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Anne Stuart’s BPM in Action

Michael Dortch

Success with BPM: A "CPR" Approach

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Anyone who has heard me speak at an industry event, live or online, has probably heard me tell this story – but I think it's so important to success with business processes, I'm going to keep telling it.

At an event hosted by my august employer Robert Frances Group (RFG) a while ago, a client from a large financial services company spoke out during a roundtable discussion. Basically, the client complemented us and industry analysts generally, for understanding how vital IT is to most businesses, and how good processes are essential to success with IT. However, the client then chided me, my colleagues, and our industry, for missing something both blindingly obvious and incredibly significant.

At most companies, year in and year out, this client asserted, "culture eats process for lunch every day."

Well. I could just stop here and say, "Thanks for coming out, everybody, drive carefully on your way home, and goodnight!" You should be so lucky.

BPM and similarly strategically important, IT-empowered business initiatives share the trait described by the client quoted above. Every such initiative is by definition collaborative. And in almost every collaboration I've ever seen or been part of, at least some stakeholders come away disappointed. And that's OK. Because as Mr. Spock and Captain Kirk conclude in "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan," the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few – or the one. (Never let it be said that I have any shame or modesty when seeking out newly strained analogies or boldly going where no metaphor has gone before!)

But the above aphorism only holds true once every affected constituent is convinced that their concerns are taken seriously. And that is in fact a cultural, political issue. Precisely the type of issue that challenges technically-focused folk tremendously. I didn't say this would be easy.

What I've come up with is something I'm calling a "CPR" approach. Make all the gratuitous connections to life support and resuscitation you feel appropriate here.

"C" stands for "culture," meaning those cultural, personal, and political issues that, when unaddressed, invariably sabotage even the most well-meaning, benefit-laden initiative.

"P" stands for "process." To be effective, processes must be, among other things, broadly adopted and supported. They must therefore be reflective and supportive of how people do work in real life. Which means they must acknowledge and address relevant cultural, political, sometimes personal issues – in ways that are dispassionate, non-personal, and focused on the business.

"R" stands for "results." Those promoting particular initiatives and/or processes must demonstrate their real-life business value, via one or more pilot deployments that produce credible, unambiguous results. These will not always be positive, but if they are credible and unambiguous, they will contribute to the credibility of the overall initiative – and its proponents.

IT and business decision-makers at every enterprise – even when they're different parts of the same individuals – must come together around this approach, or something with similar focus, if they hope to achieve truly effective management and optimization of business activities, knowledge, and processes. That's not just my opinion, nor is it just the opinion of other observers. In my experience, I have never seen a strategic initiative achieve sustained success without taking an approach very much like this one.

What have you seen? How has or might this approach work for you and your enterprise? Let me know, and do expect to read more about this here. Can't say you weren't warned...

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Business process management and optimization -- philosophies, policies, practices, and punditry.

Anne Stuart

I am the editor of ebizQ.

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