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Key Questions To Transform Your BPM: Ian Gotts Explains (Part II of II)

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Editor's Note: Don't miss Clay Richardson's keynote "Applying Social BPM for High Business Impact" at ebizQ.net's BPM in Action virtual conference on June 23, 2010. Click here for details and registration information.

Listen to the second part of my podcast with Ian Gotts (read part 1 here), Founder and CEO of Nimbus. Ian is a contributor to the ebizQ Forum and he also has a book coming out, People-Centric Process Management, which is discussed in the podcast.

Listen to or download the 9:31 minute podcast below:

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PS: Now clearly, BPM should focus both on technology and on people executing the processes. What exactly is the right mix though?

IG: If I knew that answer then probably I wouldn't be writing books I'd actually be retired and living on an island somewhere. I think that balance is different for every single project. But I think it's not about balance, I think it's about priority. I think you have to first of all come from the perspective where it says, what is it we want our people to achieve? So first of all, a strategic level, what is it the company's trying to achieve? What are the metrics? What are the key end-to-end processes? Let's break those down hierarchically until it gets to the level where that's where the work gets done.

And it's those processes, which will start to define what we want people to do. Once we got those defined and we got those metrics associated with it, we can then understand which of those activities can be automated and therefore need to some technology applied to them. Another area is where it's a manual activity and maybe we need some technology support. So I think its people first and then that leads into technology. I think the biggest issue I've seen in organization after organization is they go, it's a BPM, a business process management project, therefore we need a BPM application and they launch straight into technology.

So if people are key, then exactly who are the right people then to be involved to ensure the actually BPM success?

Well, I talked about the idea that actually was starting from a strategic perspective and everybody talks about senior level sponsorship. But by that I don't mean a senior person turns up with a glass of wine in their hand at the kickoff meeting to say, I'm sure you'll do very well and you got my full support. What I actually mean from a senior level is that they are engaged in those workshops to define what the end-to-end process at the level they operate at. And the reason that's important is, one, that gives a clear scope for the project because that's the end-to-end process. But two, they have been through the workshop process and they understand the value of it. And once they've done it, they generally will understand the value.

We've run workshops where clients have come out and said, that has been the best day we've spent on our exec team. We've understood more about the business. Once you've done that, when they then start say we need to make the next tier of management and working down to the organization available for those workshops. When there's push back at those lower levels, the senior people go, no, this is valuable you need to do this. So the starting point for all this is we need to be engaging business people in their processes.

Now certainly, the business analysts who may work for the business or may work for the IT folk function, it's important that they're involved because they're the facilitators. But let's not get caught in the trap of saying the business analysts understand the business, they don't. They can interpret the business and make sure it get mapped in the way, which is consistent, and works, and can be documented. But let's not get fooled into thinking that they understand the business because they don't.

But there's another reason why they shouldn't be working on their own. The activity of those business people in the workshops defining how the business works that will drive out quick wins. In that workshop, they will recognize there are some improvements the business team can make without any technology support. And quite often, those quick wins can fund the rest of the project.

Do you think BPM projects should be small or large in scope?

Well, Nimbus is a software vendor evolved in business process management so of course I'd say I'd like every project to be enormous but we need to be pragmatic and realistic. If we're going to take a people-centric approach to process management, that means that in many ways it's different from the way projects have been done in the past, led by IT, driven around BPM technology. Therefore, we need to pick projects, which are potentially lower risk so we can prove business case. Now you might think that the best place to look is probably I quote-to-cash or some sort of operational activity where you can see benefits. That may be true but we've found quite often it's the support processes, which are equally important but lower risk and therefore the best place to start.

And let me give you an example somewhat like on boarding new staff. The process of actually getting a new member of staff from through the interview cycle all the way through to into the company with a laptop, with a phone, with a business card, with logon details. In most organizations, that is a pretty difficult process. In Nimbus, it's something we pride ourselves on in doing very well. And in fact, quite often we've interviewed and offered jobs to some of our people before they've even had response from some of our competitors. That's a huge competitive advantage and it's such a simple process to fix.

And the end goal is that someone should arrive on day one with everything they can do to be successful in the organization. That means they're working for us really well. But secondly, their morale in terms of having joined a company that seems to have their act together is enormous so some of the support processes are often the best place to start. Ultimately, you get success there. It starts to roll out through the rest of the organization and ultimately the approach will pervade the whole organization and therefore those projects are huge. I think if you thought by boiling the ocean at the very beginning then you probably reached too many blockers.

Now, in the book you say that successful projects should offer compelling case for change. Can you elaborate on that a little bit?

We all know that in organizations driving any level of change is hard. Our staff are maxed out getting the job done, supporting clients being successful so to ask them on top of that to start to think about what they should be changing is difficult. Therefore, we need to be thinking about what is going to require enough energy and enough business reason to drive that change. And we see them as five areas. It could be a broken process or launching a whole new operation as a reason for starting to understand your business processes. It could be implementing a software application such as SAP, or Oracle, or Salesforce.com. It could be compliance, a massive driver in the current marketplace forcing us to document what we do.

It could be outsourcing. It's very difficult to outsource something if you don't understand what it is, you can even define what the key metrics are. The SLAs are an issue unless you really understand what you're outsourcing or it can MNA. And as the current economy starts to pick up again, an MNA becomes more prevalent than certainly being able to get those two organizations to work together quickly is critical and that requires an understanding of process. So I think as those five areas we ought to be looking for when we start thinking about driving a business management project.

Now, what do you see for the future of BPM?

That's a loaded question, my prediction for the future. I can see that the business process management is starting to get some real momentum in organizations. Why? It only is driving by a downturn in the economy and people are looking at how do you improve the way that the business operates, how do I drive out waste. And I think there was view that this was not just a blip, it was long-term downturn and therefore they need to do something, which was strategic and was sustainable. So I think that started the momentum.

There is the risk though that as the economy picks up again people start focusing on the top line rather than the bottom line, they're looking at growth and therefore they'll forget about business process management. And historically, we've seen that over the ups and downs of the economy. The one thing I think in this case though there is so much regulatory pressure now and there have been such visible case studies of success of doing this stuff properly. So I think actually on this occasion, business process management, the principles of getting a better way of everyone understanding what the operation is and automating those errors, which are important will continue that's the first point.

The second point is we now have slew of new devices sitting in front of me. And as I recall this podcast, I'm sitting looking at an iPad, a laptop, or iPhone. Now, they're the three things I've used to access content. Why shouldn't I be able to access my - an understanding about how I do on boarding staff. Get to that form, get to that policy, get to that application on any of those devices in an equally consistent way. So I think we'll see that no longer is business process management purely an automation product sitting on a particular platform, but it actually is multi-device. And it offers huge challenges for both the IT organizations who are procuring this but also for the vendors who are delivering against it. But certainly from a Nimbus perspective we're up for that challenge.

Excellent information, Ian. This is ebizQ's Peter Schooff speaking with Ian Gotts of Nimbus. Everyone listening make sure you checkout People-Centric Process Management, Ian's book.

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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