#Blackberry, #BPM and the rise of the consumer

Catching up on news reading, I caught an article on Business Insider, “RIM Stock Hits 7-Year Low As BlackBerry-Maker Stays On Track To Become The New  Palm”. The article went on to give three reasons why Blackberry’s demise is certain:

  • A lack of consumer focus
  • More complex interface
  • Mind-blowing naiveté by RIM leadership

As an eleven-year  Blackberry user, I’ve been watching the smart phone wars with a great deal of interest. I dismissed the iPhone when it arrived, even scoffed (openly) after it belatedly added ‘cut and paste’. What I became clear as I read the article: It isn’t about offering the most amazing functionality but about making it dead easy to use. Consumers buy products that are rewarding without a high barrier to learn and enjoy.

Dead easy BPM

Things are no different in our work. Just as companies are rapidly shifting away from “standard issue” Blackberries to letting employees choose their phones, BPM is moving in the same way toward end-user choice, which will ultimately lead to consumer-driven design. What does that mean for BPM?

  • Less BPMN (complexity at a cost) and more simple notation… reflecting less technical architect leadership, more process ownership by the actual business
  • Personalized content…a ‘playlist’ approach rather than ‘selling the entire album’ (thank you Apple!)
  • Role or situational consumption…rather than navigation of folders or other hierarchies (AKA process in three clicks or less)…or worse, finding outdated junk somewhere out on the network/portal/someone’s PC.
  • Customer-friendly process deployment — Imagine a world where the end customer can follow and contribute to process management (where you’d even dare to let them behind the curtain)

Getting to this level of process consumer focus requires the business to own responsibility for BPM (you might say this is putting the B back in BPM). IT has an important role to play in providing supporting technology. Let’s hope they learn a trick from Apple: Make it dead easy and the business can achieve great things with BPM.  Regrettably and all too often IT tends to foist on the business whatever technical BPM tool they’ve previously acquired, or abdicate responsibility by pointing the business at Visio and SharePoint.  In my experience neither of these paths results in the ‘viral’ uptake of BPM by the business, which is required to drive lasting adoption and operational improvement.

Take an end-user point of view, add ‘real’ governance to the mix, and you’ll have a platform that will create its own demand and become the go-to source for business process.


Categories: Workplace Reality

Author:Chris Taylor

Reimagining the way work is done through big data, analytics, and event processing. There's no end to what we can change and improve. I wear myself out...

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4 Comments on “#Blackberry, #BPM and the rise of the consumer”

  1. Santiago
    November 30, 2011 at 5:46 am #

    Simplifying the end user interaction is certainly a must. But complexity must reside somewhere, and the fact that BPM (when the “M” stands for Modeling) drives to an abstraction of the reality of the business process, makes it unaffordable to keep it dead easy. Not only due to the ergonomy of the BPM tool, also due to the fact that depending on what is being targetted by the modeler, the level of abstraction/details of the model is not unique (take 4 people involved in a not-trivial business process, ask each one to produce his own model of the process, you have high probabilitues of ending up with 4 distinct models. Have those 4 people sitting around the table to collaborate in order to produce one single model from their own individual ones. Have the next 4 people who are knowledgeable about that process validating the previously agreed model…and the iterative refinement of the model will be triggered again.
    And this is observed not only for what concerns collaborative BPM (in order to have common sense, agreed modelisation), but also for the design patterns (let’s say the “modelisation conventions”) that the modeler uses in the BPM tool. Let me illustrate : once that the process starts to have enough stuff, multiple steps, different conditional branches and so on, the modeler may (for the sake of keeping it understandable, starting for himself) group a set of steps and collapse them into a sub-process. That is a very personal decision, which turns in practice to make of the modelisation process not easy for having “deadly simple” modelisation conventions, since what is perceived by one as a “natural” sub-process is not perceived as such by others. And my point (to conclude on this) is that without VERY solid standards (like BPMN) on which the modelisation relies, simplicity as the first priority would rapidly drive to “modelisation anarchy”. In other words, my take is that the wish that you express by “less BPMN” is nice, but unachievable in the real world.

    • November 30, 2011 at 7:00 am #

      I agree that for technical work to take place, there needs to be an understanding of the complexity of automation. Managing process, however, isn’t all about automation…though there are automation opportunities. The real challenge in BPM (M for management) is that the business owners and end-users have abdicated control over BPM to the point that the IT tools (like BPMN) have become the only way process is represented, rather than the right tool for the right purpose. I’ll agree that there is need to express complexity, but not for the majority of the people who need to understand their role in their organization.

  2. Brian Roybal
    December 15, 2011 at 12:26 pm #

    Question: What then is the ideal medium for allowing the business to maintain their BPM components in a governed, but “alive” fashion if not a widely used collaboration tool like SharePoint?

    Very nice discussion! I agree with Santiago – unless you are scratching the high level surface of extremely simple ‘happy-path’ processes, BPM is innately extermely complex to capture such that continuous improvement can come of it. But – getting this in a digestable format for the diverse masses of process actors and/or users is the holy grail. I’m in the middle of this and open to suggestions!

    • December 15, 2011 at 4:56 pm #

      Brian, on the SharePoint question, there is little value to storing processes within documents, as they can’t be aggregated for reporting and can’t represent a true end-to-end picture of process. To change processes means opening a different document. While SharePoint governs documents well, it doesn’t allow for ownership at the activity level or for there to be a hierarchical management structure for process that mirrors the real world. In reality, there are many process owners in an organization that need to discover, capture, communicate and change processes at different times, and there is a parallel need for the contextual information that describes processes to also be discovered, captured, communicated and changed…and often the process owner and the contextual info owner aren’t the same. A great example is the interview process, where HR owns the steps in the process, Legal owns the document that explains what you can and can’t ask of a candidate, and the person carrying out steps of the process is the hiring manager. Only a centralized, governed BPMS can store that kind of data real-time and allow it all to be governed in separate life cycles.

      As for continuous improvement, if you are able to do what I describe above, add collaboration functionality and the ability to capture data about processes and you have a continuous improvement platform. One of the best examples I’ve seen is ThyssenKrupp Steel USA in Calvert, Alabama. On the first page of my blog is a link to the ThyssenKrupp case study in BP Trends from last Summer. Take a look and ask any questions you might have. I spent time there and know quite a bit about their system.

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