There is a rich irony in the fact that BPM initiatives, which are typically intended to streamline a company's activities, can themselves end up unwieldy, unfocused or over-complicated.



Indeed, BPM initiatives have a natural tendency to expand. "They can start small, but as people see what is happening, they tend to grow in scope and complexity," says independent BPM consultant Sandy Kemsley of Kemsley Design.

TYPES OF COMPLEXITY

She describes two aspects of complexity: one political and cultural; the other technical.

"Keeping it simple culturally and politically is important so that you don't get involved with areas you shouldn't and don't let the scope grow," she says. For example, a team launching a BPM initiative may find similar efforts, such as Six Sigma groups or other process-improvement projects, underway elsewhere in the company. That raises a natural question: Should you combine that new initiative with the other efforts, or even just link to them? Kemsley's answer: Probably not at first. "Eventually, you probably do want to do that, but you might not want to burden a BPM project that's just starting out with those additional things," she says.

On the other hand, you don't want to totally isolate your BPM effort. That's an excellent argument for establishing a BPM center of excellence or competency center—a place to share BPM knowledge, skills and resources throughout the enterprise.

You can also get too complex with technology. Kemsley says the problem often begins when customers see a vendor demo that emphasizes all a BPM solution's bells and whistles. Then, instead of using the product in its basic out-of-the-box form, they get seduced by visions of the many sophisticated ways it could be applied. "They end up turning it into a high-end graphical application development tool and write a huge amount of complex customization," she says. That, in turn, complicates the constant change and fine-tuning that are inherent in BPM, and in the resulting work. "Typically, you'll get some feature in place that seems to make sense, but then when you see how it works, you'll want to change it almost immediately," Kemsley says.

Instead, Kemsley recommends, adopt as much of the out-of-the-box functionality as possible for your first BPM iteration. Then, after people have begun using the solution, you can consider customizing it, integrating it with other systems or developing specialized user interfaces for it.

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