Friday, 12 December 2008

Getting More From The Same

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Last month I was invited to join a panel of speakers at the launch of a new report into productivity. The report by the Management Consultants Association and sponsored by Trinity Horne, makes very interesting reading. One of the facts that I found quite amazing was that only around 30% of organizations expected to increase productivity by 30% or more over the next 3 years, this seems a very small percentage in my opinion, especially when one asks the same question of others in different markets.

I am sure that it will be of no surprise to those of us who promote BPM as a management philosophy to find that 40% of respondents suggest a failure to engage and motivate employees as the main reason for a lack of productivity improvements. While another 20% are apparently satisfied with their current levels of productivity, I wonder whether given the current climate those companies still feel the same. Of course the rest of is I am sure would love to know who they are in order to go compete in that space.

Trinity Horne are a specialist consulting firm headquartered in Ireland with offices in the UK and India, they have a pretty innovative approach to helping firms improve the productivity of the staff and management. CEO Brendan Cahill working with a leading Business School has created a unique productivity index that compares the relative performance of leading organizations' around the globe.

You can get a copy of the report "Getting More From The Same" from the following link.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

New Mapping & Modeling Tool Survey

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What is really happening out there in the Business Process Mapping and Modelling market, are people actually buying and using tools? Are they using specialist tools or just the modeling front ends that come as part of their BPMS suite? Is the modeling market saturated with free tools? These are just some of the questions that I get asked as I travel around the world.

It is now quite a few years since a really comprehensive study of the mapping and modeling tool market has been undertaken. So I thought that as the year drew to a close it would be nice to do one. The aim of the survey is to look at what tools people are actually using and find out how they are being used. For me it will be fascinating to see how people differentiate BPM from BPMS or whether people actually understand the difference between mapping and modeling (initial indications suggest there is still much confusion around this) Hopefully this will help us all to get a picture of real world utilization, rather than just the usual marketing story. It will also be interesting to see how the real world usage compares to the Analysts perspectives of which tools are being used most widely. I would ask that as many people as possible take the time to complete the survey and indeed pass the link on to others. You can access the survey via the following link:

Already the survey has been taken by a few hundred people and the data is making fascinating reading.

By way of a thank you/incentive then there are prizes on offer for those who complete the survey. There are two first prizes of an in-house 4 Day BPM Certification course (all expenses to be met by the client and a maximum of 15 delegates will be accommodated) and 10 runners up will receive a copy of "Thrive – How to Succeed in the Age of The Customer." In addition all those who participate will be entitled to a free copy of the report once it is complete.

Prize winners will be notified by the 10th January 2009 and the report will be published by the end of January 2009.

In order to qualify for entry into the prize draw all questions will need to be answered properly.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Conferences Galore!

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The conference circuit seems to be even busier this autumn than those that have gone before. With the major Gartner BPM event having taken place in the USA in September and events by IRM and Management Events in the UK. Personally I only attended the Project, Program and Process Challenge event in London in September ( it was truly amazing to see the level of interest in process at this event, which I suggest may actually be the largest such event that takes place in the UK. Free to attend it has been consistently drawing in around 1,000 plus people per event (the event runs twice a year – spring in Birmingham and autumn in London). This year the process program, a series of free sessions delivered over two days drew in some pretty large audiences, the organizers tell me that there was an average of 60 plus attendees per session across the nine presentations given in the zone, providing great exposure for the speakers and vendors who were present.

This autumn's event saw an even greater emphasis on the people side of change and the soft issues surrounding process success, which as regular readers will know is music to my ears. So if you are looking at a great way to keep current and at the same time meet with a wide range of exhibitors then I strongly urge you to give the show a look. With no cost, other than your time and a speaker line up every bit as good as many of the paid conferences you can't help but win.

As I prepare to head out to Vienna next week for the 4th Annual BPM in Telecoms event (, I have to share with you that it was great to attend their earlier conference on HR this month. With so many of the issues of BPM success being centered around People and Communications, it was great to have had the opportunity to directly work with and communicate with one of the key groups in any real change management initiative. I just hope that in my interactions I helped them understand a little more of the key roles we need them to play in helping us transform our businesses using BPM.

Thursday, 31 July 2008

Process Management in The Boardroom

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The success of CEOs like Sam Walton (WalMart), Fred West (federal Express), Herb Kelleher (Southwest Airlines) and Jack Welch (GE) has been pretty amazing. They have delivered some outstanding results for their shareholders. Unlike many CEOs they have delivered this through customer understanding rather than pure financial and risk- based management approaches. The result is not only that costs are kept under control for enhanced productivity, but also that sales revenues have grown impressively above the norm.

In the current climate there is much focus on Process of Business Process and the how and why it is needed in order to improve and transform business. For the most part, however, the responsibility for doing the work and delivering the results has been delegated down the organization, or in some cases outsourced altogether.

