Absolutely everything is business process

Everything comes down to process. I mean everything an organization does, whether automated or manual, is business process. It is foundational.

Participating in the TUCON 2012 event two weeks ago, it was clear to me that every concept that was introduced has its foundation in the business processes that underlie the way work is done. There is danger in not realizing this. Organizations that don’t understand are far more likely to trip over their own pursuit of technology and suffer setbacks and entropy from change that isn’t well thought out.

Breaking it down based on the hottest topics in the marketplace today:

Big Data

In our headlong pursuit of bigger data sets and better analytics, are we making sure that we’re not creating privacy concerns within our own staff? Are there processes in place to make sure we’re not creeping out our customers? How do we set boundaries and make decisions on where we’re going?

Big Data creates a shift from silo’d approaches to process and process improvement to a broader approach that allows business transformation on the back of enormous data sets that potentially change the game. Forrester’s Clay Richardson calls it, “Methods and techniques that provide a more holistic approach to process improvement and process transformation initiatives.”

As Richardson puts it, you can’t drive real business value without the four C’s of customers, chaos, context and cloud. Big Process is broad process.

Consumerization of IT

Adopting technology from the consumer world without first studying its impact on our work is risky. Everyone can have an iPhone but if the organization doesn’t have a way to deal with lost or stolen items (there’s a two-year contract on an iPhone), things break down quickly. The same goes for marketing having free rein to use consumer-facing applications. Is there information security? Is there a way to make sure no one is drunk tweeting on Friday night? These things happen all to often.

There’s no way to reverse the direction of information technology spread without having a way to measure its impact and understand the changes that are necessary across the enterprise. Consumerization is forcing organizations to rethink their procurement, data security, system access, training and infrastructure requirements. It becomes a question of how and where to change processes.

Digital Customer Experience

A pizza recently arrived over an hour late and the box was wet from the rain. We posted our dissatisfaction on Twitter, and sure enough, had a response from the pizza chain within minutes. It linked us to a site where we could describe our experience. Within a short time of hitting ‘send’, we received an automated apology that called their business “family-oriented” (what does that even mean?) and showed no indication that they’d read our complaint.

We would have been better off calling the local store. It was clear that they built automation systems around a goal of quick response to customer complaints but created no real processes for satisfaction or improvement. It brings into question our value as customers, but I’m sure they didn’t set out to do that when they implemented technology.

Digital customer experience is about making connections that are personal and social. Without process backending the shift, companies will end up more like our pizza restaurant than not.

Collaboration

Social tools are all the rage and tibbr is an excellent business platform. But any organization moving toward collaboration technology needs to also look at how it get implemented, how information is initially structured, and then be process-oriented in moving people and conversations away from inefficient email. A good friend told me that his company implemented a well-known system without thinking about the impact to the workplace or how to create successful outcomes, and merely gave people one more place to try to find information. Have you been there?

There are smart processes that make things happen efficiently and avoid reinvention of the wheel.

No matter how bright and shiny the technology object, there’s a need to understand organizational process before taking any leaps. Process, much-maligned for all of its ragged edges and old-school jargon, remains at the dead center of how work gets done and value gets created.

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Categories: BPM, Process Management

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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9 Comments on “Absolutely everything is business process”

  1. October 15, 2012 at 7:21 am #

    Chris,

    Great post! And a very bold claim that “absolutely everything is business process”. I agree with you, with the exception that “absolutely” is perhaps overreaching. (It’s not clear to me that a project is a process.) However, if you will agree that both projects and processes concern the common subject of “work”, then that would work. In fact right at the beginning, you make this identification as the “business processes that underlie the way work is done”.

    Your insight I believe is very important, when we consider the progress of business process management technology over the past decade. Despite having a technology that “should sell itself”, at least according to descriptions of what BPM does, the results have been disappointing for both vendor and customer alike.

    I believe this slow ramp of the BPM market is due to two factors. First, in BPM Challenge No. 1, the technology itself is not mature, and lovely workflow models that match business requirements are only translated into business process artefacts with difficulty — and coding. Secondly, in BPM Challenge No. 2, BPM as a tool of business is often not described well. Every so often you will find attempts to “define BPM” on various BPM forums. And it is rare to find a good technical definition. Instead we have lots of “mission statements” and “good feelings”, neither of which are very effective in the executive suite.

    Please allow me to share two relevant blog posts I’ve written on these topics of “BPM and Work” and “BPM Is Everything”:

    http://decisionmodels.org/content/selling-bpm-reveals-essence-bpm
    http://decisionmodels.org/Why_Work-Shy_BPM_Is_All_About_Work_Thats_How_To_Sell_It

    The arrival of BPMN 2.0 I believe will begin to make a difference in BPM Challenge No. 1, technological capabilities. As for Challenge No. 2, your post is a great contribution to raising awareness of the subject as critically central to what business is all about, and which should be a technology which is directly addressed by executive suite leaders.

    It is especially worthwhile that you have identified the BPM opportunity lurking behind today’s hottest technology trends.

    Sincerely,

    John Morris
    Business Decision Models Inc.
    Toronto, Canada
    http://www.decisionmodels.org

    • October 15, 2012 at 7:29 am #

      Thank you, John. I’ll check out your articles. Your two reasons are spot on…there has been a failing by the vendors to make their case and a gap between what is do-able and what is needed.

  2. October 15, 2012 at 8:31 am #

    I think that Chris is spot on. A project may not be synonymous with process but it moves through a process. I believe that you can take a process view of anything that happens in a company. Attempting to ignore process just doesn’t make sense…

  3. October 15, 2012 at 8:34 am #

    Thanks, Scott, for your comment.

  4. October 16, 2012 at 4:09 am #

    Hi Chris,

    Work is indeed all about process (and NOT just process management tools). Many available tools and indeed big applications like ERP tend to be inflexible and are difficult to adapt to changes. The BPMN model seems to be aimed at high volume-low variety (“mass production” ) applications. There is a huge opportunity for process management in more knowledge intensive and higher variety, lower volume applications such as detailed (engineering) design, legal document processing (even selling properties has many unforeseen and personalised aspects) and manufacturing process research (“job shop /batch production” models) .
    Process workflows can be configured using process knowledge for these applications and these applications do provide very significant productivity improvements and other benefits such as (customer service) deadline management, performance measurement and resource management.
    I also agree that projects use processes – planning, monitoring, controlling, budgeting, managing risk, etc even if the project itself only happens once.
    BWs
    James

  5. October 16, 2012 at 5:05 am #

    Agree,but the only problem I see often within organizations is that they manage the wrong selection of work as a process. Work that delivers unusefull results and so are useless ‘processes’

    I always state that the goal is not having processes (every organization does), but using those processes; using to deliver what you promise.

    So the most important question to me is; the delivery of what results (product/service/problem to be solved) will really benefit from managing as a process.

    And then you will see that all the terms mentioned above (social, I-things, bpms) are just enablers to make a process perform.

    So yes, everything might be steered as a process, but it’s not useful to manage everything as process. Process must not become a goal. It has a goal.

  6. miechkovalsky
    January 27, 2013 at 10:59 pm #

    Well, neither absolutely nor everything…Who said every process is a business process? It is not. A process and a business process are not synonymic words. And near all of you seem to think they are.

    • January 27, 2013 at 11:07 pm #

      Thank you for your comment. Could you give examples of processes that aren’t business processes?

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  1. Sometimes you have to go up really high to understand how small you are | Successful Workplace - October 16, 2012

    […] seen numerous discussions and posts focused on understanding exactly “what” process is, and if everything is business process. I personally feel everything is process and think there is a lot that Felix and his team can teach […]

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