The BPM Question

  • February 6, 2011
  • Scott

There is one question one should always ask in software, and in particular when designing a BPM solution:

How do you do that now?

In Jason Cohen’s blog, his framing is “What did they do before you came along?” – which is the way I would phrase the question to one of my colleagues at BP3 if they were describing a BPM solution to me without explaining the current approach to the process first. But when I’m speaking with customers, the framing I ususlaly use is “How do you do that now?” And you really do get interesting answers.

Jason’s post mostly discusses how to apply this question to the expert users and niche users within a market segment – the folks who can become real evangelists for your product if you make their lives better – and who can give you a beachhead into selling to the masses.  But the point of understanding how things work today is critical in BPM:

  1. Often BPM implementations are asked to do things that are nice-to-haves – not directly related to the business process nor to business value.  For example, “This process needs single sign-on.”  The appropriate response: “How do users sign in today?” If they use single-sign-on today, then you probably have a user expectation to either manage or live up to.  If they don’t – do they have SSO for other applications, or is this the first application with SSO?  (You don’t want to be first).
  2. Often BPM projects are asked to implement an existing process exactly – with the technology platform being the only change.  But this misses the chance for really leveraging software to provide process benefit.  By asking how they did this before BPM came along, you can tell whether they’re just papering over an existing process, or whether they’re really re-thinking things.
  3. If an integration can’t be completed on schedule or under budget, a BPM practitioner might legitimately ask “well, how do they get this integration done today?” If it is manual, or swivel chair, then continuing that approach at least is no worse than status quo, and can buy some time (via Process Debt) for the right solution to be built.

Just a few examples…

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