Terry Schurter: Is BPM Right for Your Organization?

  • November 18, 2010
  • Scott

It isn’t a bad policy to just read everything Terry Schurter publishes (whether you agree or disagree with the positions).  This one starts out making the case for people and content in BPM:

In my view, BPM is really about people and content. In fact, content is the very heart of BPM, while people are its soul. I’ll go so far as to say that if people and content aren’t both in a given process, then it’s not a business process. Business processes are nothing more or less than the interactions that occur between people, and between people and content.

Now if we accept this definition of BPM, then it seems as if BPM should work for everyone. After all, every business has people and every business has content. But even that doesn’t necessarily mean that BPM applies to all. There has to be something more; there must be value to be gained.

(I’d say that if you don’t have people and content, what you have left is a “program” which is not the same thing as a business process)

And near the end, concluding arguments:

The takeaway here is that BPM is for everyone, though not everyone is ready for BPM. The reason: You can’t buy BPM in a box. You can buy BPM software, and depending on what you are doing, that may be a very important part of BPM for you, but the software you receive is not BPM.

So it’s up to you to start looking at what your desired outcomes are and begin documenting them. Then you can follow those outcomes back to see what the process behind them looks like. Or it may be easier to document certain processes and then figure out what outcome you really want from those processes.

I think Terry has laid out a couple of really important principles:

  1. You can’t buy BPM in a box.  Repeat that three times.
  2. Start with outcomes, and work your way back to process.  (And this is why I don’t understand why so many critics of BPM say BPM is all about cost efficiencies- it is only about that if you decide it is. BPM doesn’t decide business goals for you, you have to do that yourself)
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  • You also have to look at how your people carry out those processes. The way in which people work is changing and is set to change further in a few years. We already collaborate far more than ever before on work, but organisations are set to complete warm in a more “swarming” fashion. This means lots of people working on the same peice of work at once…

    If you want to work like this, or you already do, then BPM is going to be far too rigid for you. BPM is more about an actual process flow, with our human ellement working individually on a peice of work, and then interacting with collegues to request information, or pass the peice of work on to them. It isnt really geared to multiple people working on something at the same time…

    I think the way we work in the future will mean BPM as we know it will have to change..

    • I think the interesting change is how we collaborate with people that are at great distances and time distortion. In the past we might collaborate a lot at a construction site. Or in the office we all worked in together (I recall coming in to work on weekends, and finding 40% of the company in there working with me, because our home dialup connections didn’t compete with the T1 lines at work). The collaboration in such environments is more natural and doesn’t require a lot of interesting technology.

      But the technical landscape has enabled collaboration in new dimensions with new people (in the old days, how would I ever have come into contact with you, so that we could collaborate and share ideas as we have via blogs and comments and twitter? )

      I think you’re right that BPM as we know it will have to change- but the collaboration tools are still in a lot of flux as well. The right “marriage” of such tools may yet be on the way.

      • I take your point…But I think we need to see a real sense of collaboration being inbuilt to applications, especially those that deal with business processes or business content. Its great having collaboration tools, but we dont want a workitem being locked to a single user and multiple users trying to collaborate or work on it at the same time (but cannot)….

        I think what will be interesting is how collaboration gets embedded within applications, especially BPM type solutions…

        • agreed – I think collaboration within the application is a big step toward improving the execution of individual work streams, which will bubble up into improvements in the overall process (whereas, I think largely BPM takes a top down point of view).