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After 20 years of experience with computer-based processes and process management, there is little new to be said about how to introduce new theories and new systems into a company. What is new is that, as a result of the third wave of BPM, technical issues are receding and tools are now available that can facilitate all business process work. Whether companies start at the top and work down, or from the bottom and work up, they can use BPM tools to rapidly grow their process capability.

Like data management tools that spurred the growth in data-aware applications, process management systems are now available to nurture the growth in process-aware information systems. Companies will adopt BPM much as they adopted relational data management—organically. Companies will identify a business domain where managing the process has become problematic and will apply the new tools naturally and readily. The shift from hierarchical, to relational, data management, was triggered by a realization of the significance of data embedded in the previous generation of applications. As the volume of data grew, and the relationships across different data sets became apparent, companies rushed to deploy a standards-based DBMS that could share data across several applications—they deployed a holistic data management platform. By taking this step they put in place a consistent, reliable and manageable capability to manage all business data. Companies will do the same with process management systems. With a commitment to processes as a way of enabling business change, and armed with BPM capabilities, companies are free to concentrate on the harder cultural and organizational issues of developing the process-managed enterprise.

A company’s first BPM implementation should kick-start the virtuous cycle by delighting business managers, inspiring them to think of new opportunities and equipping implementers with a set of useful new tools and skills. The ideal inaugural project will be highly visible, address an issue of real importance to the business, hit exactly the right level of risk for the business culture, and provide a convincing demonstration that BPM can achieve what other technologies could not.

The two key parameters in developing such a project are the phase of process management to be undertaken and the scope of the process to be managed. Companies have to decide whether to attack the discovery and design of a process before moving on to manage it, or whether to integrate systems in order to implement, execute and refine a process live in situ, eradicating IT roadblocks. A company can opt to focus on an internal process that is well within its zone of control, or it can deliberately select a cross-business process that will be key to the future of the enterprise. There is no right answer—the choice depends entirely on the business context and the availability of resources.


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