Finding BPM Inspiration in Portugal
I thought bpmNEXT was the highlight of my BPM Conference calendar, when it comes to expanding my own perspective within the BPM space. But my experience at BPM Conference Portugal rivaled bpmNEXT for expanding my mind.
BPM Conference Portugal is a 3 year old (?) conference in Lisbon. This was my first year to attend, thanks to my topic submission being accepted by the committee. This year, Alberto Manuel, the scientific coordinator, shifted the focus to the innovations in management by process – the M in BPM. To test the theory that nothing has changed in the management discipline for 20 or 30 years.
And Alberto and the team at EdEA assembled a fantastic set of speakers, one I was a bit humbled to be counted among:
- Anne Marie McEwan – Lecturer at Kingston University Business School
- Bill Waddell – an authority on Lean production systems
- Mark Crawford – an SAP standards strategist
- Michael Rosen – an Enterprise Architect, recently of IDC.
- Roger Burlton – a founder of BPTrends
In addition, the sponsors of the conference gave a few presentations in Portuguese in which- I admit – I might have missed a few details…
Alberto teed up the conference with a provocative intro video he recorded for us:
- Initially focusing on management seemed tired. But nevertheless, management seems to be a forgotten art under a 3-month-attention-span regime. Are there any new techniques?
- Why do managers make bad decisions? Managers are presented with clear quantifiable data, how to avoid losses, how to gain advantage… and still, the manager or team didn’t make the decision – sometimes making no decision at all, and sometimes the wrong one – why?
- Encouraging everyone in the room to be BOLD.
With that mission in front of us, we began the formal talks. And let me just say, that these speakers were not only complete masters of their content. They were also professional-grade speakers. Our speakers at BPM conferences could learn a lot from this group.
I’ll submit that it wasn’t the M in BPM we were focused on. It was the L that isn’t in BPM: Leadership. It isn’t management we’re suffering from. Our great companies are suffering from a lack of Leadership, a lack of bold decision making, and a lack of acceptable risk-taking. Leadership is the antidote to what ails businesses that fail to make good decisions.
Most of the audience was comprised of Portuguese consultants and IT staff at companies in Portugal. Executives and business leaders in Portugal really missed an opportunity. So I’ll do my best to share what I captured:
Anne Marie McKeown
I pulled a couple of really useful concepts from her talk. First, this concept of Clocks and Clouds. Clock are systems which are regular and orderly, and highly predictable in their behavior. Clouds are systems which, like gases, are highly irregular and disorderly and more or less unpredictable.
She pulled out a quote from RIM’s ex-Co-CEO, paraphrased here : “Everyone is in a boat, you’re navigating cascading circumstances – an exercise in multiple continuous optimizations” – this description might be a good sign of why they were surprised and hurt by the new entrant (iPhone) because they were so consumed by the complexity of their business that they didn’t have perspective.
Another nugget was to understand that the dissemination of ideas and technology and change is a social process, and moves around on that basis, rather than a technological or mandated schedule.
For building support for change, she advocated Trojan mice – small experiments that can fail, so that you have a chance to experiment. Safe-to-fail probes being critical for exploring a solution space.
Roger also shared some great advice, from which I’ll share just a few favorites:
- Processes start with the customer. They experience your company as the sum of your processes. They don’t see inside your processes, you do. If they see inside your process, then they are managing your process, not you. And that’s not good.
- You have to fix your broken customer experience processes – because your unhappy customer will talk to everyone about it.
- To those who say “I don’t have a process for that” – the processes exist! They just, probably, suck.
- Processes that touch the customer are core. Everything else is non-core.
- Process models should be independent of org structure – because org structure can change. Don’t pour concrete into your org structure by baking it into your processes.
- Gave some great case study examples from Banking and government.
- He got the joke of the conference award: “Everyone know what you call someone who speaks 3 languages? trilingual Right. Everyone know what you call someone who speaks 2 languages? bilingual Right. but what do you call someone who speaks one language? American!” everyone chimed in the answers.
- Justify architecture with business value, not abstract IT value. Solve a REAL business problem.
- Focusing on cost, rather than VALUE, will kill your projects.
- Decisions are made based on bias and ignorance rather than evidence
- Metrics are your friend when you have to CYA.
- Make sure you educate everyone on the value you’re creating.
Bill Waldell brings a manufacturing bent to his work and talk, but he’s familiar enough with other businesses to make his talk travel well. Bill’s focus for the businesses he consults with is that they should be aligned by the processes that take care of customers (Core processes). No purchasing department. No accounting department. No engineering department.
He gave examples. Wahl Clippers. Factories in 6 countries, 20% top and bottom line growth for 10 years straight. Process driven company has pushed Remington and others right of the store shelves. Even within the low-cost vendor, Wal-mart, Wahl was able to go from 20% to a much larger percent of Wal-mart’s revenue from clippers.
One size fits all optimizes for no one. Bill’s take is that SAP is a disaster for companies because it is like pouring concrete into their business processes, and it touches everything in your business.
Wahl is able to alter their process for
- Medical Market
- Barber market
- vs. high volume order to middle east on a cargo container
- vs. volume home hair cut market
If they all had to use the same systems and controls and quality, the company would fail.
Enemy #3: Focus
Enemy #2 : SAP
Enemy #1: Accounting
- departmental budgets run counter to multi-departmental barings it would still maybe.
- Standard costs belays differences in material
- Accounting overall hides overall process value and cost
Question : what percentage of the money you spent last month will your customers pay for?
In the middle of the day we ran a panel with myself moderating, and all the speakers joining in. It was great fun – I asked a question and just teed it up for people to take swings at it. The discussion was wide-ranging, with a lot of great insights shared. We had a Q&A session at the end that was also great stuff.
I know video cameras were rolling – I hope the video comes out as something publishable because the raw material was fantastic.
I walked away inspired to apply some of these ideas to BP3’s business, and to some of our customer engagements. On a personal note, it was also a fantastic opportunity for me to reconnect with friends in the BPM space in Portugal – and to make new friends in the BPM community among the speakers and leaders of the conference.
Thank you, Alberto, for inviting me to speak – I’m really grateful for the opportunity and the experience.