Not Just Another Definition of BPM

  • May 22, 2008
  • Lance
  • 3 Comments

I am not going to give yet another definition of BPM. That has been played out like DeLorean gull-wing doors. Everyone has a definition and in most cases they say mostly the same thing, and then the definition is changed and re-cast again:

Wikipedia – “a method of efficiently aligning an organization with the wants and needs of clients”

Gartner – “BPM is a management practice that provides for governance of a business’s process environment toward the goal of improving agility and operational performance. BPM is a structured approach employing methods, policies, metrics, management practices and software tools to manage and continuously optimize an organization’s activities and processes.”

I could cite more references but it’s really not all that interesting, it doesn’t tell you the ‘How’, ‘Why’, ‘When’ or especially the ‘How Much’, and the latter is much more compelling than putting just a label on BPM. This is really why we talk about Visibility, Control, and Performance in order to describe the pillars of BPM and how this all hangs together.

You can think of BPM this way, no matter what the business objectives are, when it comes to process management or improvement it is going to fall into one or more of the three categories. Visibility – we need to understand how our process is truly operating and be able to act on that information. Control – we need to fix our process because it just isn’t getting it done for the customer or the business. Performance – we need to radically improve a process because either it does not exist or, it is too expensive/broken to bring into control. Any business may be looking for one or all of the three tenets but no doubt it will be largely represented by the above framework. These three areas are closely related to one another. It helps to have visibility in what the process is really doing before you set out making changes to make it more stable (predictable) and likewise, if you are looking for truly breakthrough improvements the more stable the process is the better off you will be in terms of any major remediation work.

Now here is the best news of this whole post. You can do things starting out in Visibility that will deliver immediate and strong benefits even before you stabilize the process. You absolutely don’t have to jump-in to getting an extreme makeover before you can reap solid returns. Sometimes those returns can be big enough that there is no need to go much further out of the gate! The trick here is to understand what that process is doing first, that alone can bring relief immediately in terms of customer satisfaction, costs or even revenue for the business. By “lighting-up” the process you can instrument certain areas to behave more pro-actively, thereby minimizing the impact of an unstable process.

BPM definitions continue to change, what we are trying to communicate is just the basic physics of how this works. The business goals for BPM aren’t changing despite the wrangling over precise definitions – you want visibility, you want control, and you want performance. Focus on that, and your business can benefit and we can have fun in our work! This is how we are modeling our services in each of the pillars, as very discreet phases with very real benefits in each one.

Happy to talk more about this if you want to learn more, feel free to shoot me an email, call, or come talk to me at Driven 2008. I’ll be writing more about our framework, consider this the first volley

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