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BPM has become many things to many people, and while that's a good thing when considering the complexity of today's business, it also makes BPM confusing to many. So for a business first considering BPM, what should they know about the solution?
Wednesday, September 04 2013, 09:35 AM
  • Shelley Sweet
    more than a month ago
    This question is confusing to me. What should the business need to know about 'the solution' with BPM or need to know about 'the solution' for a particular BPM project? For a BPM project the business will not know 'the solution' yet because they should be modeling, analyzing it and then then determining how to redesign it. But what they need to know to begin is what two key improvement goals they want to get for the BPM Project, and those should be defined quantitatively.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Wednesday, September 04 2013, 10:53 AM - #Permalink
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    The best answer for what BPM is came from APQC's John Tesmer, who calls it, "Getting work done." I can work with that definition because it keeps it simple...business process management is the work of getting work done. Work, to me is about a defined set of activities with a starting and ending point (that might recycle...but still...). It has to have an input or condition that sets it off and it has to have something of value that comes out of the other end (AKA...when do we stop). The basic description is important because there has to be something that states what BPM isn't. If it can't have a defined starting point or condition...it can't be kicked off. If it doesn't have an outcome or when to stop, it can't conclude. By using that simple definition you can eliminate a lot of the fluff around BPM. It can be manual or automated, but it has to start somewhere and end somewhere. When we created processes for TIBCO Marketing, we started at the high level just to have an end-to-end of a core process, knowing we'd be automating some of it but not all of it. The tools can be figured out afterward.
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    • John Tesmer
      more than a month ago
      Yes - BPM is about getting work done. In an ideal world, BPM wouldn't exist as a competency; it would be like breathing. You would just "do it."

      Process management is happening today, it's just messy, ad-hoc, unsupervised, and generally immature. Like a teenager. Sure, there are some world class organizations that have taken to scientific management of their work using the best tools that they could find, but this invokes visions of reams of procedural documentation or haphazardly integrated systems, and THAT is what scares many folks away from this field.

      So - to answer the question about what an organization needs to know about process management - I'd say that success is not measured by the number of workflow systems or flowcharts, but rather in the impact on the business' productivity, agility, and overall ability to add value in whatever it does. With that end in mind, go do great things.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Wednesday, September 04 2013, 11:15 AM - #Permalink
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    Take a step back, abstract it higher. Requirements elicitation 101 - "What do you need to do?"
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  • Accepted Answer

    Wednesday, September 04 2013, 11:39 AM - #Permalink
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    That the BPM Solution will be your solution reflecting exactly how your people work and supporting them by automating many routine tasks. Your people involved in the activity will be encouraged to contribute to both the build and future improvements knowing change is readily supported. The old "fear" of IT change will be removed. At a more strategic level such BPM software technology supports empowerment of people with the necessary real time measurement on activity that helps all make better decisions. To achieve this it is essential you should understand how the BPM technology actually works and that full capability is understood with such knowledge distributed to your people to encourage their engagement at an early stage.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Wednesday, September 04 2013, 11:54 AM - #Permalink
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    They also need to understand and shift their mindset to being process-centric. There are key architectural elements (e.g., business capabilities, processes, roles/actors etc.) which need to be understood before thinking about the underlying BPM solution. Organizations should have efforts to firmly define and describe these business architecture elements prior to automation.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Wednesday, September 04 2013, 11:56 AM - #Permalink
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    There are some great answers here and I’ll add one element to it. Business first starting shouldn’t look at solutions (tools) until they know what they want achieve. BPM is about getting better at getting work done which means they need to know what work and what “getting better at it” means. Once they know that it makes looking for a solution much easier. We often still find that people are looking for simple automation or they have aspirations of very complex, smart processes but they have no measure that define the success of a BPM project.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Wednesday, September 04 2013, 12:48 PM - #Permalink
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    Agree with Chris. BPM is not a solution, it is just daily work. But then organized as useful things. Let's call those useful things processes ;-) Organizations already have those processes, but the level of grip needed to make them do what they have to do (in the end processes are just a means to deliver results) might not be high enough yet. So what not to overlook in BPM is to do it with processes. So What are an organizations useful processes, what is the result of those processes and what is promised about it? And if those processes already perform, why bother? But for sure there might be some that need more grip or attention. And then you can dive into making those processes better.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Wednesday, September 04 2013, 01:55 PM - #Permalink
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    This first and most important thing to know is; "BPM is not a replacement for good (people) management". Much of the discussion above centers on "doing work" but what you find is that the definition of "work" is very subjective. Some people define work as the transformation of inputs into outputs which is fine for all the easy types of work, but a huge stretch in the difficult types. (e.g. Mozart simply transformed blank paper into paper with an opera written on it -- it is actually rather silly to think of his work in these terms.) Process oriented thinking is a huge step forward from function oriented thinking. Find your main organizational goals, map everything you do to steps in a process to achieve those, then look at the process. There exist two distinct sorts: one is defined internally and arbitrarily like a factory and is under the control of the organizational context. These are routine, predictable processes. The other sort depends inherently on many external factors that can not be controlled or predicted. These are unpredictable processes. For your predictable, routine processes, like "New Account Registration" or "Order Fulfillment" go an automate to the fullest degree with BPM as quickly as possible. The true wisdom lies in being able to recognize those processes which are not routine, not repeatable. Do not try to automate those with BPM, or you will find the organization trapped in an over constrained system. Like good management, you leverage the intelligence of the workers in these situations by giving them the freedom to make good decisions. That is, you avoid micro-managing them. Good (people) management requires understanding the difference between these kinds of organizational activity. http://social-biz.org/2013/06/10/seven-domains-of-predictability/
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  • Accepted Answer