There is no doubt that a well-managed process- centric company is more agile, more able to keep costs under control and to better understand the value of any investment it might make. But are such companies in a better position to deliver real growth? My contention is that, in the final analysis, revenue growth will deliver the ultimate long-term returns that investors seek, while also providing the security of employment that employees want. To merely utilize Business Process Management (BPM) in any form purely as a strategy for cost or risk reduction is to squander the real competitive advantages that it can bring.

It is also pertinent to ask at this stage if boards of directors really believe that, when outsourcing under the label BPO (Business Process Outsourcing), they are really outsourcing processes? A quick scan through the financial and business press will reveal many deals, but in reality these firms are just outsourcing departments or functions based on the traditional structure. Indeed, for many organizations outsourcing processes is probably impossible. Why? Because few organizations have actually mapped their business processes – and, if they don't know what or where the processes are in the organization, then how can they be outsourced?

On the other hand, if process-centric management enables greater agility and better financial control, then you can see the value in making use of techniques in this area. Presumably all can agree that revenue growth is key to long-term financial success. That is the truth emphasized by the customer-centricity of the CEOs mentioned above; each attributes much of his success to an intimate relationship with and understanding of customer needs.

Perhaps it seems that the combination of customers and process equates with increased revenue. Certainly these two factors have a major bearing, but studying successful organizations brings out another two factors as well - those of culture and organization itself. It appears that the equation for long-term success looks more like:

Customer Knowledge + Customer-Centric Processes + Culture of Service + Customer-Oriented Organization = Superior Profitable Revenue Growth

The business model looked at in this way shows that it is not a responsibility to be delegated or outsourced. This equation should be managed from and by the CEO and the board of directors.

Outsourcing of non-care activity has a valuable part to play in serving customers and investors efficiently; all customers want to know that they are getting products and services at the best possible price. But customers do not expect the responsibility for serving them to be outsourced.

Process Management can, of course, be delegated within an organization. Indeed, in some ways this leads to far better execution; the further down the organization you go the better people are able to address any inefficiency. But again customers expect management to take the ultimate responsibility for ensuring that all parts of the organization operate as single coordinated units. Process Management that uses the customer as key focus and customer-related metrics as the key measures tends to simplify organizations, leading to lower costs and better service. The customer benefit is clear, meaning that supplier and customer are more likely to continue to do business in the future (and with customers more likely to tell others about the supplier's virtues).

Customer knowledge is not about surveys and second-hand evidence; it is about meeting customers to understand their real problems and needs – and then using this knowledge to develop products and services. It is about creating an intimate relationship in which customers are truly valued.

Directors need to answer a question or two. You may be a top-tier member of numerous frequent flier and hotel guest programmes, but how valued do you really feel? When did you last meet with or talk to the executives of those companies? It is not enough to go spouting words and putting out gold loyalty cards. Customers appreciate suppliers that provide the most important commodity of all - someone's time and a listening ear that responds with action.

The CEOs mentioned at the start are each reported to spend upwards of 30% of their time meeting with and talking to customers. The rest of their customer input comes not from management, but from the front-line staff who deal with customers everyday; these staff are such a valuable source of information, but are usually treated as just some kind of blunt instrument.

A culture of service appears to be sadly lacking in the Western business world these days. There is so much focus on numbers that staff have forgotten how to serve. Yet companies like Tesco and Virgin stand out, not only for their financial success, but also because these results have come about through a deep-rooted culture of serving customers well. This trait is evident in many Asian companies. As a customer, how fast will you choose to move your spend to organizations that do understand service?

The culture of service also touches on the issue of delegation. While you can't delegate the overall responsibility for customers, you can at least empower staff to resolve customer issues at the point of impact, without the need to refer to management. You can ensure that staff work with processes that are designed to enable them to serve customers better. And you can change reward structures so that staff are better rewarded for serving customers than for hitting purely financial targets or other non-customer relevant KPIs (Key Performance Indicators).

A culture of service is also far easier to achieve if you take the time to change your organization chart from a functional hierarchy to one that is organized along process lines. This will enable your teams to support customers better.

The combination of these changes is what enabled those four celebrated CEOs - Sam, Fred, Herb and Jack - to grow more successful organizations than others in the same market. But these Americans are not alone, for as noted Virgin's Richard Branson and Tesco's Terry Leahy share many of these beliefs. The list could also feature leaders like Sergey Brin and Larry Page of Google, Bill Gates of Microsoft, and Andy Grove of Intel – and there are several others. All are examples of what can be achieved if the responsibility for business and process management begins in the boardroom and is married to successful customer outcomes throughout the business.

Friday, 4 July 2008

Product Innovation Alive and Well (and Living in Scotland!)

