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How can BPM be a driver of enterprise innovation?

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BPM has established itself as a key technology for cost savings, but many companies today are also focused on innovation. How can BPM best be a driver of enterprise innovation?

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  • To me, BPM can never be the driver of enterprise innovation because innovation is driven by business imperatives. As perhaps both a business practice and the technology set, however, BPM can help to make innovation a reality, so it definitely does have a seat at the table.

    This distinction may seem nitpicky, but it is critical because anyone adopting BPM and expecting innovation to follow will be sorely disappointed. The recognition that innovation is necessary, and the profiling of what a post-innovation scenario would look like, must come first. Then BPM can be applied.

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    BPM is definitely a transport mechanism for innovation but not a guaranteed outcome. Innovation is a matter of will, the question is how ready are industries to embrace risk? BPM helps to clear the runway for innovation as well as providing a vehicle for it; if a company chooses to fly.

  • BPM is a mindset about people and their processes which takes you to the front line where all information = business is created. Meaningful innovation is about improving business capabilities so the BPM mindset needs to be supported by software that is driven by users’ needs and can quickly react to changing circumstances. And this is where the “old” IT model fails and perhaps why “BPM” has yet to really get full backing from business. This must change but only if “IT” can deliver as described.

    As I have previously mentioned I came across this article by Florida based analyst focusing on HRM Naomi Bloom see http://infullbloom.us/?p=3222 Relevant quotes that should encourage buyers of business software that change is coming that will promote BPM thinking.
    “Writing less code to achieve great business applications was my focus in that 1984 article, and it remains so today. Being able to do this is critical if we’re going to realize the full potential of information technology”
    “….how those models can become applications without any code being written or even generated”.
    “If I’m right, you’ll want to be on the agile, models-driven, definitional development side of the moat thus created, whether you’re an HR leader, working in the HRM software vendor community, or an investor in that community.”
    In a subsequent tweet author said “It really matters how your vendors build their software, not just what they build” and Michael Krigsman a leading analyst tweeted referring to the article “Pointing to the technical foundation of future”.

    This move will help the BPM mindset deliver as the barriers to change are removed and the limitation to business innovation is imagination of people. So knowledge that BPM thinking is supported will result in it becoming a driver to deliver innovation in the enterprise?

  • A little too late to the discussion to be original. I think Steve nailed it; BPM can never drive innovation, however BPM can help to make innovation a reality.

  • As always it depends what you define BPM to mean. If you talk about BPM as a business management methodology it has to include innovation. In the current definition that means that the innovation is a bureaucratic effort embedded somewhere in governance. But as the outcome of BPM has to be an improved process which means it is today supported by IT, BPM fails to deliver post-modern approaches to management that contain social empowerment elements one way or the other.

    BPM is still rooted in the Tayloristic view of production and manufacturing. Social BPM is an oxymoron and so is 'Big Process' that considers some populistic big-data-mining-process-discovery. There is no knowledge in data. You don't learn how to drive a car by tracking them with GPS sensors! Knowledge (and thus the power of innovation) is between two ears only according to Peter Drucker.

    Regardless what anyone calls it, a post-modern approach to business innovation is driven from all sides and not just top-down or social process design. It is the customer and their immediate business contacts who know most about what can be improved or which new product might be of interest. They must be empowered to do what they need to do and improve on the fly. Radical innovation on the other hand will always be the domain of a chosen few spirits and who knows where in the organization you will find them. Rarely are they on top as Steve Jobs was.

    Hence, we find that BPM (as a methodology that creates rigid flowcharts embedded in a BPMS) does not support innovation in any practical way. It does exactly the opposite. As a consequence we chose to call a new kind of BPM rather ACM to reduce confusion. It has not reduced the conflict and the disagreement, but when I listen to what is discussed at BPM conferences today, the days of the orthodox flow-charted BPMS are over. The main reason is the lack of support for all-in innovation!

    • Hi Max
      You make some very good points as the old "command and control" with its destructive “target” driven management is replaced by "empowerment and measurement". I am proud to be a founder member of “the unreasonable learners” sees web site http://www.unreasonable-learners.com/ a Scottish based group but international thinking which amongst other initiatives supports the philosophy of Dr Edwards Deming see this brochure http://www.transformationforum.org/PDFs/managing_transformation_means_transforming_management_sopk2.pdf

      The relevance to BPM is as I have said is it is a mindset about people and their processes. What you are highlighting is the abject failure of IT as it has evolved to support people in this empowered way. What is needed is what George Colony described as Business Technology “BT”. He was spot on saying “If we don’t get from IT to BT we’re going to have more disasters like our present mortgage meltdown. Why? Because IT creates impenetrable systems that human beings can’t manage. BT is about human beings back in control.”

      You also raise the relevant issue of the mix of what I would call formal and informal processes. Moving in this direction takes you to “value networks” crossing departmental boundaries where real innovative thinking can add serious value. You are of course right BPMS which is little better that COTS is a compromise and will never support the dynamic environment where people work and where empowerment can really make a difference. Having said this in today’s regulated environment there does have to be tracking of activity. A good process recognising the critical must follow tasks with the less ridged ones giving people freedom to think and where the end result can be measured then people themselves can recognise how to do things better?


  • I struggled with the question to come up with an answer that makes sense. When I thought about it, BPM is not the driver – corporate culture is the driver, BPM is part of that culture that gives it the structure to support innovation. BPM is about control; internal and external accountability measures, facilitating adroit management decisions, and visibility – if you can’t see it you cannot manage it or fix it, forget innovation. BPM creates an opportunity for organizations to take their efforts a step further to drive competitive advantages; taking advantage of social media, collaboration and mobile technologies that are catalyst of innovation. Visibility of tasks and integration of data with greater ability to monitor and measure the performance of the processing department is innovation within itself.

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