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  2. Sherlock Holmes
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When should a company spend the time to customize processes versus simply using standard off-the-shelf processes?
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Hmmm...has a company ever NOT spent time customizing a process? Honestly, off the shelf solutions are great but in my experience they only take a company so far and ultimately the company will need to customize to get it to work with their business needs. It may not happen Day 1. Things may work fine with the OTS solution but eventually (two months, two years?) they will out grow that software and possibly be faced with the hard reality that they cannot change that software and need to go to a new solution.

I'm always in favor of getting the toolbox and not just a single tool.
Managing Director
ClearCadence, LLC
http://www.clearcadence.com
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  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 1
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If the organization needs to speed up a solution in an environment where exists an unstructured business processes or different standards established for it between the departments or divisions, would be a good option choose to acquire and implement an "standard off-the-shelf" in order to standardize the scenario in whole company (if requires it).

The other hand, if the company has an standard process established, would be more reliable and interesting spend time to customize their business processes rather than acquire another "standard off-the-shelf".

Rgds, M
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  1. more than a month ago
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Everything needs to be driven by business value. I see two buckets out there. One bucket is industry standards and meeting those standards. Why would you build anything new to meet industry standards. Simple example- swift messaging, other payments processes? Government policies? why would you try to buck the trend in building a customized process and not accept off the shelf processing capability. Might you customize to get to the off the shelf process, sure but at a high level any industry standard processing across companies and industries, it doesn't make sense to customize unless you are planning to change the industry (that is a whole other conversation). Second bucket is processes that are unique to the business value proposition. There is where the real question exists. Some off the shelf works to become a foundational build but more times that not, organizations develop some level of process customization in process platforms to encapsulate the business asset (processes) to achieve the business value proposition. Differentiation. Would every bank, healthcare and other companies use the same onboarding process? branding aside there are different products etc that force customization. As one digs deeper into this aspect of differentiation the real question is how you measure business value. What is the value of the customization to the off the shelf approach. Furthermore, measuring the business value prioritizes the depth of customization as well. Many organizations are struggling with how to build a framework, measure and manage the business value in the context of customize processes in a platform vs off the shelf.
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  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 3
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Weird question, because you can use off-the-shelf gadgets, but not off the shelf processes. That has of course to do wih my definition of a process which is everything you do and need to deliver a result. So processes always happen in the context of an organization with their people,data, customers, way of managing, etc. You cannot drag that off-the-shelf.

I think this question assumes that a process is some kind of automated tooly thing to support a process. And yes for boring things like 'pay invoices' you can buy some standard stuff. But it still needs to be implemented in the context of your organization to make it work as a process.

The only way this question coould be answered with yes is when it's completely outsourced. But is it still your process then? Then you only buy the result or service.
Sharing my adventures in Process World via Procesje.nl
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  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 4
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Whenever there is a mature, pre-made business process available that approximates the business needs, I wholeheartedly suggest trying to start the optimization and automation initiative from there, instead of starting from scratch. There, of course, are some variables that should influence this approach. The 2 most important of those, I think, are:
1. Company and management seniority. Whenever a company overcomes the instinctive urge of declaring its processes to be profoundly unique and an absolute one of a kind, a lot of time and efforts can be saved, starting from a model or template, and only adjust the points that enhance the company's unique value proposition. That, in my experience, usually also fits the 80:20 scale (not everything is ought to be transformative, all the time...even if it sounds cool, when spoken aloud).
2. Approximation: The base process model must fit to some degree the company's business model, size, technical architecture and preparedness. A complex iBPMS OPEX template with predictive analytics may not be a good fit for a small business that looks to automate their purchase processes from an AWS server.
Also, uniform process models (that of course don't go as far as killing innovations and competitive edges), also allow for better industry benchmarking which, in my opinion, is a great thing for business to have access to and to be able to measure against (avoiding the argument of "we are so special, that we can't be possibly be compared to anyone", for a moment :D ).
NSI Soluciones - ABPMP PTY
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  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 5
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A company implements off-the-shelf processes when it gave up being competitive in the marketplace. Then whatever the other guys are doing should be good enough for them as well.

