Process Maturity Meets Pareto Principle

Scott Francis
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Gartner’s Business Process Maturity Model is not for the faint of heart.  I’ve heard a couple of talks on the subject and read a couple of papers, and never found it terribly useful or informative to our action plans with customers.  Apparently Anatoly Belychook agrees based on this blog post:
Phase 0. Functional management. Organization has yet to realize that its performance as a whole depends not only on how certain functions are performed, but also on how well these functions coordinate with each other, i.e. the quality of business processes interconnecting them. Phase 1. Business processes awareness. The organization explores itself through the prism of business processes. End-to-end business processes are discovered and process owners are appointed. Everyone draw process diagrams. Gaps and bottlenecks are identified and eliminated, without investments into processes automation (BPMS). Phase 2. Automated execution and control of business processes. The organization learns to manage business processes in a continuous loop model – execute – analyze and seeks to improve their effectiveness, mostly on a separate processes basis. Phase 3. Execution and control of end-to end business processes. Process boundaries are expanded under the control of BPMS, inter-process communications are worked out and end-to-end processes are established connecting the company to its customers/partners and/or their business processes. Phase 4. Explicit and automatic link between business goals and business processes. With the help of simulation and dynamic business rules, business goals changes trigger automatic rebuilding the network of business processes. Phase 5. Adaptive business structure. The ability to quickly react to changing business environment, anticipate these changes and create opportunities through deeper integration into various markets and partner ecosystems.
I would offer a simpler set of maturity levels, which is what I proposed at Lombardi when I was still employed there:

0. Process Ignorance: No organized process per se 1. Process Awareness: Documented processes 2. Process Discipline: Processes both documented and consistently adhered to 3. Process Proficiency:  Processes implemented in software 4. Process Excellence: Ongoing investment in process improvement is cultural in the organization.

As Anatoly says, in Gartner’s 5 phases, phase 0, 4, and 5 aren’t really interesting for discussion in today’s business climate.  But he points out a key trap in pursuing process maturity the way Gartner envisions it:
The key words are “for all processes.” Trying to evenly raise the maturity of all processes is a recipe for disaster. In accordance with Pareto’s law, 20% of processes are responsible for 80% of the company’s performance. Wouldn’t it be wiser to focus on these 20%? Sure the BPM-3 grants much more control over the processes than BPM-1. But it’s much more expensive as well! Complete BPMS implementation of an end-to-end business process is a custom IT development, apart from other considerations. And cheap custom IT development just doesn’t happen.
This isn’t just true for BPM – it is true for QA, for CMM, for all kinds of organizational and technical efforts.  Failure to apply the Pareto principle is to fall into the sins of either waste or overproduction (depending on how you look at it).  When we tackle even one process for an improvement and/or implementation effort, we try to focus in on the most important 20% – the changes that will really move the needle in terms of process performance, rather than expending our work equally across each stage of the process.

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