Process Classification Frameworks - Holly Lyke-Ho-Gland

 

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Lloyd Dugan:
Welcome everybody to the bpm.com podcast. My name is Lloyd Dugan. I am the Chief Architect at BPM.com. Our guest this evening is Holly Lyke-Ho-Gland, and she's from APQC. She's one of the directors and researchers there. She's also the recent author of a paper published onBPM.com called, "BPM's Persistent Challenges: Opportunities for Sustainable Impact." We will talk about that and other things going on at APQC and about what it's generally known for, which are things called Process Classification Frameworks. So welcome, Holly.

Holly Lyke-Ho-Gland:
Thank you for having me on here tonight and kudos for getting the last name correct. It's always a challenge.

Lloyd Dugan:
Let's start with the first question, which is essentially about the background and history of APQC. So I'm very familiar with their products and have used them myself before. Holly, give us a breakdown on what APQC is principally known for and the role it generally has played in the BPM market.

Holly Lyke-Ho-Gland:
APQC was founded in 1977 coming out of our founder, Jack Grayson, who was the U.S. Price Commissioner at that time. And he really wanted to focus in on profit research organization to look at best practices and benchmarking really focusing on this idea of productivity. Over the years, we've shifted and changed, but we're still very focused on that idea of looking at business best practices. And we also have another focus, which is on performance management benchmarking. Two ways that we do that, we have a research side of the house, which is where I am, and we focus on functional best practices as well as trends analysis. And then we have a benchmarking group who focused explicitly on those performance benchmarks.

So looking to be able to help support process effectiveness. We've also had a lot of different things. In 1987, Jack Grayson helped create the Malcolm Baldridge Award. And then in 1992, we created what we call our Process Classification Framework. And a lot of people are familiar with us because of that. As I mentioned, I'm part of the research side of the house, so I focus in this area of process and performance management. So... which BPM is one of the core aspects of the research that I support.

Lloyd Dugan:
I did not know about the Malcolm Baldridge, but that's quite a feather in the cap of the organization's history. I mean, I do know what the award is, I just didn't realize Grayson shared in the creation of it. What I have seen it in particular, used for... I've seen the offerings in both the horizontal and vertical senses. So horizontal in the sense that you have PCFs for HR or financial management, but you also have vertical PCFs for different markets, like banking. Talk to us a little bit about how these are used in the mechanisms of production behind them... How they stay fresh with the research that you opened up.

Holly Lyke-Ho-Gland:
So the frameworks, like you said, they help support... There's 13 categories in each one of them that look at those specific functional areas. And then there's, I think about 20 industry specific ones. The idea behind them is... I always like to think of it, is... It's a messy list of all the potential processes that an organization can conduct. And so one of the reasons, and why people use it so much, is because it gives them some place to start. A lot of people wind up using the framework in a lot of their process discovery work. They use it as a reference to help understand and build out what their processes are. The reason a lot of people use this one in particular instead of starting from scratch, is this idea of a common language. Because then you're having everybody speaking the same terms when they're talking about processes, because... We know. We go from department to department to department and they all call the same thing, different things.

So the idea behind it is to give you that structure to then help create that clarity and that communication. The other big thing we've seen people apply it for then is content management. So they'll use it as a taxonomy, especially if they're a process led organization, and that gives them something that they can then identify and tack knowledge assets with those processes.

So people who are working in a specific area have all the information they need. They've got their SLPs, they've got their business rules, they've got their lessons learned and all of that in one place. And I think the other big thing we see people use it for is benchmarking, partially because of that common language thing. So when you're benchmarking with another group... say you're looking at your procurement process. Well, if you're using that, then you have the same definition between different organizations. And then the other way people use it for benchmarking is, the frameworks also not just to have that long list of all the processes, but we try to identify KPIs and productivity measures for as many of the processes as possible. So we try to help with helping people identify the right measures. That'll go with it.

Lloyd Dugan:
So have you... We're going to get back to the question of BPM and business architecture a little bit later in the podcast, but while we're on the topic of what you just said about common language... I was going to use the term "common vocabulary," but I think in this sense that they're really the same thing. One of the things that I have heard, not actually applied myself but has heard... I have heard it applied elsewhere... is to use the PCFs as a way of jump starting the capability map in a business architecture effort. You ever seen or heard it used in that fashion?

