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  1. Peter Schooff
  2. BPM Discussions
  3. Thursday, March 16 2017, 09:51 AM
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Eyal Katz raised a good point in the discussion on what do smaller companies need to do to make BPM work for them when he wrote: "How about we turn this question around on its head. What does BPM need to do differently to be applicable for SMBs?" So what do you think?
Derek Miers Accepted Answer
Democratize ... hide complexity
Comment
Beat me to it!
  1. Neil Ward-Dutton
  2. 2 months ago
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John Reynolds Accepted Answer
I've thought quite a bit about how to make BPM more relevant to SMBs, and I think the answer starts with Microsoft adding BPM to Office365.

Without seamless integration to the office productivity suites that SMB's rely on, BPM will require too much effort (aka cost) to implement.
Comment
+1 @John, what a perfect idea! Enough to say that Visio is among primary process mapping tools, especially in small companies, although it is rarely mentioned even by Microsoft itself. Definitely, extending Office365 in this direction will incredibly simplify adoption of BPM by SMBs.
  1. Boris Zinchenko
  2. 2 months ago
Alexander, nice link. I suppose this is one of their primary directions currently. To my taste, Flow is not yet enough adapted to complex workflows and large enough models with nested processes. However, at least on level of simple building blocks, it can serve as a viable execution option, especially for SMBs where simple things work best.
  1. Boris Zinchenko
  2. 2 months ago
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Juan J Moreno Accepted Answer
Be more Small and Medium Business (SMB) friendly:


  • Simpler to install and use. SMBs have not the time, nor the resources to install, configure, administrate, corporate BPM Suites
  • Cheaper. SMBs don't have the budget to invest in a expensive solution.
  • Faster to start. Spending months to model and automating a process is not an option, because of the cost and managerial time. They need the process running in hours, maximum days.
  • Easier to exit. If the BPM initiative doesn't work, SMBs need to know that they can exit. If a huge time & investment was made in a Corporate BPM Suite, exiting is not an option.


I beleive that it is because of all these reasons, that we are seeing a growing number of new SaaS BPM Suites. As Derek Miers says, democratizing BPM.

As an illustrative example, we come from the corporate BPM World, with a leader product in Latam (INTEGRADOC), and we expanded our offering with a SaaS BPM Suite, much more SMB friendly (Flokzu), that rapidly gained traction and interest from small companies that could have never bought our corporate BPM Suite.
CEO at Flokzu Cloud BPM Suite
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  1. more than a month ago
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Sorry, but my perception of the "Microsoft Productivity Suites" is that they do not have much of a positive impact on productivity relative to platforms expressly designed to manage workflow and workload.

I don't believe customers cannot get to "Simpler, Cheaper, Faster " with BPM - depends on the software platform you pick.

However, as consultants and vendors, we need to understand that "Cheaper' means different things to different people - SMB owners are quite comfortable with spending $100,000 on a yacht (just an example) whilst, at the same time, asking staff to re-cycle paper clips.

Seems to me for any significant initiative (BPM being only one example), you need to do an ROI and if you don't see crossover within a reasonably timeframe (taking into account risk and uncertainty), it is better to pass or go back to the drawing board.

BPM, plus RALB, hosted in a Case platform, has the capacity to greatly improve staff efficiency, improve throughput, decrease errors and improve compliance with internal and external rules and regulations.
References
  1. http://www.kwkeirstead.wordpress.com
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Brian French Accepted Answer
I have to agree with John Reynolds. If BPM for Office 365 were to occur , you would be able to get many SMBs doing BPM. We are a small company and we use Office 365. When Microsoft introduces something new to the suite, we at least take a look. It may take a while for us to adopt the new feature, but we usually do, because we are essentially already paying for it as part of our subscription. Cost is a huge factor for a SMB.

However, there are other barriers. First, a small business is primarily scrambling to achieve growth. They are not yet in a position where they have really bad, entrenched, legacy processes such as we see at some of the Global 2000 companies we work with. Asking a SMB to stop and do anlaysis on their processes to make them more efficient takes resources away from striving for and handling growth. In addition, a small business does not necessarily know how it's growth will occur and how quickly they will need to change things. Thus, a SMBs focus is on growth, stopping and changing on a dime, and innovation (many times). A larger established company has already made their mark and so they are now thinking about how to make things most effective and efficient. Etc...