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For many years now I have watched UK Software industry seem to wither away. The software jobs being outsourced around the world or pulled back to "Head Office" locations. There has never been an issue of inventiveness, just one of funding and cost. So it was with great pleasure that last week I had the opportunity to meet with Graham Twaddle and some of his team at Corporate Modelling ( in Glasgow.

As I thought about it, it struck me that in some ways perhaps Scotland is more the home of UK software development than "Silicon Valley" in the South of England. In the area of Business Process, we already have CRM/BPM vendor Graham Technology, and in the Simulation space Simul8 (www.simul8) and I am sure many others that I don't know of. To my family north of the border this would of course surprise no-one because of Scotland's long history of invention – Television, Telephone, The Steam Engine, Iron Bridge, The Kelvin Scale of Temperature being among the more significant, while of course Golf may be the most popular!

So to Corporate Modelling, I have to say that while the name was familiar, the company was not. I was put on to them by an old friend at Forrester, who suggested that I should talk to them. The first thing that surprised me was their pedigree. CEO/CTO Graham Twaddle has spent quite a number of years in the Business Process space and is credited as the driving force behind the success of Sherwood Internationals achievements in the process arena, especially within the insurance and finance sectors, he and his team have an amazing amount of experience in this area. In fact many of the people at Corporate Modelling were part of the core team that developed and supported the Amarta and LogicWare systems. Graham also co-authored a book, Business Process Implementation, way back in 1997 with Michael Jackson of Jackson Structured Programming fame.

So it is with a deep understanding on the insurance business and a track record in delivering solutions to that sector, which Corporate Modelling sets out to address the Business and Process needs of an organization. There offerings include a range of products, covering everything from the modeling, through to the implementation and monitoring, not just of business processes, but of rules and all the other associated parts of an organization that are needed to deliver successful monitoring and change programs.

The company, although in relative infancy, is already starting to build quite a reputation for delivering programs and systems that meet the needs of the 21st century businesses.

Another area of interest for the company is grid computing and they are leading, along with Microsoft, the Financial Services Grid Initiative, which seems to offer some promising solutions to age old problems, you can learn more about this at

With the number of vendors in the BPM space being high and the names fluctuating it would be easy to suggest that there may not be room for another, but given the background and pedigree of the team at Corporate Modelling it would be foolish to ignore them. Their strength comes not just from the technology, but also from their deep understanding of their target audience, not something that can be said of many of the vendors in the space.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Are You Really Doing BPM

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In Europe as in the States, the conference market around Business Process Management (BPM) has been buzzing for a while. They can be great places to mix with "real people" and to hear what they are actually doing rather than what we the analysts and commentators suggest they are doing. The contrast between events can be quite startling. While the something like the GBPF event was a full blown conference with a mix of expert input and user case studies, the Gartner events have mainly analysts and, the IQPC Exchange was made up almost entirely user case studies, and focused on the financial sector.

What I found particularly interesting at the latter, was that over 80% of the audience claimed to be doing BPM, while less than 5% saw it as involving the executives. There can be no doubt that with over 20 highly interesting user case studies and presentations being made, serious work is obviously being undertaken. But, in my mind this begs the question "Are they really doing BPM?"

Listening to the presentations, many from some of Europe's leading financial institutions, it very quickly became apparent that companies who focus on Business Process can deliver some quite amazing bottom line business results. At the same time however it also became apparent that many of the projects undertaken were focused mainly on workflow and process automation. I guess in an industry that deals with low margins and high transaction costs that even the smallest saving multiplies the benefits to a point where the apparent savings are huge. But, again the question by simply focusing on the cheaper, faster better school of process are they really doing BPM?

It was the banks from South Africa and India that particularly impressed me. Companies from these Countries talked far more about BPM as an enabler. They saw BPM as a way for them to identity new and different ways of doing business, a way of creating white space between them and their competitors. It was this desire to seek new and innovative ways of doing business that both impressed and scared me. For, if we too cannot rise to that challenge then the chances are that we will increasingly lose market share to these more innovative companies. Of course, they too were also saving money through automation as well it was simply that they did not see it as the end goal.

As an aside I heard a great line from the Director of an Irish Bank "We did not set out to save costs or improve revenue, we set out to improve customer service. But as a result we wound up making far larger savings and drove revenues far higher than we might ever have expected." a great lesson in the value of focusing on the customer.

It is this focus on the customer that perhaps truly differentiates those doing real BPM work from those who are just focused on process mapping, documentation and automation. These are the companies who are really looking at themselves from the outside in and questioning everything they do and asking whether it really makes a difference in the eyes of the customer.

