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Which business process defects are the biggest threat to enterprises?

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From Anne Stuart's blog, Gartner analysts recently forecast that BPM will separate the winners from the losers by the year 2014.  They also go on to say that overlooked but easily detectable business process defects will topple 10 Global 200 companies.  So which business process defects should companies be most concerned with?

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  • The biggest threat: Purely cost-driven standardization of processes produces an efficiency illusion in the monitoring, but does not produce customer focused outcomes.

    Orthodox BPM(S) and the related bureaucracy rarely have causal links in place that show the dependency between process activities and outcomes. While such 'Leverage Points' are sometimes being considered in the process planning, the actual implementation is 3-4 hierarchical implementation layers removed.

    The only solution is real-time adaptation of processes by the actors/performers/participants who react to customer perception directly. Even predictive analytics are unable to catch these problems in time because they represent 'good processes' that do not cause data outliers.

  • All the defects that jeopardize your future ability to keep doing business.
    That is, all the processes obstacles that make the customer feel ignored or, worst, damaged in its efforts to run its activity.

  • The lack of understanding or rather, the inability of process owners to improve processes by cutting out unnecessary or broken steps in a process. If processes were well documented, communicated and thought out, the chance of future unforeseen process defects would be reduced. Biggest process defect threat to the enterprise? Process owners.

    • I agree.

      The disaster may come from:
      - A process without the owner.
      - A process with a nominal owner who has more important responsibilities.
      - A proces owner positioned lower at the organization than functional managers.
      - A single person "owning" a dozen of first-class processes.

  • The assumption that you know, understand and can model all processes is the biggest threat to an organisation and BPM defect. The drive for this is perceived efficiency gains, and very often, actually delivers the complete opposite and hurts customer experiences, expectations and ultimately retention.

    Business needs to look at process empowerment methodologies and tools, adaptive capabilities and an intelligent holistic approach if they dont want defects to have major impacts on their business...

    @Anatoly I think these are good points you raise, however, if you have empowered users these points become less critical and are less likely to play havoc on a business. The problem is that BPM doesnt empower end users

    • Maybe I'm cynic but for me empowerment is like communism: too good for this planet. I've seen empowered users but they always were minorities.

      BPM doesn't empower? - come on, it's a cultural thing orthogonal to BPM/ACM debate.

  • What I see customers do most is forget about the bigger picture. They are so focused on developing one application, they overlook the need for using proper methdology, creating standards, investing in trianing/talent development, and building for change. So the biggest defects are those where simple mistakes are made becuase of narrow mindedness/pride (don't know what you should know and not willing to find out), narrow focus (BPM can and should be used for building all sorts of applications), and lack of committment (little to no investment in team and talent). Simple mistakes are easy to avoid with the right mix of methodology, product, and talent. Not investing in all three will probably end in more money being spent on trying to fix things in the future.

  • Regarding overall threats to organizations, we are seeing compliance processes as a continued area of negative exposure for organizations. Based on the recent scale of failures in the financial and energy industries, there is a wave of global and national regulation and reform that will continue to push organizations to maintain new, stronger levels of transparency and control.

    The threat is in hard dollars – not just market share or brand loyalty. Currently, we are engaged with a customer in the life sciences industry that has paid over $600M to the U.S. federal government in fines for failure to adequately track and report compliance for a single manual process. Now, we are working with this customer to implement a BPM solution to prevent this from happening again.

    The re-occurring theme here is gaps in processes; especially where process connect different organizations or business units. Take the failures seen in large, complex processes that manage safety checks when drilling for oil, or bringing a new drug to market—these processes are all under served by BPM.

    Mr. Pucher makes a good point that traditional, autocratic BPM approaches may limit BPM’s effectiveness when applied to processes that combine both highly structured and unstructured activities. What the more dynamic BPM methodologies (ie: don’t model everything to the nth degree) and solutions bring to the table is a level of traceability, visibility, and control of even non-structured activities.

  • In my experience, business processes don't have owners. They have custodians -- people holding short straws who babysit them through times of crisis and change, then quickly return to their regularly scheduled programs. And yet the machine continues to hum.

    A business process's biggest potential defect is not lack of ownership (end users and process participants are the true owners anyway). Rather, complexity and rigidity are the true enemies.

    Processes need to be able to change quickly and often in order to remain valuable. Automating a complex process in a way that makes it difficult to change is worse than not automating it at all. I am sure that a few gorillas will do this habitually, and to their demise, over the next few years.

  • One of the systems architecting heuristics says that expanding the scope helps to solve problems. Applying this heuristic to managing-by-processes means that implementing a portfolio of the business processes of an enterprise, and the practices and tools for governing the design, execution and evolution of this portfolio as a system _requires_ a proper architecture (or bigger picture as Garth said).

    My experience shows that, for example, the adaptability must be architected within that system, and not expected to be automagically provided by software products.


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