I'm not saying SMBs can't do BPM. We do it internally, however that is our core competency so we don't count. What I am saying is from my experience I believe it is very hard for a SMB that is growing fast to look up from the growth path and try to focus on the process visibility, effectiveness, efficiency path.
Comment
There is subtle and easy to miss boundary where ad-hoc processes of a successful SMB are requiring streamlined BPM refactoring to allow the company grow bigger. In too many cases this transition causes a full scale crisis, which not all companies even survive. This is why timely BPM adaptation by SMBs gets especially crucial. It so easy to miss the right moment. No doubt, wider BPM integration into Office365 gets a crucial factor in achieving this goal.
  1. Boris Zinchenko
  2. 2 months ago
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John Morris Accepted Answer
@John (Reynolds)' idea of adding BPM to Office 365 is fascinating. O365 is very capable (fully disclosure, we subscribe). Here's a thought experiment. Microsoft Project is now part of Office 365. How many SMBs actually use full-on project management all the time -- versus how many could use it? Project management and process management are very comparable from the perspective of technical and business costs and benefits (even though they are mostly orthogonal in terms of functionality). Most SMBs are under such pressure that they cannot step outside regular operations to do something new. There are opportunities possibly in the developing world of "boutique BPM consultancies" which would deliver packaged BPM solutions. The model is the SMB-focused accounting firm. Recall however that accounting is driven very substantially by regulatory requirements. The comments above regarding democracy and simplicity are very apropos for sure. But the cost/benefits of SMB BPM are mostly not easily perceived by SMB as favouring investment -- yet. (Of course the definition of SMB varies widely around the world -- and these arguments apply very diffierently to a 50 person company and a 500 person company.)
Comment
+1 @Karl -- Thanks for the question -- I have added in the following phrase in my original note: " ... from the perspective of technical and business costs and benefits (even though they are mostly orthogonal in terms of functionality)". In other words I'm not claiming that MS Project can be used as a BPM tool, rather that the use of project management software (like that of accounting) puts similar cognitive and managerial demands on any organization -- and even has similar classes of benefit. The fact that MS Project is mostly only used by serious project management staff -- when it could have a wider audience -- is telling. So, it's like a "test case". Perhaps "canary in the coal mine" is too dramatic. : )
  1. John Morris
  2. 2 months ago
karl walter keirstead
I CAN see how MS Project could be used to make a template and the customer then simply duplicates the project file to create instances.

Users would then update the instances with % complete - everyone could get to see what is done, what is current, what remains to be done along each instance.

All instances could be imaged and put in some photo view environment, workers could very quickly browse all instances and report on progress via e-mail to one admin person who keeps the possibly 100 instances up to date and re-images the files. Not so easy for 1,000 instances.
  1. Karl Walter Keirstead
  2. 2 months ago
@John

I don't see much in common other than for mapping out processes.

So, comparable plan side, but not comparable run-time side (ref: " Project management and process management are very comparable")

How, in MS Project, would a customer generate instances of a template where there can easily be 20 data collection forms (one or more attached to each project step) with some form fields common to each form, with data flowing along pathways?

Most of the work we do requires a date/timestamped chronological history capable of showing data, as it was, at the time it was collected, on the form versions that were in service at the time (not possible in MS Project so far as I know).

We have, by the way, entertained exporting BPM pathways to a project management environment to generate ES-EF-LS-LF (early start, early finish, late start, late finish) , taking into account resource loading/time stretchout and then bring back the calcs for tagging BPM steps. This would be great for end-to-end processes/project plans but not very useful at all for organizations that have a mix of unstructured/structured work and not so useful for staff working on multiple Cases where there are time delays between steps on any one template instance.

I need to check out MS Project - maybe the current version has a reasonable subset of BPM functionality?
  1. Karl Walter Keirstead
  2. 2 months ago
+1 @John, fantastic observations! I suppose that main deficiency of Office365 in terms of BPM and, especially, BPM for SMBs, is not even in tools as such, which are polished to near perfection, but in an absence of well developed and ready to use methodologies and best practices in a form of ready to use Office365 templates specific per industry and business type. This vacuum of available standard methodologies creates a huge adaptation barrier for SMBs, which cannot afford expensive consultants for development of their individual BPM strategies.
  1. Boris Zinchenko
  2. 2 months ago
@Karl, In terms of form flows, I suppose SharePoint was originally delivered in view of this scenario. In fact, Visio even supports design of executable SharePoint workflows. Although, as such they are far from perfection as a ready to use BPM solutions. Nevertheless, SharePoint lists are definitely a pattern for case related storage on case type per list basis. Many vendors offer adaptable SharePoint form flows based on lists.
  1. Boris Zinchenko
  2. 2 months ago
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Patrick Lujan Accepted Answer
Blog Writer
Get bigger, fatter, richer, more bureaucratic, THEN do BPM. That's the way it usually works.

