Derek Miers' Elephant (in the room)

  • April 14, 2009
  • Scott
  • 4 Comments

Derek posted recently about the Elephant in the Room, by which he means the big issues that are slowing down BPM adoption, and that are not, quite frankly, technology issues.  I’d like to quote one passage from his post:

Organizations are struggling to drive wider adoption of process management? The average number of Processes under Management in a typical BPM site is probably 5 or less; I think we would all agree that more than 10 is unusual. While there may be some cases of organization with over 20 or even 50, the reality is that there is little widespread adoption inside your average large organization (although some are starting to grapple with that problem). Why is that? Because the effort required to standardize the processes and deal with all the data and artifacts is just too great. Yet at the same time, the number of spreadsheets used to coordinate work in those same organizations is numbered in the thousands (or at least hundreds).

Now this is an interesting point.  As he goes on to say, each spreadsheet represents an opportunity to improve the organization and its processes and performance (and financial results)!   However, I’d call attention to his assertion that the reason the adoption isn’t greater is because the effort required to standardize process and deal with all the data and artifacts is just too great.  I believe that the *key* element is that the organizational will-power required is too great.  In other words, to get from 5 processes to 100, the issue isn’t absolute effort – those first 100 processes will aboslutely produce return on the implementation costs and effort – the issue is organizational will-power:  the energy and focus to organize and push and prod people to follow these standardized processes so that the company can reap the benefits of process improvement.

The effort required to implement is also an issue, but I think it is more of an issue in terms of displacing the thousands of spreadsheets that tackle “process” issues beyond the first 100 or so.  In other words, if we can make it easier to organize the process, data, and artifacts, then more of these spreadsheets will look like attractive process targets!

Derek makes some other good arguments that we have anecdotal evidence to support, around case handling, and value-chain optimization vs. inside-the-corporation optimizing.  He also gives some advice like “Deal with the Politics First” that I think is easier for an outsider to do – because it is, in a sense, an efficiency argument – if you deal with that first, and the politics can’t be aligned with BPM success, then you can move on to projects/accounts where the politics can be aligned or are aligned.  If you wait on it, you may implement the first of many projects and then get stymied by politics and lose all of the momentum and skill-transfer progress.

His last point is that there just aren’t enough good people with the right skills and knowledge and experience to deliver BPM projects and successes.  Our experience matches his.  It will take time to get the right skills into the market, and in the meantime, companies will have to lean on consultants to get the job done, but they also need to invest in their own teams – and establish partnerships that will leverage the outside expertise they are paying for to ramp up the internal teams.

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