Process needs to be a big shiny object

Big Shiny Objects (BSO’s) get all the attention.  They get the marketing budget. They get the executive attention.  They get the budget. Recent BSO’s are social for the enterprise, Cloud and Big Data. Will they change the game? Maybe. Will they get the attention? Almost exclusively.

Attention Def…what did you say?

Attention is, by definition, a scare resource.  The attention directed to today’s BSO’s necessarily means that business process doesn’t get that much executive mind share.  The process halcyon days of the 90’s are over and workplaces are supposed to be about the business of capturing, managing and improving processes. They should be using one or more of the techniques like Lean or Six Sigma to be making things smoother, faster, more accurate and more efficient.

Can we assume this is the case? Has everyone really mastered process and squeezed out the last extractable value?

There be dragons

Talking to a senior executive recently about improving their ‘very’ broken processes, he leaned to my sponsor and said in a low voice, “Didn’t we do this ten years ago?” Maybe they did…but they did it ten years ago. The point is that he didn’t know.

Are organizations going about their business improving process? The answer is “No” for two reasons.  First, many common processes remain broken.  The description of far too many situations sounds like one I recently read in an audit of another customer’s manufacturing processes, “loose ends, poor communications, poor quality information, poor preparation, fragmentation, great variability.”  But aren’t these the exact symptoms that business process management remedies?

The second reason has to do with the BSO’s themselves.  More accurately, the change that they inevitably bring about. Organizations resist process change in a big way. They argue that short-term loss in productivity can be very painful financially. Worse, it can be be political. Heads can roll. You see, a BSO is expected to cause some hiccups and hardships (take SAP as an example), so we have tolerance for the BSO’s price tag more so than for the non-BSO (like process).

Hope on the horizon

A new generation of business process platforms have recently evolved that that could become the next year’s BSO’s.  Instead of clunky attempts to stretch Visio, SharePoint or automation and UML tools beyond what they were intended for, these purpose built apps combine the intutitive ease of of today’s commercial apps with a personalized processes view to empower every individual in the enterprise with governed standard operating procedures.

Newer BPM platforms are taking other cues from the commercial world.  They are being deployed as apps on mobile devices.  Instead of displaying process in an arcane language that looks like an electical engineering schematic, they use a few simple symbols and mostly plain language to provide employees with a clear understanding of their tasks.  They support rapid release cycles and real time feedback and Q&A through integration with existing social platforms.

What do you think it takes to make BPM a BSO again?

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Categories: BPM, Consumerization, Continuous Improvement, Process Management

Author:Tom Molyneux

A business process strategist with a focus on real-time event management.

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6 Comments on “Process needs to be a big shiny object”

  1. July 10, 2012 at 12:45 am #

    Talking to a senior executive recently about improving their ‘very’ broken processes, he leaned to my sponsor and said in a low voice “Didn’t we do this ten years ago?

    Answer: Do our customers, suppliers, partners and competitors do business the way they did ten years.

  2. July 10, 2012 at 12:49 am #

    What do you think it takes to make BPM a BSO again?

    Answer: Design real time variable processes that are dynamic, self organised by business users and adapt to change by user selectivity

  3. July 10, 2012 at 1:59 am #

    “loose ends, poor communications, poor quality information, poor preparation, fragmentation, great variability.

    These situations are usually caused by business managers using informal workarounds, to get over rigid standardized legacy system processes; that no longer reflect the dynamic realities they face in their daily business lives.

  4. July 10, 2012 at 10:42 pm #

    @BestResults,

    Thanks for your comments. I agree with your last comment about workarounds – very common. Another very common cause I’ve seen: processes aren’t documented at all (or the documentation isn’t available or human-readable for end users),

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