    Wednesday, September 04 2013, 02:45 PM - #Permalink
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    It's surprising to me how many people come to BPM without a clear idea of what's available. They think of it simply as e-forms, or as a workflow engine around which you build your own e-forms through coding. Some of these misconceptions simply trace back to earlier times in the industry, when such solutions were fairly common. Nonetheless, the more of the big picture the customer can grasp up front, the better the solution they're going to design or the business.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Wednesday, September 04 2013, 03:56 PM - #Permalink
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    ".. what should they know about the solution?" -- what does it for me, of course. For each group of stakeholders (who see and use BPM in a different way) , it is necessary to explain how their concerns will be addressed and how their current working practices will be changed for the better. Those explanations are different for each type of stakeholders. About 10 types of stakeholders are mentioned in my book. Below is a fragment related to "top managers" stakeholder. The BPM is not about how to make your products better, different and more attractive for the market place – this is for the top managers to decide. What it offers is to help enterprises reduce the overheads in doing so. The reduction will come from continual improvements in the BPM system itself – each new project will be carried out under the same architecting and implementation guidelines and practical help, thus aligning people’s understanding and different practices, tools, methods, processes and services. At one moment, your flexible BPM system will become an enabler for your business innovations. Thanks, AS
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  • Accepted Answer

    Wednesday, September 04 2013, 04:10 PM - #Permalink
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    That BPM is not the holy grail. It does not solve the financial crisis nor can it disintegrate poverty. However it does make work a lot easier. It gives a clear view on the value you add to your environment. And it shows you how to maintain this value or even improve it with less resources. By doing this it can provide you with a more pleasant working environment. And it gives your customers also the value they expect. However in the end it's people that make the difference, not processes nor business rules. BPM is merely the tool to get there!
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  • Accepted Answer