Holly Lyke-Ho-Gland:
Yeah. I've definitely seen a lot of organizations come to us for that because capability mapping processes part of it. So they'll use the framework itself as just that foundation that you then build all the rest of the pieces of the capability on top of.

Lloyd Dugan:
And so how does this work? Do you have overlap with... I mean, you're not the only source, or APQC is not the only source, for PCFs in this industry. We have the... from ACORE, I think we have something for insurance. We... From SCORE, we have something for supply chain and I think the telecommunications has ETOM. How do you see yourself in relation to these more specific... domain specific PCF providers in the marketplace for BPM?

Holly Lyke-Ho-Gland:
Actually, we see a lot of people use both. So they'll use... Because the framework is broad and it crosses pretty much most business categories, they will use the framework itself to build out those pieces. So we have that big picture, probably about a process level and above, sometimes down into the activity level as well. But then they'll take some of those function specifics like SCORE or ITOL or ETOM or any of those and then use that to build out into more depth. Because one of the things with frameworks, because it is the most common, we tend to have more pieces of it at that activity level and above. Whereas those tend to have a little bit more depth. So they work very complimentary together.

Lloyd Dugan:
What is the essential value proposition for using them? We've talked about some use cases, but what is the value proposition in particular to your organization?

Holly Lyke-Ho-Gland:
One of the things, as far as that goes is the value proposition... the PCF, is honestly, it saves time. It saves people time when they're starting any of their process efforts, because they're not having to start from scratch.

Lloyd Dugan:
Well, it doesn't get more basic than that. And I can certainly attend to that as well. It's a quick way to ramp up if you're... particularly, if you're short on time or subject matter expertise, the PCFs are very quick way to ramp up fast without taking as much time or requiring as much resources. All right. Let's move to the article you had on the website for a few minutes, the, "BPM's Persistent Challenges: Opportunities for Sustainable Impact." You had a perspective on where the market is at the moment, particularly in this coming out of the COVID mindset space. You took the opinion that there were certain consequences to being essentially shut down in Ambir for a year. You want to talk about a couple of those and what do you see as the main challenges coming out of that?

Holly Lyke-Ho-Gland:
As far as being shut down at Ambir for the year, I think a lot of BPM programs got put on hold, but at the same time, there was actually also a great opportunity for BPM because organizations were realizing that so many of their processes were broken, or that they needed to automate processes, that they needed to triage a lot of things and how work got executed, which is BPM's sweet spot... being able to understand scope, figure out the current state and then move towards that future state. And because it was with the strategic drivers of the organization, BPM was able to shine.

And even though a lot of its core projects were put on hold, it was able to go in and support a lot of those emergencies, which in some ways I think has been a great opportunity for BPM. One of the biggest challenges we've seen over and over again is that the programs can struggle if they don't have a direct alignment with the corporate strategy. And because then you start seeing that cyclical nature where BPM programs are strong for a couple of years and then they get seen as maybe potentially not showing that organizational value or they're not driving revenue, but when they tie them directly to that strategic alignment, you start seeing more sustainability in the programs and they start getting directly supporting strategic initiatives and things along those lines.

Lloyd Dugan:
So you talked about two things of note in the paper. One was the... a strategic alignment. Making sure that the business Silos and the processes that are linking to and through them are on the table for showing value to the organization in a strategic way. Then you also talked about governance with respect to how the organization is going to manage these various efforts. In particular, governance, is when I want to get on, because I'm going to ask you how this is different from a Center of Excellence in a few minutes, but let's talk about what governance in this respect means. Is this approving the budget? Is it trying to identify the right process to go after? Or some other thing I haven't mentioned? And if it's any of these, how does the governance structure go about making this... Pulling this off?

Holly Lyke-Ho-Gland:
Governance is... there's that this idea of, "Above the flow" governance and then, "In the flow" governance. "Above the flow" is similar to a COE or BPM program. And that is creating governance about how process efforts are done, making sure there's alignment between improvement projects, making sure you're picking the right things that are good for the organization that have a high value and then also making sure that there is... those Silos are broken down and you're able to have communication between those Process Silos. Then there's the, "In the flow" governance, which is making sure you have process owners, making sure you have process stewards, making sure there's accountability in the business for owning the processes and working with that, "Above the flow" governance in their efforts for improvements.

