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Meeting The Top Challenges of BPM: Talking With Clay Richardson of Forrester

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Listen to my podcast with Clay Richardson, Senior Analyst at Forrester, where we discuss the top challenges of BPM: who should run the process initiative, how to connect BPM with EA, and finally, what is social BPM and how does it fit in.

Listen to or download the 13:26 minute podcast below:

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PS: Which role in the enterprise should lead the business process initiative?

CR: That's a very interesting question. Last year, Forrester did what we call a role deep dive where we spoke to top process executives at one billion dollar plus companies to understand what some of their challenges were around BPM. And one of the top challenges we heard back was identifying the best role or best person and skill set in the organization to lead the BPM initiative.

And so what we found in talking to executives in this role deep dive and also in talking to other clients and hearing feedback for process professionals is that the ideal role is someone that has a passion for process or really understands process and is really driven to focus on key performance indicators. And I like to identify people that have a passion for process as really the ideal to head up these process initiatives. And a lot of times, these are people that might have a background in industrial engineering. These industrial engineers make really good leaders for process initiatives.

But then also, individuals that may have come from the business side that understand the processes within the business but have a little bit of technical acumen are also ideal. One thing we found that didn't seem to work for BPM initiatives is having business analysts that really have just traditional requirement gathering and scoping and project management capabilities really weren't ideal for leading BPM initiatives. And the primary reason there is a lot of times with that particular background or with more of a business analyst background, the emphasis really is or become a focus on gathering requirements.

And then with BPM, it really isn't just about gathering requirements. It's really about continual process improvement and really staying focused on the opportunities to improve processes as opposed to just building a solution. So you really want to make sure you have someone that truly understands process, either has maybe certification in process or at least has some back and training in process as a discipline is really critical.

How should companies connect their enterprise architecture in BPM initiatives?

This is one of the hottest questions I'm getting as of late. And we're seeing a lot of companies, organizations grapple with this in both federal government and government in general, and also on the commercial side. And the real challenge is in some ways the BPM team can be diametrically opposed to the objectives that the EA Organization has and so EA is really all about trying to understand the goals and objectives within the organization. And in some cases, BPM professionals look at EA as building this pretty picture that doesn't get executed.

And so a lot of times, BPM professionals shy away from EA because they see it as a useless exercise in a lot of cases. But the way to bring is together what we're seeing, in an area that I'm really very interested in is EA is beginning to focus on this idea of capability maps and focusing on identifying the capabilities within the organization and where those capabilities need to be improved or where they are already doing really well.

This capability map capability, I guess I should say it like that. But this capability map can really be used to drill into where our processes' weak, and where our processes' strong, and which processes need to be addressed for cross-functional activities. And so what we're really seeing is an evolution around EA and BPM coming together around process capabilities within the organization. So to give you an example, a company that I worked with recently, we're starting on our process architecture exercise and make with their traditional EA Organization.

The EA really said, look, what we're trying to do and what we need your help with is documenting all of the processes, the data artifacts, the applications, everything but we want to tie it through process and the process (indiscernible). For this activity, this initiative really was about to pull our hair out because she was saying, look, I'm not just here to document process models for the sake of documenting process models. She really was focused on what are we trying to improve within the organization, where's the value drivers within the organization.

And so she started focusing the EA team or focusing with the EA team around capabilities within the organization and defining the applications processes and technology, if you will, data associated with those capabilities. But then identify which capabilities need to be improved and where process can support that improvement. And so it really turned the EA and process improvement connection into less contentious and really more focused on improving capabilities in organization, which I think is essential. I think there's a lot of work that needs to be done connecting these two but that's definitely where Forrester Research is heading, is really connecting the dots better between EA and process improvement in a meaningful way for the teams.

To drill down a little bit on the improvement part, exactly which process improvement methodology do you think is best for a company's initiative?

What we're finding is it really depends. I know that's not an exact answer. But there's so many process improvement methodologies out there a lot of customers are just confused. They're looking at it saying should I use Six Sigma, should I use TQM, should I use Lean. I mean at my last count, there's about 15 to 20 different types or brands of process improvement methodologies out there.

