If BPM is so Great, Why isn't Stanford Doing it?
Stanford). I had heard through the grapevine that Stanford was embarking on BPM, so I took advantage of the excellent mass transit in the Bay Area (Austin, are you listening?) and went to visit Lee Merrick at Stanford. Lee is in the Office of Research Administration and he’s the driving force behind BPM at Stanford. Lee was gracious enough to let me track him down in his office at Terman Engineering, where we spent a couple hours talking BPM strategy, tactics, and vision. Quoting from Stanford’s SeRA project page on vision and purpose:Turns out, the folks at Stanford are doing BPM. Last week I had the good fortune to visit my Alma Mater (
In short, Lee and his team are attempting to revolutionize the way Stanford manages research in order to make research more efficient and effective. With Lee’s permission, I wanted to share some of the takeaways from our discussion.
SeRA Vision and Purpose
SeRA will be a system of inter-connected modules, pulling data from existing sources or prior modules to eliminate points of duplicate entry wherever possible. The system will be developed by critically looking at current business processes to eliminate non-value-added steps and provide full process transparency for faculty and departments. The system will be designed with significant input from stakeholders and subject matter experts involved in research administration.
- Major administrative systems overseeing research will operate cohesively
- Investigators and staff will be able to effectively manage their sponsored projects from conception through closeout
- Administrative burden will be significantly reduced for investigators, departmental staff, and central offices
- Streamline research administration processes to minimize inefficiencies and eliminate duplication
- Improve turnaround time, reduce audit risk, collect better data
- The problems driving corporations to BPM are not unique to corporate entities – academic institutions are also being pressured to reduce expense, waste, and inefficient use of talented PhD’s. Stanford’s efforts are focused on freeing up time for research while providing higher quality transparency to both the university and the federal government.
- The processes Stanford seeks to address don’t fall into the sweet spot of any commercially available shrink wrap software packages. BPM allows Stanford to address a space that doesn’t fit these packaged software offerings well.
- The processes Stanford seeks to address require agility. Lee’s team can’t predict how their processes will change, because much of the process change is driven by external factors (e.g. The Federal Government). Stanford needs to be prepared for both the changes they are planning, and the changes they haven’t anticipated yet (Jim Sinur would call this Scenario Planning).
- Focus on producing material, hands-on results in the bake-off. In Stanford’s BPM bake-off, they really focused on how much of their solution could be built by their team in a finite period of time. They evaluated two pure plays and a stack vendor, and actually building a solution in the BPM suite was what really differentiated the products to the SeRa team.
- This isn’t a 3 month project, this is a significant investment with a serious team. Lee and his team on the SeRa (Stanford Engineering Research Administration) project are embarking on a 3 year effort, with a staff of more than 10 people focused on this project. That’s a significant commitment against the backdrop of budget cuts going on at Stanford at the moment (recently Stanford reporting canceling or postponing over $1B in construction projects, for example).