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Has standardization become synonymous with BPM?

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As Elise Olding from Gartner writes here, "Standardization has become synonymous with BPM. Whether right or wrong, I hear many execs refer to 'standardizing business processes' as their view of what BPM achieves." Is this a good or bad thing for BPM?

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  • http://bpmredux.wordpress.com/2013/04/15/what-goes-around-comes-around-part-2-is-standardization-still-a-valid-strategy/

    If we are moving rapidly towards social and collaborative organizations, with tools that allow free flowing interaction, networking and communication to get work done, what place has standardization got in this future? And where does the likes of Six Sigma fit in now?

    I’d say none and they’ll struggle. I’m sure the analysts and purists will disagree, but when you standardize and make something conform to a norm you also lose the thing that made it unique and possible more innovative. There’s a tendency to rush into building standard processes without actually understanding everything as a whole, process improvement has become another silo in itself.

  • I certainly hope not! Every business is different something IT has ignored for past 30+ years and so out come the spreadsheets access databases even post-it notes!

    BPM as a discipline with the right supporting software has no boundaries to think how to do things better. And therein lies the problem - IT has failed to be able to deliver on this so vendors sell a "standard" process “Suite” with limited capability to configure. So business think “let’s standardise” backed up by the hard sell from the vendor; more top down management and without in built flexibility and no doubt with top down targets the “BPM” project will fail to deliver sustainable benefits?

    What is required is an attitude let’s help get our people to help us be better and have the tool to digitise v quickly in their language and of course change as business requirement/competitive pressures require? New Adaptive Software brings that hope and proven with early adopters and it is a never ending exercise as people become empowered and fear of change is removed even “wanted”.

    I reckon Gartner will eventually get it; I give them another couple years…given they have ignored for the past 10!

  • I'll go David one step further by pushing beyond "I certainly hope not!" to go all the way to "I don't even know what that means!"

    By "standardization," are we talking about technical? operational? organizational? international? No doubt the executives mentioned in the original post didn't take time to appreciate these nuances, which may seem like just so much wordplay but are actually critical to BPM success.

    However you define it, keep in mind the absolute correctness of David's comment that every business is different. You are probably wise to adhere to accepted best practices to the greatest degree possible within your context, but I am not sure this translates into true standardization.

  • I agree with Theo. Vehemently. With due respect (to other references here), BPM done right is definitely about unlocking competitive advantage. When top market players have access to similar technologies (COTS??), products, service providers, Systems Integrators, investments and budgets.…. where is the competitive advantage from IT investments?

    You need a certain plus factor . You need that to one-up your competitor. You need that and that, can really come only from a differentiator called process.

    And, really, that calls for Process Management.

    Enable, Empower, Improve, Unlock. Make that Your mantra.

  • People who say that, have no clue what Managing your organization by process is about (Gartner, wasn't it?)

    It might be true for some processes that have to deliver the same product for 20 years with no variance. But that is just one type of process in our amazing world of processes.

    Companies have to be aware that a process is just 'the thing' that deliver products/services or solve problems.

    And the good news? Every company already has them! Standardization is just one form of implementing the steering of that process. And BPM is about understanding what a process needs to perform. And managing the process is one part in that. But that management style can be from workflow style (do this step, then that step etc, no flexibility) till more goal driven, where the executor is in the lead.

    In the end it's all process. It's your choice if you want to use those processes and what type of grip they need.

    And why be afraid of exceptions? They are just another way to help your customer.

  • We're a touchy bunch, aren't we :)
    Piling on with Elise for summarizing what she's hearing from execs (rightly or wrongly, as she put it).

    Standardization could be bad (lowest common denominator), or it could be good (bad practices in certain parts of the organization, where "standardization" is a euphemism for "fixing" or "improving"). As we all know, some variance is good, and some variances are bad - it just depends on what kind of variance you're getting in your process (or in the outcomes).

    Also, standardization was in reference to what the company was doing within itself, not a reference to whether it would be standardized with respect to other companies' processes.

    One place I love to see standardization - happy customers as an output of a our processes... :)


  • I recently attended a seminar by Tom Peters, who talked about building success. In the seminar he talked about how he was against standardization and he gave a specific example of two individuals that have the same roles and responsibility but different experience, and he claimed that these two should have different evaluation and measurements and not standard measurement. In other words adapt the evaluations to the people not the other way around.
    I am I firm believer in the concept “you cannot manage what you cannot measure”. What Tom Peters was suggesting was totally conflicting with the concepts of Quality Management, Strategy Execution, BSC and other performance Management tools.
    Standardization makes it easy and simple to measure and compare departments and individuals, and a main pillar of BPM is making it simple!!
    Now the bank I work for we try to standardize as much as possible when it comes to roles and responsibilities within a department. But the most important aspect, when it comes to building a standardization measurements, that these measurements are aligned to the strategy of the department cascading up to the strategy of the organization.

  • Scott gets it. What CIOs mean is that, thanks to BPM, they can feel comfortable that a process will run the prescribed way, every time. That's "standardization" to them, and in this age of explosive regulatory growth, it's vital.

  • hmmm...unfortunately for those organizations that do not understand BPM, standardization has become synonymous.

    I have written many times in many places, adopting a BPM mind set is an indicator of an awareness that change is needed - cultural change and a readiness for it. As practitioners we know BPM is beyond h/w & s/w.

    Elise's blog sends a message - corporate America is still struggling with what BPM really means.

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