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Anne Stuart’s BPM in Action

Michael Dortch

BPM: Back to Basics: a Bit of Background, and a Bit More Detail

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What the heck am/was I talking about last time out?

Here's what I was and am talking about. I, along with many of my fellow BPM and BI industry observers, are apparently increasingly finding the same kinds of things. One of the most prevalent of these: business processes are difficult if not impossible to manage if there are no formal processes (not to mention useful tools) in place to capture and document said business processes.

And beyond capture, there's documenting, which includes all of the links connecting all of the key processes with their sub-processes and supporting IT processes and tools. Then there's achieving consensus on the priorities and importance of the most strategic processes. And managing and maintaining up-to-date information about all of the above. And this is all just top-line, broad-brush stuff. All of these things get recapitulated repeatedly as decision-makers and their teams drill further down into this morass.

Now, there are several really good tools to help with all of this - but those tools are without business value until and unless they are accompanied, supported, and surrounded by strong, repeatable, well-documented processes. Such processes are even necessary to identify, compare, and select candidate solutions and vendors, and to manage relationships effectively with those vendors that get chosen.

What all of this means is that effectively, every business task and decision ought to start from a process-centric foundation, to be consistent with corporate policies and goals, and to be easy to repeat and scale as necessary. Which brings us back to the "first principles" I mentioned previously.

In the field of content and intellectual property management, one of the most persistent and pervasive problems is information capture. That is to say, it's relatively easy to impose content management rules and tools on newly created, electronic content. The real sticky challenges come with trying to impose those rules and tools on already-existing (often paper) information. It's difficult to do, but if it's not done, content management is inconsistent, creating all kinds of risks and opportunities for error.

The same thing is true with process management. Until and unless it is sufficiently pervasive, ubiquitous, and invisible to users, it will not be applied equally to every resource, task, and user, creating significant opportunities for operational, technological, and other business risks. This is, in essence, the "first-mile" problem that bedevils and challenges many if not most efforts at business analysis, business intelligence (BI), BPM, and what I and others refer to as business knowledge management (BKM).

And it's not just me thinking these things. Check out this quote from an e-mail sent to me by Mark Talaba, VP of marketing and sales at Global Enterprise Managers, Inc., makers of GemworX FlowModeler, in response to my initial rant on this current "back to basics" theme.

"In dozens of conversations with 'BPM-seekers', I have been told that organizations do not feel they are "ready for BPM." Why? Because they are (and have been, for a long while) having a hard time just documenting their human-driven processes. I believe that this stems from the IT/software development orientation of most BPM toolsets. Both the methods and the notation are distracting and intimidating to those on the business side."

I'll have more to say about GemworX FlowModeler soon. In the meantime, though, please keep in mind that until and unless you and your organization go back to first principles, no investment in any BPM tool or solution will deliver maximum business value - if it delivers any. And those first principles, whether the ones I outlined previously or others, must include efforts to capture, define, prioritize, and rationalize the critical business processes already in place. These steps are essential to building the common vocabulary and taxonomy necessary for productive, inclusive conversations among business and IT people about BI, BKM, BPM, continuous improvement, enterprise transformation, and the like.

Speaking of business processes, ebizQ is conducting a survey on event processing, which can also contribute valuable fundamental information to process capture, documentation, and improvement efforts. And, every complete response is eligible to win an iPhone! So if you haven't yet, please take the survey here, while waiting for more rants from me...

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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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