This external focus is one of the key points in BPM, others would include the fact that it is a management discipline and therefore needs to be supported by if not driven by the most senior levels of management within an organization. Additionally, if you are truly doing BPM then you must be looking across functions, not just carrying out incremental process improvements within them. Of course, incremental improvements are not to be belittled or ignored, they play a valuable part in consistent improvement, but neither should they be confused with true BPM.

I should point out that while these comments are aimed quite generally, some of the presenters were from companies who were achieving stunning results and had organized themselves in such a way that they were able to combine all of the various facets of process in such a way as to provide an extremely comprehensive toolkit. Again for example I can recollect a South African Bank who had created a specialist team whose role was to facilitate and mentor process teams, taking with them high level views of the business to put context around any given project. This team is also trained in techniques like Six Sigma and so is able to assist teams in creating measures, whilst also having the ability to encourage creative thinking in order to ensure that all solutions are considered, not just the obvious ones.

In summary, if you are working on process improvement or automation and delivering business benefit you are to be applauded, improvement is never a one shot process. If you are simply automating the existing processes without questioning them, then you may either be carrying unnecessary overhead or missing out on greater opportunities.

If the program you are working on does not create a culture of change within your organization then the chances are that you may find that people quickly slip into old habits and you can't retain the gains you make. People and culture are talked of as a cornerstone in process projects but very often get forgotten. I prefer to think of it as a three legged stool – the legs being made of People, Process and Systems – if only two are present (whichever two) then you don't have anything as it will simply collapse.

Lastly true BPM as we have said requires cross functional thinking and management, if you are not looking across your whole organization through the eyes of the customer, then the chances are that you are not really undertaking BPM. Of course in not doing so you are not alone, as we said at the beginning, the vast majority of projects being undertaken today under the guise of BPM are still nothing more than functionally based process optimization projects, and there lies the challenge – can history really judge whether BPM as a paradigm was successful or not when in reality we simply used the name and carried on doing what we always did?

Note: This article first appeared in June 2004 on Mark McGregor's "Postcard from Europe" Series of articles on BPTrends

Friday, 30 May 2008

BPMN and Executable Businesses: When Will We Learn

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A quick look around the blogs and latest articles reveals a lot of discussion (again!) about BPMN and what it is and should be used for. We seem to have endless debates about why and how it is easy for business people vs. why it is not, now we are seeing increasing debate about whether it is the right notation/approach for Business Analysts – I think it is perhaps time for us to remember whose role is what in the organization and what they are supposed to be able to bring to the party, then we can consider what tools, notations etc. might be appropriate.

For the purpose of this post I want to draw the parallel with data modeling, a field that is well established and in which everybody has their part to play. At the lowest level we have our Database Administrator (DBA), they live in the land of "Physical Models" and know that they have to fine tune them, breaking some rules and adding others, so as to ensure that the "Database" performs at its optimal speed. So from a BPMS point of view we can see that there is a definite role for a BPM Administrator, someone who is very familiar with the engine and knows how to find tune the "Execution pr Physical Model" so that the system performs at its peak – For these people BPMN makes sense as a notation as it is very closely tied from the model/code/execute perspective. So I contend that BPMN is the right approach for these people.

Then stepping up a level we have our Data Analyst, these people live in the realm of "Logical Models", they take the inputs from Business and System Analysts and look at the business problems and system requirements from a data perspective and create the logical models from the conceptual models. They know that nobody would expect to implement an efficient database purely from their model and that it requires work and tuning in order to create the optimum physical model from the logical models they create, whether they use Chen, Bachman or UML for notation the Business or Systems Analysts don't really care, for that is the role and domain of the Data Analyst. Could BPMN be used in this area, yes it probably could and we could have BPMS Process Analysts to carry out this role. Again a specialist knowledge is required to ensure that the model is complete and consistent, helped of course by an appropriate modeling tool with model rules being enforced (A point worth noting is that for years many Data Analyst resisted using tools that forced rigor on them, with the result that hundreds and thousands of man hours were wasted building inconsistent models that could not be used to generate good physical models and databases).

Then we come up to our Systems Analysts, whose role was always to look at the business requirements and translate those that required systemizing into specifications that could be implemented, these are the people who also start to take into account hardware platforms, software applications and corporate standards for databases etc. It is their job to help to create and put together the systems that will solve the business problems at hand. As inputs they may well have the "Conceptual Data Model" among other things. But, we know that the conceptual model was just that a collection of "things" that the business saw as relevant data with lines that indicated there was some kind of relationship between them, though not what the relationship was. So we would indeed need a similar role for our BPMS world a BPMS Systems Analyst.

Then we come up to the Business Analyst, whose role is to help the business in identifying and solving business problems which may or may not require systems or systemization. If we really think that we should be turning them into low level implementers then take a look at the IIBA website ( and review their Body of Knowledge. I have just finished reviewing the soon to be released version 2.0 and you will see that our Business Analysts has more than enough on their plate already, they have to learn a vast array of skills in order to be effective at what they do, to my mind the last thing they need to be expected to learn is another low level notation, just because some IT people find it too hard to learn the language that the business speaks.