That being said, it's always a good idea to start off with some sort of process template that you can then edit for the business case at hand. But the process template should be manufactured with customization in mind - and that implies a sustainable architecture for the "process toolbox".
CEO, Co-founder, Profluo
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  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 6
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As we know, all unique business processes are assembled from about 30-40 practical process patterns (not be confused from famous workflow patterns). Those practical process patterns are, actually, good business practices, e.g. validation by 4 eyes, delegation authority matrix, etc.

So, the artificial conflict between “standard off-the-shelf” processes and “customized” processes can be resolved in the following way:
1) the former are explicitly based on the practical process patterns;
2) the former are available for customization (and some guidelines are available);
3) the latter customizes some practical process patterns, and
4) the latter customizes the composition of practical process patterns (this is the pattern DIP – Design In Patterns, see [ref1]).

Thanks,
AS
References
  1. http://improving-bpm-systems.blogspot.bg/2011/06/practical-process-patterns-dip.html
Comment
I totally agree with primary accent on patterns. Patterns are the key to distinguish standard vs custom. Standard can be just patterns, not whole processes.
  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 7
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Slight digression... but your company's "custom process" could probably be best implemented by orchestrating "off the shelf" processes...

The barrier to doing this is the improper granularity and interoperability of the "off the shelf" processes that we have access to.
Founder at John Reynolds' Venture LLC - Creator of ¿?Trules™ for drama free decisions
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Totally agree - and that too can be changed if we rethink what an "off the shelf" process should really be.
  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 8
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There are salient process and non salient ones. The salient are those which are key to the operations of the business where customisation and flexibility in their processes will give that competitive advantage to react to market conditions. This would include handling customer and supplier relationships and important value networks. Non salient would cover likes of wage and payment processing and accounting ledgers.

Salient processes need to be "owned" by the business as they are assets and of course need to be readily accessible to support direct input from users for customisation in build and of course inevitable constant change. This needs the software to be in secure control by the business .

Non salient processes could be readily outsourced or bought as a pre built off the shelf but need to readily be integrated into the requirements of the salient processes. However the speed and thus low cost of build with next generation no code may make custom building certain such processes cost effective by avoid any long term spend commitments as well as contribute to encouraging greater efficiency in these back office systems.

What all this does will bring a degree of maturity and commoditization to enterprise software where the business customer is in control ...long over due.....?
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  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 9
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Trick question?

[*] When you edit a letter that you composed in MS Word are you "customizing" the text or just editing?

[*] Would you consider doing an Internet search to find content for a "standard" letter you would view as appropriate to send to prospective customers to introduce a new product you have developed?

Re process mapping, nothing wrong with referring to a standard process and mapping this in your mapping environment.

My customers look for run-time workflow/workload management, with background BPM orchestration of their processes featuring their forms.

When they design/re-design their forms they don't view this as "customizing".

When they drag and drop task icons on their mapping canvas or sheet, link these with directional arrows, assign performance roles and attach their forms, they don't refer to the end result as a "customized" process.

They do, however, refer to their processes as their "best practices".

They figure their "best practices" make a significant contribution to their competitive advantage.
References
  1. http://www.kwkeirstead.wordpress.com
Comment
Well, completely agree with your take on your customers - I'd assume you usually work with big customers. These guys usually exhibit some form of process maturity / awareness (hence the "best practice" term).
But what if your customer is an SMB, with very little practices or policies? Then the question becomes relevant.
  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 10
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Amazing answers to a tricky question. When does a firm need standard off-the-shelf processes versus customized processes? How about "when the firm needs to survive"?

This isn't quite as facetious as it sounds. The economics of business mean that organizations necessarily structure around repetitive processes (see my article on BPM.com which covers Repetition As A First-Class Function Of BPM Technology).

Repetition means value chain standardization, automation and off-the-shelf, by definition. And congratulations, you're now in the commodity business!

But getting the basics of commodity production right opens up opportunity. If you can figure out where you can segment your customers for things that aren't quite standard, you're almost guaranteed of higher margins. Thus, customized work processes for customzed customer journeys.

