BPM: Theory to Practice

Tim Huenemann

Don't Blame the (Eco)System

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As part of some work on a transformational, cross-functional project, I've been doing some research on business as an ecosystem. This topic goes back 15-20 years or so, and has stayed relevant (IMHO), as opposed to some concepts that come and go.

A Business Ecosystem
A brief definition of business ecosystem:
An economic community supported by a foundation of interacting organizations and individuals--the organisms of the business world. The economic community produces goods and services of value to customers, who are themselves members of the ecosystem. The member organisms also include suppliers, lead producers, competitors, and other stakeholders.
- James Moore (creator of the concept)

In this particular initiative, our project team needs to design the solution to intrinsically account for changes in supplier and customer capabilities and behavior. In many cases this runs counter to the traditional goal of standardization and optimization of processes, or at least makes it more difficult. Trying to design processes to account for strategic or unpredictable shifts by external entities is problematic.

The Ecosystem and Processes
At a high level, there are two choices: try to predict the ways the internal processes may need to change, and design for much of it up front; or, make sure you are flexible enough to make future changes without too much time and cost. Both of these options require careful, deliberate analysis and decision-making, within your strategic planning, business architecture work, and process design. (Even if you don't call it by those terms.)

It helps to include the external parties in your work. Supplier and customer engagement will help you look at your enterprise in its whole environment - as part of an ecosystem. Process integration with suppliers and customers can extend your enterprise with an ecosystem perspective. Whether that takes the form of industry standards, technology integration, or simply collaboration, it can pull you closer to the needs and influences of the ecosystem. You can even learn about your competitors (or draw competitive insight) from your suppliers and customers.

It's Gonna Happen!
Conclusion: when outside forces disrupt your processes, make them suboptimal, shift your metrics, or even require them to execute very differently, don't be surprised. Your processes may change tactically in reaction to outside changes, or as part of your organization responding back to the ecosystem with strategic initiatives. Do what you can to build for this occurrence with contingency/alternative plans, a strategic business architecture, and an organizational and technology platform that can handle the change you will need. Don't blame the ecosystem; include it and use it as best you can.

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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.

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