Lloyd Dugan:
I love those two terms, "Above the flow" and, "In the flow." And it seemed to me... I experience in this industry that you can set up a Center of Excellence. Usually you don't have the wherewithal to do that until you have a whole bunch of other stuff in place. So it's rare that I've seen it put in place and then have it die almost immediately. Although I have seen that happen, it's more rare, but, "In the flow," right, that's where I have found the hardest challenges both personally and professionally. Speak to your own perspective on that. How does an organization come to assign accountability in an enforceable and accountable way or measurable as something... just calling a process owner would be. I mean, it's more than just putting them in a cell marked in a RACI Chart. It has to be-

Holly Lyke-Ho-Gland:
Right.

Lloyd Dugan:
... something more substantive than that. So what would be your take on that?

Holly Lyke-Ho-Gland:
Well, as far as looking for ways, part of it depends on the organization... what's driving the program, right? What's driving the focus on process. One of the things that we've seen for process owners in particular, making sure that the people who are accountable for the measures are associated with process. If the measures that are the value of process X are on their scorecard, then they're a lot more likely to be bought in on making sure that process is moving well and executed very, very well. But a lot of organizations have to crawl before they can walk. And so part of... If they are serious about it, they will put... make sure that there is tangible check-ins with the process owners to get updates. They'll also then make sure that say... I've seen some groups say, "You have to have at least three improvement projects in your scope for the year and that's part of your performance management."

And then building that process owner is part of their job. Another one we saw, which I thought was a little cool because they were a very ISO focused organization. What they did was made their process owners, the people who were responsible for doing the audits. So because when you're doing these ISO Audit, you're looking at a lot of the same things you're doing for BPM, right? You're looking at the performance of the process, you're looking at the knowledge management aspects, you're looking at that transparency, you're looking at those performance measures. So they've just bundled that in together. And that way it's not a lot more work than what they were going to be doing already. And in fact, they typically are a little bit better off when they're doing their audits if they have that mentality.

Lloyd Dugan:
In another reality I would have called that work requirements, but making it that explicit surely will have an impact because it's incentivizing. Let's talk about doing the research at APQC and some of the directions you expect to take in the upcoming year.

Holly Lyke-Ho-Gland:
So one of the things I do every year, December, is I do want to call a "priority survey." So it's a survey that goes out to process and performance management practitioners looking at the broad spectrum of research areas and looking at what their priorities are. So trying to identify what are the top three challenges for BPM or the top three challenges for continuous improvement and so forth. And one of the things that we've seen come up over and over and over again over the last three years is End-to-End Processes. And that's a huge one for most organizations. Originally, I was very excited because I thought that people were seeing the light and looking at... "We need to break down the Silos and work on handoffs." But a lot of it is actually technology driven and technology has really put the fire behind a lot of organizations to getting their End-to-End Processes or their value streams, whichever approach you take in order.

Holly Lyke-Ho-Gland:

Lloyd Dugan:
I wonder, since we're on this topic about maturity models. With the CMMI, right, you have the five levels. Most people struggled to get to two in the early days of the framework for that. But nowadays it's much more common to find... even in government contracts, Level 3 is almost a requirement for just being able to play. Higher levels, I've only ever seen years for weapon systems or medical equipment where air rates and manufacturer for the software have to be extremely low... down lower, Level 3, for example. There should be possibilities for something like that on the process side. But you're right. I have yet to see anybody really do that.

They seem to top out at standardized practices and then not really figure out how to measure it from there. Is there some reason for that in your mind? Because if it hits a wall there, why is that? Is it because the business process maturity model isn't as much of a thing as... if you will, as the CMMI model with enforcement and certification and the whole industry built around measuring it, or is it just a lack of will on the part of the players in the space to want to take that on once they get to a certain level? What do you think is the cause?

Holly Lyke-Ho-Gland:
I think it's probably two fold. I think part of it is, yeah... Once you get to a certain level, a lot of organizations just need to be at that Level 3. There's certain trade-offs between getting higher up in the maturity. So that plays part of it. Part of it, I also think, is just people struggle with measures in general. A lot of organizations... We always see people... We measure what's easy rather than what is accurate in a lot of ways. And people have a hard time, number one, understanding what is the best fit measure for what they're trying to accomplish and then... or getting buy-in by the people who are executing the process to work with that measure and make sure it's a good fit that can roll up into the organization.

Lloyd Dugan:
I do a lot of work in business architecture. I'm a contributing member of the Business Architecture Guild, and we're working on the Business Architecture Metamodel Standard. Even now we've got the OMG Tech meeting coming up next week, so that's going to be a hot topic. But what do you think will be the impact that business architecture has, if you're willing to go down that road with me, on business process management? Whether it involves APQC's product line or not?