In this context, Geoffrey Moore has a very nice discussion of the evolution of systems, starting with Systems of Record (a.k.a. ERP), Systems of Engagement (a.k.a. CRM etc.), and now on up for Systems of Interaction etc. (pick any sexy new buzzword). (His May 2017 article Digital Systems Maturity Model is a nice short read. Moore's "systems journey" can be thought of as an evolution of automation from supporting standard processes to supporting custom processes.

Whether you're a commodity or custom player you need to know your business. The more productive you are with given resources, the more you can afford to customize. And earn better margins. And because business is all about repetition, even custom business is about repetition,

In support of your pursuit of productivity, BPM software and business process management are the technologies to help you succeed. BPM is the technology of the work of business. Automate what you can, be as productive as you can, and then you'll have a little bit left over to support the tacit things that don't normally get any attention.

Life and business are full of complexity and the opportunity for non-standard is infinite. How do you get there? Automate so you can be free to innovate.
Comment
"Automate so you can be free to innovate." - Hmm, I think that some amount of architecting must be carried out before automation.
  1. John Morris
  2. 8 months ago
  3. #5196
+1 @DrSamarin: "Architecting prior to automating". As you say though, "some amount". Because there's a back and forth between architecting and automating, in the same way there's a back and forth between architecting a house, the traffic flow in the house and materials engineering.
  1. John Morris
  2. 8 months ago
  3. #5200
I've answered the original question above focusing on "company need", the "software demand" side of the software market equation. But a company's software choices are also a function of the overall software marketplace, i.e. factoring in the "software supply" side of the software market equation.

On the software supply side, systems of record (ERP) COTS ("commercial off-the-shelf) software is very much about massive investments by software vendors, costs of which are shared very widely (open source is a different model of cost sharing for massive programmes).

That's the market for off-the-shelf software. What about custom software? Custom software in support of differentiation away from a commodity business is also very expensive software -- but expensive insofar as it is not shared in the same way.

The genius is in a balancing act knowing where scarce software customization resources should be best deployed.
I still suppose there must be a balance between standardization and and corporate identity.
RE "balance between standardization and and corporate identity" Yes, and even make synergy between uniformity (saving internal efforts) and uniqueness (creating unique value proposition).
  1. John Morris
  2. 8 months ago
  3. #5204
We are all in agreement then! My expression was a focus on cost and scarce resources: "a balancing act knowing where scarce software customization resources should be best deployed" -- and +1 @Boris for the implication that "corporate identity" is tied to "software customization".
  1. David Chassels
  2. 8 months ago
  3. #5205
Customisation using no code is very quick and cheap to the extent off the shelf salient applications will be seen as v expensive! Another advantage is the business makes a future proof investment where constant change is ready supported which is important indeed vital for key operational processes.

Karl Walter Keirstead
@Alexander . . .Re " I think that some amount of architecting must be carried out before automation."

I agree strongly and would reinforce this to read " a considerable amount of architecting must be carried out before automation"

There should be little resistance to "plan, implement, in-use-monitoring",

My recommended approach is:

1. set and put in place the architecture
2. build your as-is
3. innovate [e.g. innovate / automate as part of transitioning to to-be]

The difficulty lies in #3 where you need an inventory of resources/capabilities (strategy-level content); a number of multi-root hierarchies (one per initiative, often in decision-tree format); ways and means of provisionally allocating resources/capabilities to innovation/automation initiatives; ways and means of prioritizing competing initiatives; attaching notes, spreadsheets, diagrams; URL links to decision trees notes; building summary CPM flowgraphs/ROI calculations backed up by lower level critical path diagrams for complex initiatives;

Without an electronic "giant blackboard" capability, it is not easy for organizations to innovate or automate.
  1. David Chassels
  2. 8 months ago
  3. #5209
@Karl Agree must have good architecture which not only supports orchestration of all the functions you mention but incorporates all business logic. flow, rules, UIs etc. Where the graphical build interface is the build environment that is the electronic blackboard where build and future change takes place and you are right automation and innovation is "easy"
@Karl, RE "a considerable amount of architecting must be carried out before automation" - fortunately with modern tools and patterns, it is possible to avoid doing up-front "considerable amount of architecting". Typical situation is that after a few preparatory quick IT projects, each next project bring together business and IT improvements.
  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 11
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Question of reusing standard process libraries always arises in an organization starting its digital transformation. At first glance, ready process sets might look very attractive to borrow and avoid complex procedures of mapping your own processes. On another hand, blind implementation of standard process templates will effectively destroy all corporate culture and experience previously accumulated in an organization.