Seriously though, highly doubtful of the Office 365 thing for the reasons John's laid out, but mostly align with Derek and Juan on simpler, cheaper, easier.
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John Morris Accepted Answer
OK, "simpler, cheaper, faster", sounds great. But like all good biz dev or sales people want to know, what is the job to be done? Let's put on our business analysis hat.

And we can identify different categories of SMB organizations on dimensions of process quantitative description (simplified list):

1. Processes by semantic complexity

Very short to very long process chains, measured by number of steps.
Very simple to very complex process chains, measured by process branching.

2. Processes by velocity and quantity

Small number of fast or slow processes.
Large number of fast or slow processes.

3. Processes by hand-over transaction costs

Processes where average cost to move from one task to another is high
Processes where average cost to move from one task to another is low

4. Organizations by process population turnover

Organizations where population of individual processes is stable
Organizations where population of individual processes is evolving
Organizations where population of individual processes is evolving rapidly

Where does BPM help? BPM helps especially when COGS (cost of goods or services sold) is lower BECAUSE BPM is used. Using the above measurements, where might BPM apply or not?

If processes are stable, with lower task hand-over costs, or are very short, or simple, then it's likely that simple office tools (the office equivalent of shop-floor jigs) will already be in place to nicely enable that work-of-business. This probably describes a lot of SMB. (The same analysis can apply to any size of organization, and could retroactively be mapped to market segments that have adopted BPM automation technology.)

If one wants to sell to SMB, not only is the cost of BPM an issue (addressed by the mantra of "faster, cheaper, easier" ), but there must be real "pull". SMB by definition are serving smaller markets and the semantic complexity of their work is often comparatively low. The job of the BPM vendor pitching to SMB is to find the SMB segments where the pattern of work will be dramatically -- not just marginally -- and positively affected by SMB.
Comment
Exactly. Ready and immediately efficient process patterns are cornerstone in SMBs acceptance of BPM in general. I suspect that Microsoft already moves into this direction with their Microsoft Flow integration cloud, where simple typical process patterns are already available out of the box.
  1. Boris Zinchenko
  2. 2 months ago
[email protected] -- You've said it much more concisely. Enthusiasm for BPM has to meet real business need -- er, better, "pain". Run the numbers and factor in uncertainty and business cases are hard to make. The implication is that if there is an opportunity for BPM and SMB, it will come via a market solution other than direct buy.
  1. John Morris
  2. 2 months ago
Yeah, good luck with that. Most orgs, large or SMB, don't have the political will, tenacity or desire to think that hard. It's easier to pay a consultant or SI to do that for them as, supposedly, they're the SME(s) and already know how to do that, including eliciting the analysis from their institutional knowledge. In reality, that's not how it usually goes down and, of course, that also makes it more convenient when things inevitably go arse over teacups to foist the service provider by your petard.
  1. Patrick Lujan
  2. 2 months ago
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Bogdan Nafornita Accepted Answer
1/ fully functional enterprise templates (not the jokes you see on Twitter: two boxes and a gateway);
2/ business microservices / patterns / seed models
3/ super-small projects
4/ super-fast delivery
5/ sparse, friendly requirements
6/ tolerance to immediate changes along the implementation
7/ ability for them to easily edit major parts of the process (rules, roles)
8/ no consulting up-front

this list is not exhaustive :D
Managing Founder, profluo.com
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Kay Winkler Accepted Answer
I do agree with previous responder that concept and technology democratization will go a long way towards SMB adapting BPM. Especially, interpreting democratization by budgetary accessibility as well as functional intuitive usage of any given BPM solution.
Standards such as BPMN, CMN etc. are enablers as well since resources of a SMB likely won’t have the luxury of time to dedicate efforts to adapting to something “exotic”.
I have seen BPM solutions wrapped into vertical products resonate very well with SMB’s, too, likely to reduced implementation costs and complexities.
NSI Soluciones - ABPMP PTY
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  1. more than a month ago
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The approach is well-known and well-tested many times. If you want to make something naturally complex simpler for the wider audience then you have to bring some standardisation. For example, the system-level standardisation [ref1] as a reference model, reference architectures, typical patterns, interfaces, reference implementations for sectors, etc.