So if we want to have an effective debate about modeling and notations for Business Process I suggest that we talk with true Business Analysts to see what sort of simple "Conceptual" approach makes the most sense for them. Then we can look at what the best way of creating "Logical" models is for our systems analysts and finally we can allow our BPMS Administrators to play till their hearts are content with the BPMN notation that is created and designed for them and for whom it is ideally suited.

Another group of people who I have not yet mentioned are "Architects", a group who are popping up increasingly, either from an Application, Software or Enterprise perspective, but most of whom seem to exist under the wing of the CIO. The business belongs to the business, the Chief Enterprise Architect role is already occupied in business, it is the CEO and contrary to what one senior enterprise architect told me recently – he suggested that I am too old fashioned and that I should just get used to the fact that process would all be automated and businesses would just do without people, that the 21st century business model was a) Enterprise Architecture b) Business Architecture (using OMG MDA) c) Business Process Models (Using BPMN) and D) Automated Processes; without involving people – an executable business – it is people who will use the systems, it is people who own and run businesses and it is people that systems in the main are supposed to support. So a little more time speaking with people to find out what their problems are will make live a whole lot easier for people to get budget and resource to build and implement systems. If this thinking makes me old fashioned then so be it, but if we truly believe that we are moving to a world of pure system executable businesses without human intervention then it is a sad day for the human race (and one that poses some even more interesting change management issues and barriers)

Of course these are just my opinions and I am sure that there are many who will disagree, but for those that chose to do so, please don't write to me about the origins and purpose of BPMN, I was at the original meeting where the idea was first muted by two people from two vendors in the UK over a beer in London many years ago. I understand exactly why BPMN as originally created – I also accept that it has come a long way since then.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Destination Dubai

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Last week saw me attending the IIR BPM conference in Dubai. The event which took place 19th-20th May, was my first opportunity to actual stay in Dubai, usually I am just passing through on my way somewhere else. The agenda seemed impressive and I was very much looking forward to listening to what was happening in the BPM sector in the region, and of course sharing my own observations.

The range of speakers was quite exceptional, as was the number of speakers talking about taking a top down, leadership led approach. If these companies can truly stay the course, then we should be seeing some pretty amazing results over the next few years.

One interesting thing was that many of the speakers came from manufacturing organizations or government agencies, this is in stark contrast to most other conferences I have seen where Banking and Telecoms are the dominate stories, perhaps in an ideal world we could see something that balances and blends the two camps better.

Overview of the Conference Messages

Rather than simply trying to paraphrase all the presentations I thought it might be nice to take pieces from each of them and try stringing them together in such a way as to give those who attended some picks and those who didn't an easy story of what we learned. So I thank all those speakers who either donated "words" or sparked the thoughts for what follows.

Success begins at the top with a promise from the executives "To be the best for the good of tomorrow". Of course all of our tomorrows will be based on the customer and they only exist outside of our organization. Every process and every project we undertake needs to be able to flex and adapt so as to ensure that they are finely tuned to deliver excellence for the customer. By delivering on our promise of excellence to our customers we will find that our costs are kept lower and that are revenues will rise faster.

These things can only be achieved if we are willing and able to continually challenge the current business practices and models and very rules by which we operate, this constant challenging is required if we truly believe that we can and will be world class, not just telling people that we are world class.

These ideals when taken together require us to change our culture, to a culture of change! Although they are driven from the executive suite and reinforced by the actions of business leaders, it is at the management and operational level that we actually need to make the changes that will make the difference. This requires us to provide suitable training and then coach our teams in how they can consistently deliver success. Nobody suggests that the path is easy, it requires persistence and commitment, but building a track record of small quick wins can help us to build credibility. Not all of the benefits we deliver can be seen as hard or concrete benefits, many are of a more softer nature, but even these can and should be quantified as they are very often the most useful ones, especially we are to engineer for constant improvement, and will be in many ways critical to the long term survival of our organizations.

In order to increase our chances of success there are a number of key things that we need to remember. First and foremost it is fundamentally about the customer and becoming even more customer centric, without them we will have no business and it is the delivery of successful customer outcomes that is the ultimate measure of both our corporate and process success.

Skilled Communicators

In addition to the attitude and behavior changes more important might be our skills as and ability to train others as great communicators that will really define how good we can become as organizations.

The great thing about teaching people real communication is that by doing so we are equipping them with skills for the whole of life. Every day in every way we are communicating, we are even communicating when we don't communicate! So the more we understand about what we are doing and saying and how we affect the people around us then the better we will all be.

