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Is BPM without business process execution really business process management?

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Harold van der Weel brings up an interesting point in this LinkedIn discussion (which requires you to join): Is BPM without business process execution really business process management?

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  • Is a horse really a horse without a cart ?
    (hint: yes)

    Business Process Management as a method and concept was around long before it started getting technical with mining, execution, ACM...so yes, it's still BPM.

    Really the question should be 'Is Business Process Execution on it's own considered BPM ?'
    (hint: No)

  • The question is what one defines as BPM. The old debate reopened again. For me just analysing AS-IS and then documenting TO-BE are a waste of time and money. For many this is then not BPM. But who cares? Only those who want to sell into a BPM domain ...

    Especially if we consider Social (technology) empowerment as an essential part future we have to step from socializing into actual process execution otherwise there will be no social benefit and NO transparency. Therefore just documenting processes without actually make them executable, transparent and adaptive is not future oriented.
    Wayne Gretzky said: 'I SKATE to where the puck will be and not where it was.' BPM methodology and documentation is no more than TALKING about where the puck was and where it should be going. I am sure Wayne Gretzky would just leave the playing field.

  • I don't think so.
    The "M" in BPM may stand for several meanings: Management, Modeling, Maintenance, Monitoring, ... Some of them may still apply if you are unaware of execution (e.g., modeling, together with other nice acronyms like BPR and so on), while others definitely comprise execution (and I put management in this set).
    Generally speaking, I don't really see the point of having business processes at all, if you don't execute them.
    [Note: for execution I'm not meaning automatic deployment or similar, but plain execution as such. All the automation thing is definitely worth and valuable (and we push it a lot with our approach in WebRatio), but that's another step forward.]

  • I have to agree with Theo on this one. In fact, the question should be turned around. BPM for most of the world has very little to do with execution and also has little to do with software suites that focus on execution. First and foremost BPM is a concept and a methodology. The overhead related to modeling and then executing a process tends to be quite high. So, in many cases, it makes more sense to leave the execution part our of the equation.

  • Since everyone and their mother is selling or doing BPM, the context of BPM has become confusing and obfuscated. As a BPM purist, I believe that the core of BPM is around automation, and therefore process execution. Without execution, we are only analyzing (BPA is for that). BPM provides of the tools and methodology to move from analysis to execution to optimization.

  • This question reminds me of the Winklevoss Twins. It's a debate over the value of an idea versus execution.

    Let's not confuse Business Process Analysis (the idea) with Business Process Management (the execution).

    If you're drawing process maps, researching As-Is and To-Be and writing scenarios, that's Analysis. Too many process analysts think they are managing the process when they really have no power to change the day to day process. Just like observing what some employees do for six months doesn't mean you are now managing them.

    How do you know if you're actually affecting the day to day process? Well that's Management and Execution.

    Management is an active verb. Management implies you have the authority to be able to change the day-to-day process. You might do management with your job title, excel spreadsheets, a megaphone, an Access database, or BPM software.

    You don't need software to be able to execute. But Management=Execution. Otherwise all you have is an idea.

  • There are processes that do no execute based on business rules or logic, i.e. yes or no decisions. Albeit these processes do not execute, there is the need for management based on the very nature of processes; systematic series of actions directed to some end with continuous action, operation, or series of changes taking place, key words are continuous action. Because they do not execute does not remove them from the value stream. To answer the question – yes, BPM without business process execution is really business process management (according to my colleagues here for all the term is worth). As a process analyst my question would be is non-execution really a business rule or a process black hole – what’s the real reason for non-execution?

  • Theo's right. The term "BPM" has been hijacked by software vendors as I discussed in my blog "Beware, the acronym marketplace has been hijacked by EAS" http://bit.ly/fzzDas

    But my conclusion in the blog is that time will fix the problem. Eventually the BIG enterprise app players will acquire all the various BPM parts (BPA, BPMS, BAM, CPM) and roll them into their suites, as they already starting to, and the acronym debate will move onto another area, fulled by the analysts.

  • Wow a pretty even split between yes and no on this question.

    Put me down for the "no" camp. An initiative to understand the current business process and to model what it should be is the kind of effort that can cost a lot of time and money (much of it to consultants) with the end result being a report that is collecting dust 6 months later. Employees may make a half-hearted effort to follow some initiative, but quickly revert back to their old ways.

    If you want to change the way things are done, you have to actually change something. To really make a difference, make your employees more productive by giving them tools that allow them to get more done more quickly.

  • user-pic

    I cannot agree more with Sid. BPM without execution is not Management. Analyzing, modeling and documenting processes without actually executing is just Analysis. Plain execution is not BPM either. If you execute but don’t gather execution data and intelligence it’s just Execution. Management means to actually have consistent control over your processes and be able to constantly improve them based on real scenario execution data.

  • Let me add one more for the road:

    One can even do BPM without analysing processes.

    All you need is a business architecture (providing top-down objectives and bottom-up empowerment) and the technology, so that business people can start doing processes (structured and unstructured ones, with and without compliance rules) thereby auto-documenting the AS-IS while all being able to transparently innovating value streams in the large and the small. The key is however to start to do (define) processes goal-oriented and not flow-oriented. Flows don't guarantee outcomes. People do! Process quality and efficiency is thus not achieved with enforcement of flows either. Because of the transparency people cannot revert to their old ways unnoiced. A customers should be included to document their value perception, one doesn't have to wait for the revenue to drop to see that processes aren't fulfilling outcomes.

    And while we REALLY DO BPM this way, all the immense BPM governance bureuacracy as necessary in the non-execution methodology can be avoided. Bureaucracies don't innovate, they create rigidity.

  • BPM - the discipline - combines modeling, analysis, design, AND execution. Without execution it really is just business process analysis or business process modeling. However, teams should not get caught up in execution as the only outcome, since sometimes analysis will reveal that process execution is not the issue. The issue - or process improvement - might be more related to training or lack of visibility. Drive BPM Initiatives To Higher Value provides the right level of context to understand where execution delivers the greatest benefits.

    Clay Richardson is a senior analyst at Forrester Research, where he serves Business Process Professionals. He will be speaking at Forrester's Business Process Forum on Sept. 22-23 in Boston, MA.

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