Holly Lyke-Ho-Gland:
Well, I think in the long run, the two should be... it should be impacted by business architecture. Especially as you see all so much going on and so much BPM work focused on technology, the roles... a lot of organizations are going through transformations of one shape or another. Whether it's technology or moving the roles around, we're trying to refocus our capabilities. The two needs to work together. Because in a lot of ways, enterprise architecture and business architecture and process need to have the same process foundation, right? We need to still define everything the same way and then really make sure the two are working in tandem for the same goals.

Lloyd Dugan:
Quick shameless plug segment. What's... unless you've already said it with your research renewing, what should we expect of APQC or you personally in the next six to 12 months?

Holly Lyke-Ho-Gland:
So I've got a slew of other additional projects I'm working on right now. We're doing a really fun project, looking at strategic planning practices and their impact on organizations' agility. So the little, "a," agility, not the big, "A.." And looking at what drives it, what helps organizations be more flexible? What practices does that help them do that? So that's a big one I'm working on right now. I'm going to be doing a project this summer looking at process frameworks.

So that's one I do every two years. Looking at how people are using them, what are the stumbling blocks, what are the best practices and how organizations can leverage them smarter and also doing some additional work looking at sustainability as a capability. So one of the things we asked our audience in that priority survey was, "Is sustainability on your strategy for the year." And I think it was over 60% said, "Yes." So looking at how that is being played out in organizations, as well as how groups like BPM can support the sustainability components, because one of the big drivers for sustainability is productivity. And how do those pieces play together?

Lloyd Dugan:
So quickly on my rant, right. So going back to this term, "Common language or common vocabulary." Right? My rant is this, is that it invariably, in anything I've ever done on the BPM space, particularly for training, I end up having to become a grammar school teacher. And by that, I mean, I have to talk to them about verb forms, noun forms, as things to follow in naming stuff in their organization, I invariably get some weird looks like, "Didn't I take care of this when I was in sixth grade." I don't know if you all have that experience when you market the PCFs, but I believe all levels within the frameworks that you offer are verb object phrases. Is there anything that we can do to improve, if you will, the grammar of BPM practitioners to be a little bit better than it is?

Holly Lyke-Ho-Gland:
If I had that answer, I'd potentially be a millionaire. But it is a big thing. And especially if you look at people who are used to doing capabilities versus doing process, right? Because you've got that noun-verb form versus the verb-noun form. And reinforcing that verb-noun form as that's a process. Because we're trying to explain what you do and what is an action. So you need to have that verb or that action right up there, up front to help define that. And then what is being... the action having? I think the other big struggle we see is when people try to string too many things into a process. So there's a comma, comma, and, comma, and... and again, that becomes a way to madness, right?

Lloyd Dugan:
Yes. And I guess that's the only hope is that just one group of people at a time, we may turn the tide. It just seems like a long journey.

Holly Lyke-Ho-Gland:
Yeah.

Lloyd Dugan:
Well, Holly, thank you so much for taking about half hour or so to talk with us tonight. Really appreciate you joining us. Again, I want to reference our listeners to her paper on the BPM.com website. Again, its name is... It's titled rather, is, "BPM's Persistent Challenges: Opportunities for Sustainable Impact." It's a breezy read. It takes about five, 10 minutes, maybe, to work through, but it has a lot of good stuff in it. And we look forward to the next set of artifacts and products from APQC, as always. And thank you again for joining us on the podcast.

Holly Lyke-Ho-Gland:
Thank you for having me, Lloyd. It's been a pleasure.

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Lloyd Dugan

Lloyd Dugan is a widely recognized thought leader in the development and use of leading modeling languages, methodologies, and tools, covering from the level of Enterprise Architecture (EA) and Business Architecture (BA) down through Business Process Management (BPM), Adaptive Case Management (ACM), and Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA). He specializes in the use of standard languages for describing business processes and services, particularly the Business Process Model & Notation (BPMN) from the Object Management Group (OMG). He developed and delivered BPMN training to staff from the Department of Defense (DoD) and many system integrators, presented on it at national and international conferences, and co-authored the seminal BPMN 2.0 Handbook (http://store.futstrat.com/servlet/Detail?no=85, chapter on “Making a BPMN 2.0 Model Executable) sponsored by the Workflow Management Coalition (WfMC, www.wfmc.org).