Something to remember is that one size definitely does not fit all when it comes to communications, food for thought it is frequently stated that only 7% of our message is delivered through the words we use, 38% is delivered according to our tones and tonality and a whopping 55% is delivered through our physiology. So if we are avoiding sitting down with people in either meetings or workshops, then we are giving up on 55% of communication and limiting ourselves to only getting at most 45% of what is possible. Even if these statistics were out, there is still a good chance that words alone word still command only a relatively small percentage. When deciding on the means and manner of communication it is worth remembering that the meaning of communication is the reaction we get.

Putting all this together we realize that it is our ability or inability to communicate that not only decides how successful we will be, but also how successful those around us can be, we could be holding them back instead of helping them forward. These comments on communication serve as a nice reminder that as managers we need to learn to be leaders and to fire up our teams, point them in the right direction and then get out of the way and let them get on with it.

Additional observations

Sometimes we have to remember that Human Interactions is about just that; interactions between human beings!

One amusing comment was over the use of the term BPR, it was suggested that if people kept talking about it then they were still living in the ark, in fact many presenters talked about it, looked pretty human and did not look like they came off an ark, so I decided to have some fun with the "R" in BPR and use the "R" to describe the stages of a BPM process so first we have Realisation – we have a problem, then we have Revelation – analysis reveals the current state and the problems then we have a choice either Redesign or Rengineer the process, before we implement and test the Results to ensure the desired effect then Record and Remind to monitor and constantly improve. The point being it is not about the letters BPR or BPM or BPA or any of them, it is what we mean by it and what we do about it that will dictate our likely success.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

BPM Without Technology

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To many the idea of Business process Management (BPM) without technology is considered heresy, after all most of the marketing dollars that are spent promoting BPM are spent by the software vendors themselves. It is however something that I believe in passionately, the mantra upon which my work is based is that "People performing processes produce profit" – I am sorry but I do not subscribe to the school of thought that suggests that IT is the business or that IT should be driving the business.

Unlike many who preach or teach in the area of BPM, I have held executive positions in the areas of sales, marketing and product development, as well as sitting in the CEO chair, and I can tell you that in every one of those roles it was people and process that made the difference. Sure, technology was helpful, but it was not the business. In every one of those roles I was interested in how technology could assist people or help with process, but I was never willing to accede the way my business was to run to a computer. Fundamentally I believe that as a business owner it is my business and therefore any technology should be seen as a supporting infrastructure, albeit one that might enable me to do things I had never previously thought possible or that could help me enter new markets and serve new types of customers.

It is worth reminding people that me "BPM is a management philosophy for doing business differently, for producing extraordinary results, through innovation and creativity, aimed at serving the customer better and empowering people – this may then be supported by appropriate technology.". So when I hear people discussing how to use technology to get rid of people, or talking of Human Interaction Management (HIM) when they actually mean Human to Computer System Interaction, it actually makes my blood boil – who are these technologists to tell me how to run my business or to twist every business concept into an IT one?

One only has to look at organizations such as FedEx, SouthWest Airlines, General Electric and Wal-Mart to see that the very essence of their success has come through people and process, sure technology has helped, but it was not the essence. So when considering BPM, why focus on the detail of technology, when instead you can focus on the essence. In doing so you can create increased value for the business, ensure your customers are happier, and that staff morale is boosted – all of which seem, to my mind, to be the things that executives really do care about. Then when these things are taken care of, you can see what technology can do to help support the processes and people and make them even better.

So how to actually realize some of these benefits using BPM without technology. The approach used in my classes makes use of good old fashioned brown paper and post it notes, the approach that is taught is how to run a two or three day workshop where the users of the process map it for themselves and then analyze the process and present the actions they would like to carry out to improve the process. The role of the process or business analyst is merely that of a facilitator. When using these techniques with technology people you can imagine the resistance one gets from them. But for the most part they all list two particular obstacles they find in their daily work a) that they find people resistant to change and b) that people won't do as they are told. Funny that those same people who raise this also agree that they don't like being told what to do and they are resisting the very change we are working with J So the smart ones have an aha moment when they realize that if they don't like it then they can't expect others too.

It is an approach I have been using and teaching for some time now, but it was only last year after conversations with my good friend Dick Hilbert that I came to understand that the approach is very similar to the GE Work-Out approach. Something which Dick tells me is probably responsible for more savings and improvements at GE than any of the other fashion approaches which we all come to talk about when discussing GE, e.g. Six Sigma. Dick suggests that is the simplicity of having people at the sharp end focus on eliminating waste in a process that allows those doing things like Six Sigma to really hold on to the gains.

Indeed from my own perspective I have seen clients saving millions of pounds as a result of running these three day workshops, and they are just so easy to do. The benefits are nicely summed up by perhaps one of the techiest in the world, Bill Gates, when he said "a lousy process will consume 10 times as much work as the work itself." - So why wouldn't one want to make sure that the process was effective and remove waste before one even considers technology? Especially when the process itself leverages one of our key assets, our people.

