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Although implementing Business Process Management can deliver immediate value, BPM technology alone is not enough. Implementing BPM technology will not make an enterprise “process competent” any more than the act of buying a car means a person knows how to drive. Experience with prior technology acquisitions, such as ERP, shows that businesses that adopted the same technologies—and even used the same implementation consultants—achieved very different business results as a consequence of how they actually learned to exploit the strengths, and avoid the weaknesses, of the technology. Thus, to use BPM effectively companies must develop and acquire process management competencies.

Building a BPM competency requires three components: a sound understanding by senior managers of BPM’s strategic importance to the business; the setting of clear targets by strategists, defining precisely how BPM is going to be used; and the possession of appropriate skills by implementers so they can do their work effectively and efficiently. Because these three competencies reinforce one another, they must be developed together.

When an organization adopts a new tool, a common assumption is that training is a binary proposition, i.e., that people are either trained, or they are not. Experience indicates that this assumption is flawed. Meilir Page-Jones, industry luminary and president of Wayland Systems, developed a seven-stage model of expertise that describes what people actually go through as they learn and develop skills associated with a new paradigm. Developing an environment and a process for moving people through these seven stages should be high on the CEO’s and CIO’s priority lists. The following discussion outlines how Page-Jones’ stages may be applied to a BPM implementation.

Stage 1: Innocent—Never heard of BPM: Some have never heard of BPM. Others have already seen references to business process management in trade publications. They may be vaguely aware of the existence of BPM, but may not see the possible relevance to their situations. Someone may be considered innocent if that person has not learned enough about BPM to be aware of some of the tradeoffs associated with it, some of its costs, some of its benefits, or where and when it might be appropriately applied.

Business processes have become insidiously more and more complex, yet there was no sharp transition. The earth was not hit by a complexity asteroid that suddenly made business processes three orders of magnitude more complex and cast our reptilian process techniques into extinction. Page-Jones calls the way in which process complexity actually increased the “Frog in the Pan.” This is because although a frog will jump out of a pan of hot water, a frog that is placed in a pan of cold water and slowly heated will fail to leap forth and will actually boil to death. The temperature gradient is so gradual that there will never be a point at which the frog declares, “Boy, it’s suddenly gotten hot in here! I think I should hop out.” Many Innocents are experiencing “Frog in the Pan” and are trying to tackle problems of the 21st century with approaches of the past without realizing that the problems they’re facing are the very ones that the third wave of BPM was created to alleviate.


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