    Wednesday, September 04 2013, 04:56 PM - #Permalink
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    Here's an answer that hopefully is a complement to the others... "BPM Browsers" should know that BPM (as a discipline or a technology) is a lever you can pull for operational results/improvement. It is not going to fix a bad business strategy or a bad organization.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Wednesday, September 04 2013, 09:04 PM - #Permalink
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    Business should know that person or people that designed the process you are going to optimize with BPM are not going to like that you are replacing their work. Change management in BPM is extraordinarily difficult.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Wednesday, September 04 2013, 09:49 PM - #Permalink
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    Businesses first considering BPM (and those still maturing) should understand that BPM offers them the opportunity to do almost anything. They can remove much repetitive work, eliminate specific components of work through automation, and orchestrate the flow of work between people for effectiveness. BPM can also be used to create differentiation, like with supply chains and new product development. BPM can be used to craft and control customer experiences, to intelligently nurture leads through the marketing and sales processes, and to find and implement that next big innovation. BPM can be used to promote employee satisfaction and the desired company culture. The reason why it can do all of these things is that the majority of our time is spent performing work within multiple processes. Saying it a different way, we can describe almost all of the things we do as processes and those definitions are useful and reasonably accurate - they hold true to a common set of characteristics and properties. So start off with the realization that you can leverage BPM for almost any goal you have. The BPM tools (software, methodologies, guides, books, services, training, experience, etc.) to do all of these things are available to you. Perhaps that doesn't reduce the confusion, I'm not sure. Perhaps BPM embodies such a broad range of possibilities that it is just naturally confusing. But I personally find it liberating. I have the tools I need to tackle most any challenge, and there seems to always be something new for me to learn just waiting over the next horizon.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, September 05 2013, 12:31 AM - #Permalink
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    There are many things you can say about BPM and how BPM is used in your organization. For newcomers or businesses that are seeking BPM. They must understand that BPM solution is similar to a produce at the grocery store. “It has a shelve life”, what I mean by this, is that the solution is as good as the resource, system and regulations you are living in NOW. Things change and so do your solution. So if you adopt BPM you must understand that it needs to continue in its cycle on a constant base. Some people hire a BPM consultant for a specific task, which works good but the solution does not last long.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, September 05 2013, 04:27 AM - #Permalink
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    Agreeing with other comments. The first thing to consider is what is the business problem you are trying to solve, then ask yourself why the current processes cause or exacerbate the problem. Once you consider these things and ask the people executing the processes how they would fix it and whats wrong with the current systems. From that you should be able to ascertain whether you actually need new technology e.g. BPMS systems, or whether you simply need to get the systems you already have working better. Of course, the above only addresses doing what you currently do better. It may be that your business problem revolves around completely transforming the way that you deliver products or services, in which case no amount of work on efficiency is going to address the problem. If it is a matter of doing things differently or driving effectiveness then a different mental model needs to be applied. I posed the question many years ago as to whether BPMS is really just the next generation of development platform, e.g. we had Assembler, then 2GL, 3GL and 4GL languages, and now it seems that instead of data centric development environments we are looking at process centric development environments and those environments (to your point) are becoming more rather than less complicated. So from the technology perspective when looking at solutions ask yourself questions, such as what would this development environment offer that my existing one doesn't? If I create new systems with BPMS am I replacing existing systems and reducing support overhead, or am I just adding another layer of complexity into what I have? Some of the best successes I have come across are where BPMS is being used at the front end of systems and replacing the interfaces of legacy systems (especially ERP), in these cases complexity is being hidden from users and organisations are making easier over time to sunset back end systems without users noticing the change. So back to my point, understand the business problem, understand your current environment, understand the challenges with the way you currently work and the way you deliver solutions. Then having addressed any broken processes you can have sensible conversations with vendors about what you are looking for from any new platform. Using this information enables you to make sure you only buy what you need and that what you buy solves the problems you have, rather then the ones the marketing people tell you you have :-)
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, September 05 2013, 05:08 AM - #Permalink
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    Before approaching any sort of solution the business has to ask itself "what's my attitude toward process ?" and "what value am I intending to extract from going near BPM ?" Without understanding the business methodology and value behind BPM, implementing a solution is just taking what you have and automating it. Garbage in, garbage out. If you have no process maturity, or certainly no technical capability within the organization to understand a solution then what value can you derive from a complex system ? So, what should they ask ? What are the problems I'm facing that require a BPM solution ? Can they be solved with a business focus towards process improvement or does it need a complex automated system ? If I'm to invest in a technical solution what is my internal investment in my own employees needed to be able to get the most value from it ? Am I expecting this to be a point solution or ingrain it as part of my organizational DNA ? Perhaps the last question is one of the most important: If you don't treat BPM as part of your business makeup and just as a plaster for a thorny issue then you don't need a BPM solution. But you'll find plenty people willing to sell you one.
    • John Tesmer
      more than a month ago
      If "BPM Solution" to you (dear reader) means "tools" without appropriate organizational change including the touchy-feely stuff, then you're going to have a bad time. I agree with Theo on this one...
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