Thanks,
AS
References
  1. http://improving-bpm-systems.blogspot.ch/2017/02/systems-level-standardisation-example.html
Comment
@John, Thanks for the word "science".
  1. Dr Alexander Samarin
  2. 2 months ago
@Alexander -- Your referenced article is a whole recipe for the productization of complex software, the better to go farther, faster! I notice the word "ontology" appears -- once. This is good; finally science comes to modeling.
  1. John Morris
  2. 2 months ago
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David Chassels Accepted Answer
The theme certainly suggests need to be "simpler cheaper faster". But recognise that such a move is what is called disruptive i.e. big vendors will feel consequences and resist. Our research and early adopter experiences just confirm that business logic never changes where supporting creation of information and size of business makes no difference. Call it a universal standardisation of how organisation actually work! How this is delivered will address the SCF issues. Our approach works.......big or small simple or complex all can be analysed into logical task steps and just configure direct with user click and ready to run.......as an estimated of time a good guide is number of UIs/forms = number of man days to build a custom process. SMBs will likely have advantage of minimal and simpler connectivity to legacy.

Interesting debate on Microsoft. I know they investigated how and Bill Gates even stated the future holy trail of software was less code........we caught them trying to patent what we had created some 10 years earlier. The key attributes in the patents were recognition of "generic" company model with tasks, storing a drawing of activity in a database representing the elements within activities and an adaptable user interface based upon role assumed by a user and identification of tasks in a process. Too late our prior art rules (even in US) so no one can patent including us! The harsh reality is big companies do not "encourage" internal disruptive technology and will bury as will be a real threat to existing business model....might explain why no progress....just a question of time. The reality with be the low cost need for SMBs will also be available for large ones...think about it ...!
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E Scott Menter Accepted Answer
Blog Writer
Packaged, web-based, extensible, BPM-driven applications delivered as a service.

You're welcome.
http://www.bplogix.com/images/icon-x-medium.png Scott
Comment
Think SaS not right for operational processes which are subject to constant change. indeed with the significant cost reduction and deliverable flexibility they will be "assets" and lease purchase payment becomes practical and with access to build environment no lock in......such change is coming......
  1. David Chassels
  2. 2 months ago
@David... Curious about " . . .operational processes which are subject to constant change" - why is there a subset of users of workflows where the users feel a need for "constant change" ?
  1. Karl Walter Keirstead
  2. 2 months ago
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Brian French makes an important observation ". .a small business is primarily scrambling to achieve growth. . . . . . Asking a SMB to stop and do analysis on their processes to make them more efficient takes resources away from striving for and handling growth."

What if the SMEs (plus consultants and vendors promoting BPM to SMEs) were to base their justification for BPM not on making processes more "efficient" but on making existing processes more "effective" in terms of allowing goals/objectives to be met?

This gets rid of " . . . stop and do analysis on their processes" which we all know "takes resources from striving for an handling growth" .

The initiative changes to :

a) document "as-is"
b) make changes that are obvious/easy/not expensive
c) generate a process template
d) roll it out to an environment capable of hosting multiple Cases, each featuring, at times, multiple instances of several processes.

on the basis of ROI math that focuses on the extent to which BPM process template instances can provide efficiency/effectiveness in the areas of workflow AND workload management.

I just finished going over the 324 questions that have been posted at BPM.com since 2013-10-24 - I count 121 hits on "BPMN" (plan side issue) compared to only 16 on "Resource leveling and balancing" (run-time side issue).

Depending on the customer situation, BPM\RALB for orchestration in a run-time environment that provides governance, for me, is an easy sell within an organization with, say, 20 people or more where you have multiple instances of processes with multiple steps, with moderate to complex logic connections between steps, where performance requires multiple skill sets, and where errors/omissions have important adverse consequences.

A good starting position for preparation of an ROI is reduction of unwanted time delays between steps - with BPM, the moment one step is declared to be complete, the next-in-line step(s) post so you never have the situation where work falls between the cracks due to a lack of communication of work status.

In an inefficient operation, it's easy to get to where the sum of delays between steps can rival or exceed actual performance time at steps.
References
  1. http://www.kwkeirstead.wordpress.com
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