scanning itself. That by itself is a big job and should be highlighted when talking about such technologies. The "scanning center" is a key ingredient to a successful BPMS/ECM venture because it goes back to the whole "garbage in/garbage out." If the paper is not classified correctly up front, it leads to big headaches down the road. So process reengineering isn’t just about REengineering but also engineering new processes to handle new ways of doing things as well as new technologies that enable those “new ways.”
     
    So I wouldn't say reengineering processes has ever gone away, it's just being ignored which goes back to me being disturbed about this whole thing.:)
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  • Accepted Answer

    Ian Gotts
    Ian Gotts
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    Thursday, March 10 2016, 12:17 PM - #Permalink
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    It is interesting that "business process reingineering" means "automation" to BPM vendors. It used to mean consulting / thinking / redesigning / simpliying... and then possibly automation.

    Maybe what SHOULD make a comeback is the realization that

    "The only place automation comes before simplication is in the dictionary"

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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, March 10 2016, 02:16 PM - #Permalink
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    Right, BPR is not BPM and the intent of BPR is not always automation. What I find frustrating is when BPR/BPI activities result in a great opportunity for BPM but falls flat becuase lack of committment, vision, or turnover. I feel if BPR professionals better understood/embraced BPM they could leverage BPM suites early in the process innovation exercies to captures to-be workflows with all associated rules and data models to fluidly move into development of solutions for automation.

    Thanks for letting me know that Robotics is essentially screenscraping. Fancy word. Confuses the marketplace.

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    • karl walter keirstead
      more than a month ago
      Excellent points..

      The easy way to deal with "commitment, vision, or turnover" is to start with "vision" - i.e. The vision is we want to narrow the gap between strategy and operations and BPM can play a major role in achieving progress here.

      Next, we have "commitment" and that involves onboarding staff with a workflow management system (featuring background BPM) where using the system is easier for sfaff than not using it. Instead of telling them "You must use it', just say "Here it is, use it, or don't" and say no more. They will get the message.

      As for "turnover", when tasks post with any needed local instructions plus all of the forms needed to attest to performance, and collect data and when upstream data posts at steps as these become current along pathways, very little training is needed for new staff.
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  • Accepted Answer

    KM Mukku
    KM Mukku
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    Thursday, March 10 2016, 11:37 PM - #Permalink
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    From the comments in this thread, it seems to me that people are missing the "obliterate" part of the original re-engineering manifesto. Don't even think of automation, since that would allow for incremental change to an existing process, that may allow for an adapting to change. What happened to dynamic or adaptive processes? True, if manufacturing returns to the old country, we do have a chance to rethink the processes, but why re-engineer, we might as well engineer the correct processes ground-up. I agree with Garth in that any BPR exercise should lead to a consideration of BPM.

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    • karl walter keirstead
      more than a month ago
      Not much choice with reshoring of manufacturing.

      The outcome of offshoring was the infrastructure went away, the skilled workers went away, enrollment at schools/universities dropped, the folks who taught the courses turned to other subject areas.

      Starting from the ground-up pretty much is the only viable strategy.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Friday, March 11 2016, 02:45 AM - #Permalink
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    To chime in to Emiel's and Patrick's comments above:

    I believe BPR is still here, it's just at a smaller level of granularity (let's just not call it continuous improvement), similar to what happened to re-factoring in software development. You don't re-factor large projects anymore from Fortran to C++ to Java to RoR, you just deploy, tweak, test, redeploy smaller multi-language increments in an agile format.

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  • Accepted Answer

    Friday, March 11 2016, 07:16 AM - #Permalink
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    Of course, the effect of reengineering is much higher than continual improvement – this is why transformations and innvivations are in the high demand right now.

    The principles of BPR were very good and they are still valid:

    • Business processes are central assets in organisation to meet customer requirements
    • As assets, business process must be managed explicitly
    • Business process must be improved continuously
    • The use of IT is essential

    And BPR tools were OK for that time:

    • Establish process-focused organisational structure
    • Nominate process owner
    • Upper management must support and promote BPR
    • Establish an IT system to monitor, control and improve

    But the potentials of BPR were hampered by the IT capabilities of that time (primarily the low speed of evolution). For example, I saw a fully reengineered organisation which used the old ERP system. Fortunately, BPM is more powerful than BPR (see ref1 for comparison of various process-based methodologies).

    I believe that combining

    1. re-engineering mentality of BPR,
    2. modern BPM,
    3. digital (see ref2),
    4. IoT and
    5. the progress in software-intensive solutions architecting (agility, microservices, platforms, devops, cloud, etc. see ref3 and ref4)

    will allow realising the full potentials of the BPR – quick re-engineering business processes – thus enables transformations and innovations at various scales & scopes including business models.

    Such a combination will be a huge step toward software-defined enterprises.

    Thanks,
    AS

     

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