And what we say to customers is first you need to identify what you're trying to accomplish with process improvement. And so one customer we worked with manufacturing customer, interestingly, they actually used say the top four process methodologies that are out there. So they use Six Sigma, TQM, Lean, and they also use Lean Six Sigma. And so what they were looking for is a methodology to define or decide which framework would best fit different projects that were coming down the pike.

And the way we laid it out to them was if the process initiative is focused on transformation across the organization, then you probably want to look at Lean because Lean and not just Lean manufacturing but Lean the discipline and Lean thinking really focusses on connecting the process improvement activities to strategic objectives. So you're really trying to drive top-level objectives that are from the executive management and achieving those. And that's really the value driver for Lean. It is focused on delivery value throughout the organization.

But then, we also looked at Six Sigma from the standpoint of when should you use Six Sigma. Six Sigma is really a defect management methodology or framework. And so the idea there is if you have a process improvement project or initiative that's focused on control and variability and you really want to get a standard way of doing things as much as possible then Six Sigma is ideal. And so it's less about connecting back to top-level strategy even though Six Sigma should in some way be tied back to some of the key drivers within the organization. It really focuses on managing and getting rid of variability.

And so the key there when we look at this, in some cases variability could be a good thing, right. So if you take the case of the example that I remember reading that was really good in the Harvard Business Review was take the case of tuning for different instruments, like piano tuning. There's an art to piano tuning. In the case of piano tuning, you probably want to make sure there's variability. You don't want every experience to come out exactly the same for each customer.

And so, in that case, we can extrapolate that to highly personalized interactions. You might not want to use Six Sigma. You might want to have a similar outcome but ultimately, you really wanting to focus on delivering value to the customer if you really are focused on highly personalized activities. So it's really taken time to look at what you're trying to accomplish with your process improvement initiative that's going to drive which methodology you look at.

So exactly how should companies be measuring their progress or success with their process initiative?

That's a very good question. And this is where -- I'd be honest, I'm biased a little bit in terms of methodologies. And this is where I really like Lean because the real score card is are you delivering value, are you impacting outcomes or moving closer to the ultimate outcome that you are trying to achieve. And so, the way that you really measure process improvement within the organization, is identifying the top objectives within the organization and connecting BPM to those top objectives and being able to achieve the greatest impact around those objectives with BPM. And that's really the key there.

Another metric that we see organizations use is establishing a process culture and really being able to access whether the organization is still functionally focused or it is moving more towards a process based management, or process focused. And so we're seeing companies really try to implement process what we call process based management and that really means the organization is aligned around core processes as opposed to being aligned functionally. And you can measure in terms of how well people understand the processes within the organization and really work within those processes. So that's one way or another way I should say that you can measure the success of your process improvement initiative.

Where does Social BPM fit in with all of this and how do you think Social BPM will impact in organizations.

Yeah, this is one of my favorite topics actually. And we've been looking at this for a while now and some people get caught up in the idea of Social BPM and the technology or it being about technology. And internally, Forrester has evolved its perspective around Social BPM to really focus on the changing dynamic within organizations where the business is almost in an uproar, right. It's almost like pitchforks, the business has pitchforks say, look, we want to do this ourselves.

We want to build our processes, we want to maintain our processes and we don't want IT to be in the middle of getting processes done or getting them improved. And so what Social BPM is about is enabling these rioters, if you will, to really go out and build their own processes. And it's almost like insurgents coming in and saying we want to take control. And now, they have the tools that will allow them to take control so you're seeing things like process wiki's or process mashups where they really allow the business to be more in the driver seat when it comes to BPM.

But even on the other side, what's really fascinating and I'm sure you can tell. I can talk about this all day. It's very interesting topic. But on the other side, we're even seeing the end users have the ability to actually give more direct feedback to the actual business process owners about improvements instead of having IT as the middleman. So it's really a new way of approaching BPM. It's almost like the paradigm around BPM has shifted because the business and business users want more control over their processes.

1 Comment

Excellent transcript, you can catch another interview with Clay and Connie Moore's over at BPM Redux


ebizQ’s expert blog team covers a broad range of BPM, business integration, business analytics/monitoring, collaboration, content and related issues.

Peter Schooff

Peter Schooff is Contributing Editor at ebizQ, and manager of the ebizQ Forum. Contact him at pschooff@techtarget.com

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