The BPM "Operator" Profile

Lance Gibbs
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I was asked the other day by a consultant from a large provider, “What do I need to know to get into BPM consulting?” So you want to be a BPM Practitioner? “Great, we need all we can get!” Actually, what I did say is that “it is not a career cut out for everyone.” Besides requiring really above par intelligence and a passion for BPM, you also need to possess very strong abilities in leadership, pragmatism, observation, intuition, and adaptability. The challenges you will be engaging with businesses on are usually fairly substantial and all compounded by a fog of competing projects, limited resources, competitive pressures, politics, lack of shared vision, lack of education, paranoia, and a host of other factors. Directional clarity which would be considered “high fidelity” is usually not going to be found there. Ambiguity often rules the corporate landscape, and especially so in the business process arena. Today’s companies have been transformed by a deluge of overwhelming change and it is up to you and your team to help the organization remediate the highest value areas you can possibly get your hands on. I’ll use the term “operator” in describing a BPM practitioner for a couple reasons. First off, you are not playing the role of a strategist unless you truly have that job and the power to effect a company’s overall direction in a major way. If this isn’t you then you are viewed as a contributor and that is exactly what organizations need, real contribution. I will take a very solid operator over a theorist any day of the week on a BPM program! Secondly, you are going to get your hands dirty and when I say dirty I mean designing, developing, and/or analyzing business processes. Companies need contributors who really know how to deliver and sort out the “should do versus could do” in critical and changing situations, serious operators. It is not enough to be a good developer/technologist nor is it good enough to be a good business analyst. BPM is specialized and brings with it a whole new level of skill requirements. Are you considered truly excellent at what you have been doing and have those differentiating abilities mentioned? If so, then you will likely be able to enjoy a very rewarding career in BPM! Today there isn’t a truly recognized industry standard in curriculum or certification for a BPM Practitioner. It’s not worth going into all of the whys of that here, suffice to say there just isn’t and probably won’t be for a good number of years to come, if ever. Nonetheless, that doesn’t prevent you from joining this community and being highly effective in performing the job. So where do you start on this path? Your best bet is to try and join a boutique consulting firm or possibly a BPMS vendor (I say possibly because only a couple might actually develop skills outside of their own software focus) that has deep expertise, training, performance standards, practical application capability, opportunity to engage on initiatives, and proctor/mentors available to help develop the skills you will need. Learning never ends for anyone. Whether your background is in IT, Operations, or Line of Business you will need to develop capabilities that are outside of your historical core competency. For example, if you are a developer it would be expected for you to also be able to understand how to perform basic process analysis, e.g. Value Stream, MSA, Pareto, and Process Capability to name a few. Likewise, if you are an analyst you should be able to understand and articulate BPMS capabilities, Enterprise Architecture concepts, Agile and other iterative based SDLC’s, and various enabling technologies surrounding BPM delivery. Moreover, in either scenario you need to wrap that with good project management functions, communications, human interaction/conflict resolution, change management techniques, adult learning, and other soft skills that will allow you to perform in the really challenging environments that are part and parcel of today’s Business Process Management world. Again, these skills listed outside your initial competency don’t necessarily require mastery but you do need to have some solid capability starting out. Once you have these skills down, there is plenty of opportunity to become more advanced or specialized in any particular area.  Not everyone will make the cut but if you think you have what it takes and the desire, this industry sure does need you!

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