We use cookies and other similar technologies (Cookies) to enhance your experience and to provide you with relevant content and ads. By using our website, you are agreeing to the use of Cookies. You can change your settings at any time. Cookie Policy.

BPM: Theory to Practice

Tim Huenemann

What vs. How, Part 1

Vote 0 Votes

In working on business strategy, business architecture, and BPM, and the intersection of the three (do I feel a Venn diagram coming on?), I often come across this core distinction: what the business does vs. how the business does it. The quick off-the-cuff declaration is: business architecture handles the what, and BPM handles the how. But of course it's not that simple, is it? This blog entry is #1 of a series.

The Why, the Where, and some What
Where to begin? Starting at the top, sometimes a strategic plan is used as a starting point to describe what a business does. Or at least, what you want the business to be doing! As in, explain the vision and why you want it, where you want the business to be, and lay out what the business needs to do to achieve it. Let's look at OMG's business motivation model (BMM). The BMM attempts to put a structured model on this planning; I reference it as example that illustrates the domain of strategic planning. Not that people doing strategic planning actually use the BMM ;-) It differentiates between "ends" (using the terms vision, goals, and objectives) and the "means" (using the terms mission, strategy, and tactics). Note that the BMM considers the means the capabilities required to meet the ends, but does not prescribe how to achieve or implement the means.

Unfortunately, I often encounter difficulty with the distinction between ends and means. A goal needs a strategy to reach it, but in creating that strategy, new goals are created for the next level down (or across ;-)) in the organization. One person's means can be the next person's end. Here is an example:
L1 end: higher market share
L1 means: expand into Europe
This strategy is used to set the plans for L2.
L2 end: have a European market presence
L2 means: launch a sales force in Europe
This strategy is used to set the plans for L3.
L3 end: have a sales force covering all of Europe
L3 means: build a network of partner firms

This perspective on strategies and tactics is to look at what you need to do to make your business reach the objective. There is an element of change or implementation, as there is in strategic planning in general. This makes sense for strategic planning, but it complicates things if you are trying to just analyze and model what a business does.

To me, this flavor of transition is one reason why strategic planning models are not a great way to model what the business does. I see business architecture models (including capability modeling) as a better choice when you are trying to model the what of an organization. If you want to model the why and where, strategic planning tools and models like the BMM are a good fit, but for what, we need a different model.

The next blog entry will focus on the what with a discussion of business architecture and capability modeling.

Leave a comment

This blog offers a true “practitioner’s perspective,” with issues and commentary based on real-world experience across many industries.

Tim Huenemann

Tim Huenemann is the senior principal for business architecture and process management at Trexin Consulting. He has more than 20 years of experience in process management and business-focused IT. In his consulting work, he helps organizations execute business strategy by implementing effective process management and IT solutions. He regularly translates BPM theory into practice, and practice, and more practice. Contact Tim at tim.huenemann[at]trexin.com.

Recently Commented On

Recent Webinars

    Monthly Archives