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Anne Stuart’s BPM in Action

Michael Dortch

BPM (Hunh!): What (and Who) is it Good For? Absolutely (Almost) Everything (Eventually)!

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I have of late been following numerous parallel event and development tracks regarding BPM and related areas of interest. One of the things that becomes increasingly clear to me is that there are a lot of companies and decision-makers out there who are seriously on the fence, behind the curve (or the 8-ball), and/or all of the above regarding BPM.

I understand. BPM is challenging and complex. One of the primary reasons for this is that it is neither fish nor fowl – or, perhaps, it's fish that thinks it's fowl, or vice-versa. (I'm already confusing myself here, but will press on valiantly nonetheless.)

BPM is a set of human-centric business problems that often masquerade as or are confused for decisions and issues focused on IT solutions and systems. And vice-versa. Moreover, effective IT decisions must be made within a context defined by effective business processes.

So, to get BPM right, it is often necessary to go back to basic first principles to make the best possible decisions. One of those basic first principles comes in the form of a single compound question – what is BPM, and how is it supposed to help our business run better?

Well, I'm glad I asked me that, and hope you are or soon will be glad, too. After much cogitating about first principles for business and IT operations, here's what I've come up with so far.

At its core, BPM is really intended to answer some basic questions, in the order listed, cyclically and on demand as needed.

1. What part or parts of the IT and/or business infrastructure are not working, and can they be fixed non-disruptively? If not, what should be done instead? If so, in what order should they be fixed, and what resources are needed to fix what's broken?

2. Once all critical infrastructure disruptions are addressed, are all elements of the infrastructure providing optimal support to all business-critical applications, goals, requirements, and services? If so, how do we know this, and how can we demonstrate and measure it? If not, how do we know that, and how can we determine how best to fix the situation?

3. Throughout the life cycle of business and IT infrastructure elements and the resources they consume and support, business and IT practices and infrastructures must minimize risk, maximize security, and ensure business-mandated and regulatory compliance. To achieve these goals, do we always know who is using what IT and intellectual property (IP) resources, when, where, why, and how?

4. As basic business goals and requirements are being met, how best can the business and IT infrastructures be improved to enable and support future goals and requirements? And how can this cycle be repeated and refined in ways that lead to continuous positive transformation of business and IT processes and practices – starting again from the beginning of this list?

I'm going to be devoting more time and space here to delving into these and other related basic issues that must be addressed effectively if BPM is to have any real business value. I'm hoping these excursions will provide, over time, an increasingly rich and helpful context within which more specific BPM decisions, both operational and technological, can be made more effectively. We'll see. Stay tuned…

(PS: Yes, the headline of this post is a clumsy, annotated paraphrasing of the late, great Edwin Starr's classic, "War." And yes, we all really, really need to get out and hear newer music more often…)

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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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