BPM and Cost Cutting

Scott Francis
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I love Max J. Pucher’s blog posts.  His writing style is entertaining and provocative.  And there will always be a few golden nuggets to remember.

His recent post, BPM is Cost Cutting, stays true to form:

If yes, he/she shouldn’t be there. And once someone understands the acronym does he really need more than a day to understand what the idea is and how to implement it as a management approach? There are numerous books that will tell you how to do it. So many different BPM approaches have popped up over the years from inside-out, via top-down, to bottom-up, so clearly we need now outside-in. Why does anyone still need to be consulted on the principle approach to define work into process structures with real-world handovers, a focus on customer outcomes, assigning owners and empower them with goals, authority and means – and OFF YOU GO! It doesn’t take an Einstein to conclude that these ought to be aligned with business strategy!

I have this picture in my head of Max telling a room full of executives “OFF YOU GO!” and sending them out of the room to go implement BPM.

Max has a point.  It is all common sense.  But after all, if humanity were good at following common sense proposals, self-help books wouldn’t sell by the millions.  On other hand, could we stop worrying about precise definitions when they don’t really matter in the context of improving business?

It turns out, that between theory and practice is a significant gap-  whether it is wisdom, or experience… or judgment… or leadership.  And some magic happens there that not every manager, not every company, can quite figure out without some help.

Moving on, Max says something else that I agree with wholeheartedly:

However, in these times the discussion of BPM without software is totally ridiculous. IT is the one and only core competitive means if businesses know how to use it. Why would anyone even think about doing process management without software?

This is part of why we started BP3 as a hybrid firm, focused on process improvement and software implementation, and not just one or the other.  BPM software is the key missing ingredient from many six sigma and lean initiatives, to just name two process improvement methodologies.

Finally, Max takes a machete to the idea of process templates, a current fad among BPMS vendors and analysts:

The most popular fad is now to buy drop-in process packages for BPMS to speed up implementation. That is fine but now new. Businesses often buy ERP because they are buying the hardcoded processes to improve the way their businesses work, lacking the skill to do it themselves. That is all the hardcoded processes a business can survive.

If you’re going to buy into the BPMS solution for your processes, the whole point should be to have the solution reflect your business and its processes, not the other way around.  How much more can you wrap your business around someone else’s ideas of what your processes should be?  In my experience, customers and their consultants and employees end up spending more time unwrapping the pre-packaged processes than they would have building up from scratch in a BPMS.

A final note of warning from Max:

There isn’t any proof that a business gets longterm benefits from analytic BPM and complex BPMS implementations. Technology must allow processes to evolve to any structure they might need at any point in time without bureaucratic overhead. The focus must be not to cut cost, but to make the best people (knowledge workers) the most productive and effective. The most important knowledge workers of a business are at the top management level. This is where IT still fails to deliver business value.

Interestingly, there is evidence of benefits from BPM and BPMS implementations (complex being a subjective term).  The BP example he uses is interesting, but it is rather an example of an empowered person overriding what bureaucracy and good process said they should do – individual people overrode safety protocols and we all see the results. Otherwise I find myself in agreement – the purpose of BPM should be to make people (not just knowledge workers, but any affected employees or customers) more effective. 

 

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