BPM: Three simple letters, so much baggage

Heavy baggage

It would be easy to think, looking at the technology landscape or at the procurement departments of most technology buyers, that the world is comprised of problems and solutions that exist in relative separation from one another. Analysts like Gartner, Forrester, IDC and others contribute to this by putting software into narrow categories that underrepresent the actual variety in the marketplace. It isn’t without its rationale, however.

This separation is always been the easiest way to compare ideas and to put value around things that are bought and sold. But this way of going about things has several problems, the biggest one being the barrier it creates for seeing the big picture and connecting the dots.

It’s all connected

IT departments – driven by technical needs – attempt to buy the best thingamajig that they can buy. The business looking to solve a specific pain is tempted to apply a simple solution that may complicate IT’s technology decisions. The two fight each other for decision-making control, ego, and, ultimately, the direction of the organization. For years, I’ve made a career of stepping outside this paradigm and helping business and IT to work through their challenges together and help them to connect the dots.

The reality of the business and technology world is that nothing exists in a silo and everything a company does is interrelated, and not just inside their walls but more often involving their suppliers’ supplier and their customers’ customer. The greatest example of this has been and continues to be business process management (BPM).

BPM is how work gets done, simply put. It is such a broad topic that even its use invites criticism.

The heavy load

BPM is in a tough place:

  • BPM carries a large bag on its back full of vocabulary, some of it Japanese and very meaningful and some of it plain English and very confusing. The bag is filled with the zealotry of arguments like top-down versus bottom-up.
  • Tied to its ankle BPM has a suitcase of vendor software that’s all part of just one three-letter category but in reality requires a steamer trunk to contain all of the use cases in functionality.
  • In its arms BPM carries a heavy load of projects that were under-funded, never had good executive support and couldn’t achieve workplace buy in.

This is what makes BPM the best place to begin connecting the dots. Look at it this way, if we can make sense of process and its management and if we can solve the question of how work gets done and how it can be improved, we’ve put our focus squarely on this realistic image of BPM lurching along under its heavy load, dragging its baggage. Or if that image doesn’t match your experience, we can instead talk about changing BPM’s image as the disappointing child that never quite lives up to its potential.

Bringing it together

The first place we can start to connect the dots is the point of human versus automated work. BPM is most certainly both. The pursuit of process excellence involves making work easier by automating some things and aligning others but until we take the human completely out of the equation…and we won’t be there soon…anything involving BPM needs to connect humans and machines in a continuum that reflects reality. While some software currently does this, it tends to favor one side or the other and leaves people patching together solutions to fill in the gap.

A vendor who specializes in one and not the other leaves it to the buyer to solve the problem in some custom fashion. But we’re moving away from a custom development world for business challenges, so selling software that requires heavy technology work is taking a step back in time. Complexity should be hidden from view, especially for any product in a category that starts with the word ‘business’.

This is the first of many posts about connecting the dots. I look forward to hearing your comments and sharing more of my experiences in the future.

This article first appeared on the Process Excellence Network.


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Categories: BPM, Continuous Improvement

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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