So back to my original premise, if Business Process management is all about Managing our Business better and if we believe that processes are the key to how we actually do what we do, then technology is not a pre-requisite. It is merely a supporting act. Yes, we can document processes with it, best done after the initial improvement, it is far cheaper to capture what you will be doing than what you were doing. Yes, we can automate the process, but again let's automate the value, not the waste and finally the workshop approach links purpose, strategy, people and processes together to produce a more effective system – as opposed to focusing down at too lower level of detail.

I am certain that if more people approached the problem this way then they would find it much easier to engage with and become the credible partners for change of the business owners themselves.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Customer Age Thinking – Changing the face of Public Service

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In many countries, the phrase public service is considered something of an anachronism. At all levels of government and government led services, customers perceive that overall they get a raw deal when compared to the levels of service they now regularly expect from privately held organizations. In this article we will explore how Customer Age thinking and the concepts of Successful Customer Outcomes and Next Practice are helping to change that perception and lead to increased efficiency in public services around the globe.

With regard to the issues of local, regional, or national government we firstly need to remember that in a democracy government is of the people, by the people, with the will of the people. As governments increasingly raise taxes and start to play a more active role in the everyday lives of people there is a real risk that if they do not focus on their "customer" and what the customer wants, that they might lose that will. So for government departments at all levels there needs to be very clear on who the customer is and what they want. In this they are no different from a private enterprise, customers do not care about your internal bureaucracy or your policies and procedures, they do care about being able to access your services in an efficient manner and know that they are being cared for.

Nobody is suggesting for one moment that you can please everybody. But if those that you are not pleasing are displeased through poor service or overly complicated procedures and policies then they have in most cases good cause to complain. Indeed, employees in the public sector would do well to remember that it is their tax money that is being potentially wasted too!

Many people might feel that government and public sector is "different" and that the same rules cannot apply. To a small extent this may be right, but in the majority of cases fresh thinking can still lead to increased service and efficiency.

Take the case of a police force. While recently working with a regional police department the point was raised, that they are a very different business, and unlike anything in the private sector. This is typical of the inside out thinking that tends to occur in public service. It we look at it from the outside in, the police force could be considered rather like an insurance company. The parallel is quite a simple one. With insurance we pay a monthly or annual premium to a company on the promise that if something goes wrong we can contact them and they will sort it out – cars, home, or life. So in the case of the police we pay taxes each month (our premium) so that if something goes wrong we can contact them and they will send someone to help us – surely this is just the same, from the customer point of view, as the insurance scenario? The same also of course can be said of the fire and ambulance services. Why then can such services not look at what insurance companies are doing in order to improve service and responsiveness?

As a side issue in another discussion with a different police service the issue of customer became apparent in a different way. In this force they felt that the way they had been organized was to ensure that they provided the best service to their customer, it was just that in their case they saw the criminal as the customer, not the victim! So when identifying your customer you do need to be clear on your purpose in order that you are serving the right customers.

The example of the emergency services given here is a good example of how "Next Practice" can be applied in the public service and how in looking for new and innovative ways to improve service and increase efficiency the public sector can benefit from looking at how the very best people are handling that situation, regardless of geography or industry sector.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

India’s TATA: Effective BPM and True "Next Practice" in Action

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Regular readers, training course and conference delegates who know me, know that I work with a much wider definition of BPM than many. They know that for me BPM is interpreted as Business Process Management and the definition I work with is as follows:-

"Business Process Management (BPM) is first and foremost a management discipline. It is about helping to deliver extraordinary results, through Innovation. This is achieved by being creative while focusing on successful customer outcomes, and communicating your strategy honestly to your staff and customers. This approach can be well Supported by new BPMS type technology, where appropriate."

To this end I am always on the lookout for great stories about companies who have made changes that have resulted in massive disruptions' in their marketplace. Of course such major disruption usually only occurs when organizations break the fundamental rules of their industry and rearrange the way they work, resulting in completely new business models.

To my mind one of the best and worst examples of this is the Ford Motor company. When in 1908 Henry Ford started shipping the Model T he forever changed the automobile landscape, or did he? Henry made it clear that his objective "I will build a motorcar for the great multitude." Meant that things had to change, it was never going to be possible to build and sell a car for the masses based on the old way of producing cars, he had to create new ways of building cars. More to the point he had worked out who his customers were, what they wanted and how much they might be willing to spend, he then set out to achieve that, while at the same time making money. When the final Model T rolled off the production line in 1927 over 10 million vehicles had been built and sold. To give an idea of just how disruptive the Ford approach was, in 1914, 13,000 workers at Ford made 260,720 cars. By comparison, in the rest of the industry, it took 66,350 workers to make 286,770!