Boundaries of applicability for standard processes are easy to distinguish by scale. Elementary business operations in most cases already exist as established and proven best practices, which are senseless to re-discover. Sometimes, changing these ground bricks is even prohibited by government standards and compliance requirements. However, these standard bricks are absolutely insufficient to comprise a building of successful company.

To fuel continuous business growth company must combine standard business patterns common for the whole industry into unique combination, which will define its competitive advantage. Complex end-to-end processes always require careful crafting in unique business context. Bigger grows business model, more standard patterns it absorbs on micro-scale, but also more it diverts from any given standard template globally.
Comment
  1. John Morris
  2. 8 months ago
  3. #5210
@Walter called out this powerful statement in his comment below: "Blind implementation of standard process templates will effectively destroy all corporate culture and experience previously accumulated in an organization." This insight gets to some of the deepest issues concerning corporate identity, and implicitly is referring to the wealth of tacit knowledge on which any organization is built. If you can codify that (i.e. build custom processes and rule sets) -- to some extent -- you will have the greatest return on investment. But to bring in industry standard templates is, by definition, to erase that native intelligence. The worst ROI.
  1. David Chassels
  2. 8 months ago
  3. #5212
Well said John. However we had interesting experience in mining project where compliance where concerned about lack of transparency all set up but at last minute the surveyors suddenly realised that their "native intelligence" was about to be distributed and withdrew their co operation......
@John, I think the root reason here is negligence with complexity. Complexity is often found scaring and tends to be interpreted as chaos, which it is not. Instead of understanding complexity and making adequate process adjustments, managers sometimes try to discard it, thus endangering the whole business. Scale and objective complexity distinguish real processes from templates.
@David, Marvelous observation. BPM gives real process transparency, which many consider as vulnerability.
  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 12
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@Boris. Agree with " . . . blind implementation of standard process templates will effectively destroy all corporate culture and experience previously accumulated in an organization".

It's probably the best way one could think of to destroy competitive advantage.

What I find perplexing are references (across this forum) to "avoid complex procedures of mapping your own processes".

I just don't see this across our customer base.

True, it is difficult to find people in silos who can "think process" (which needs people to actually take action, not just say process mapping can and should be done). So, either the corporation finds one or brings in a facilitator (from BI or from outside) to host live mapping sessions, none of which should in my view last longer than 1-2 hours per day.

I have hosted hundreds of these at GoToMeeting sessions, often with stakeholders I have never met personally - I do homework to get to where I understand something about their industry, the terminology they use, read-up on published material. But, otherwise it's mostly all about " ,, and then what do you do next", with a result of about a 50-step process after one hour (narrative rules only, to be later replaced and images of desired forms as opposed to real forms). These, of course, take time but can be done off-line.

I don't see anything "complex" in all of this.
References
  1. http://www.kwkeirstead.wordpress.com
Comment
Here is a footnote to the " . . . . and then what do you do next?" approach.

The usual scenario after a facilitator has built a few nodes/arcs and the question is asked again. is that one of the stakeholders responds with "... give me the mouse/keyboard and I will show you.

This casual "on-boarding" of stakeholders replaces traditional unidirectional attention-span-losing "training".

@Karl Walter, I cant tell how true is this observation on negligence in process mapping. Too often BPM is seen as panacea without paying due tribute to established company practices. Existing situation is seen as garbage, chaos etc. to be magically transformed by a new wonder technology. Nobody thinks in between that quoted 'garbage' is, in fact, a running business making money, in good or in bad way. Instead of diligent effort to transform it, some over-enthusiastic adepts have in mind just throwing it away.
@Boris. Agree...

Top management has to take some of the responsibility for allowing sunk costs / infrastructure to be cast aside.

It is reasonable that if you have a system in place and you are unable to list its good points and bad points, the chance of success with a new system may not be that great.

So, in any ROI, I would insist on seeing 'as-is' plus two forward scenarios for "to-be" (one to improve, one to replace, with arguments for/against each of the two scenarios)
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