Doing BPM well: Anatoly Belychook on best practices and pitfalls

Editor's Note: In this Q & A, ebizQ Contributing Editor Peter Schooff talks with consultant Anatoly Belychook, who offers tips about some BPM mistakes to avoid and BPM trends to watch. Belychook is president of Business Console, a BPM development and consultancy firm in Moscow, Russia, as well as a frequent contributor to the ebizQ Forum.

PS: In a recent BPM/ACM [advanced case management] debate, you said that most of the criticisms of BPM are actually targeting not BPM itself, but BPM done wrong. Can you tell me what constitutes BPM done right?

AB: First of all, there is a kind of a general understanding of how to do BPM right. But the problem is that there are many small factors that can dramatically affect your BPM initiative and actually ruin it.

One example of these I can give comes from the BPM Common Body of Knowledge [(by the Association of Business Process Management Professionals, CreateBooks, 2009)]. It's actually a great work. I especially enjoyed the part devoted to enterprise BPM. But it presents implementation matters in a very waterfall-oriented approach….This is one of the major points that ACM pundits are attacking--and quite rightly, because if you do it in a waterfall-like approach, then there is no room for agility, so it's not BPM, actually.

PS: How can a single aspect of BPM done wrong kill an entire project?

AB: Well, if you approach it with the waterfall instead of agile, instead of short development cycles, you will probably end up with a very rigid system, which isn't a BPM system, but is, in essence, another corporate application. Another factor: If you take the wrong process, if you try to make your project safe and work on the process nobody cares about, then [ultimately] all your initiatives will be ones that nobody cares about, and you will fail.

There was an interesting post from [BPM blogger and consultant] Gary Comerford on exactly this matter quite recently. He said that there is always one key factor for the success of your initiative. I would like to add that there may be one key factor for success, but there are always several key factors for failure. This is the problem. You must know a lot and be careful about many things at once. This is why BPM professional services are in demand.

PS: What are some the most business critical process issues that a company faces today?

AB: We always try to find the processes that affect the company's performance. I can see a big field for BPM initiatives in [enterprise] resource planning [(ERP)]. I'm not sure that it can be stretched all over the globe, but here in Russia, most of the ERP implementations are not about planning. The letter 'p' is misleading there. They cover just accounting and bookkeeping. But the need for resource planning, for enterprise-wide resource planning is here; it doesn't disappear. So I can see a big opportunity here for BPM because all this stuff requires a lot of processes to be properly established and managed.

PS: Can you share your thoughts on BPM suites [BPMSs] or BPM software?

AB: My feeling on current BPMS technology is that we actually have a great tool, but we don't have enough knowledge of how to use it, or how to use it right, or how to use it best. It's like going back to 20 or 25 years ago and having a great DBMS [database management system] and not having knowledge about what the third normal form is.

We need to get more knowledge, more experience about how to use BPMS for real-world processes. If you look at examples that BPMS vendors provide, the most popular examples of processes they present are things like vacation requests and expense reports, which, you'll probably agree, don't affect anything, really. This is a shame, and we need more.

There are initiatives for presenting real-world BPM examples. It's a great thing, but we're at the beginning of this road today.

PS: What do you see for BPM for the rest of this year?

AB: Well, I believe that this BPMS-ACM debate you referred to at the beginning was very productive and, in the end, we will see most BPMSs enabled by ACM capabilities. This is a great thing because there is really a full spectrum of structured, half-structured and unstructured processes and cases. We need to cover all of this spectrum.

Probably, we will see progress in integrating social things, [such as] Twitter-like communications, within BPMSs. And, of course, mobile extensions to BPM are in great demand because many possible process users are now equipped with iPhones and iPads and this gives them a chance [to get involved]. People like to play with [mobile devices], and it gives us a chance to get them involved in critical business processes, which is a valuable target.

This Q & A was excerpted from a more in-depth ebizQ podcast on avoiding common BPM mistakes. It has been edited for length, clarity and editorial style.

About the Author

Peter Schooff is a former contributing editor for ebizQ, where he also managed the ebizQ Forum for several years. Previously, Peter managed the database operations for a major cigar company, served as writer/editor of an early Internet entertainment site and developed a computer accounting system for several retail stores. Peter can be reached at

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