Barriers to BPM: The Bus Brake Effect
We’ve all ridden a city bus at some point. Most bus systems have a bus brake that you pull if you want to be let off at the curb inbetween stops. This can be infuriating when you’re trying to travel through, of course. And it turns out that anyone can pull the bus brake – any passenger at all, even the kid who is just having fun with it and pulling it periodically to irritate other passengers. Making progress on the route depends on everyone on the bus withholding, voluntarily, their right to pull the bus brake line.
Many BPM projects (and IT projects) suffer from the same problem. Everyone involved in the project can pull the bus brake and stop the project in its tracks. Effectively, most BPM projects’ governance structure gives everyone a veto and no one an override. Think about who can pull the bus brake on your project:
- Business subject matter experts
- Business unit managers or team leads
- IT security group
- Legal (if they need to review anything for sign off)
- Finance (budgeting, etc.)
- IT integration developers
- DB administrators
- IT Infrastructure team (servers etc. )
- Not to mention all the people directly involved in the day-to-day project.
So what can we do about the bus brake effect? Well of course you can win over these stakeholders with persuasion and leadership. But it may also help to have explicit governance that supports moving forward:
- Take away veto rights. Teams can raise objections, but those objections get resolved by the program leader who has final decision authority, and then the teams have to get on board
- Perhaps better yet, establish a time-frame for resolution when a veto or objection is raised: one hour, or one day. And an automatic resolution that kicks in if that time-frame expires without a new direction decided.
- Make sure each team has a positive stake in the project – something good that will come out of it for them.
- Make sure there are consequences for pulling the bus brake – the team who pulls the bus brake can end up losing something in the process – the business might lose some scope due to delays, IT might lose Single Sign on, or some other general IT requirement that they were hoping to get. Make it costly to pull the bus brake, but not impossible.
- Have a plan B for any team that tries to throw the brake – if they can’t help you, find a way around. This most often happens with integration teams who fail to deliver- have a plan B for every integration contemplated in your project.
BPM is particularly susceptible to the bus brake effect because it often crosses stakeholder boundaries. I mentioned business subject matter experts above- but consider you may have business users and stakeholders from many lines of business. Which increases the odds of the bus brake getting in the way.