However, just as this thinking led to the rise of the Ford Motor company, then surely it could also see the demise of the company. Even in Henry's lifetime and under his leadership the company has struggled to deal with change, fundamentally it has forgotten what the "secret sauce" was that built them up from nowhere. Of course Ford are not alone, most western car companies to the best of my knowledge are still building cars the same way as Ford did in 1908, so 100 years later we are still producing cars for the masses of 1908! Sure the Japanese and the Koreans have shown us how we can do the "faster, cheaper, better" dance, but in essence the formula for success seems to have been lost, until now!

It is my belief that just as the Model T Ford had a radical impact on the way cars were built and priced in 1908, the TATA Motors with the introduction of the "Nano" on 2008, could well have the same profound effect. Ratan Tata, chairman said at the launch "I hope this changes the way people travel in rural India. We are a country of a billion and most are denied connectivity. This is a car that is affordable and provides all-weather transport for the family." – Gosh, the idea of looking at mass market denied the opportunity of having cars because of the restrictive costs associated with the current offerings; I bet Henry Ford is smiling in his grave. It does not matter what the critics say the fact is that nobody else in the world is able to sell a car for 100,000 rupees (£1,300) and make a profit. But, I wonder how long it is before others have their own offerings.

The impact will eventually I am sure be felt all over the world, due you think that Bosch who developed a completely new low cost fuel injection system for this car won't be looking to use that same technology when selling against their competitors to other manufacturers?

Could we yet see £10,000 Land Rovers or £15,000 Jaguars? (For those that have not noticed, despite the protestations of some US dealers apparently concerned that brand would be devalued, it is looking increasingly likely that TATA will complete the acquisition of these two British marques in the near future).

As an aside TATA are not the only Indian car company to be making big inroads, while the Land Rover dealers were busy complaining to Ford about an Indian owner, elsewhere in the USA Mahindra Mahindra were finding that a whole new dealer network was willing to invest millions in setting the company up in the USA, if my understanding is right they already presold the 500,000 vehicles they were looking to sell into the US market – Just another example of consumers voting as they know best – with their wallets!

There is no doubt in my mind that this is an example of true BPM success, of course we will have to wait and see whether TATA will remember to keep using the special sauce and avoid going the same way as their friends in Detroit.

P.S. TATA If you are reading this then I would love to test drive one on my next trip to India :-)

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

The Three M’s of BPM

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It used to be quite simple, we used to have and do BPM right? Then of course we learned that we did not do BPM but instead BPM, now owe are being told that it is not BPM or indeed BPM that we need to worry about but instead BPM – confused? Well I certainly am!

So let's rewind a little bit, in the beginning BPM was used as the acronym to refer to Business Process Modeling, then software vendors decided to change the landscape, those without modeling capability but wanting to muscle in on the Business Process act decided that they would offer and market Business Process Management solutions as a way to sell their execution approach to the market whilst still being able to claim they were involved with BPM.

Now we see that another class of vendor who feel threatened by the mind share that these execution companies are garnering feel that it is time to change the game again! They have decided that they to want to play in the BPM space but have neither the modeling capability of the initial players nor the agile execution engines of the second tier – so their answer, simple! Just persuade the world that what they need is Business Performance Management, thus meaning that they can differentiate their offering but still ride on the mind share for BPM built by the previous two groups.

The end result of all this, total and utter confusion! How on earth can three so different solutions, each to different problems, all claim to be BPM solutions? All that can be achieved is confusion in the marketplace and in the end a lack of credibility for the BPM acronym. For vendors in the latest group this serves their purpose well. They are nearly all very large players with a very definite agenda, to strangle at birth any potential threats to their monopolistic positioning and to ensure they can continue their cozy long term relationships with their customers.

If we step back a little and look at the propositions we can see that there are of course merits in all of the approaches and solutions, it is merely that they address different issues or problems faced by the modern organization.

Firstly, BPM as in modeling, you can't manage what you can't measure and you can't measure what you can't see. So it makes sense that before doing anything else you need to capture the information on what processes you perform, how they are carried out and who performs them. Such knowledge is crucial if you want to manage or measure around process, furthermore it is critical if you want to make changes, or assess the impact of change. Due to the complexity of modern organizations this involves more than just sketching out a few pictures in a drawing tool. It requires powerful modeling capabilities with cross linking of people, process, data, locations and resources. It is exactly for this type of understanding and analysis that Business Process Modeling as a paradigm was born.

Secondly, BPM as in Management, in the second wave of BPM the emphasis was on delivering the ability to simply manage their business by enabling business people to "re-route" or alter processes "on the fly" thereby creating highly flexible organizations that could move into new markets or reorganize by simply pushing a few buttons. These second wave vendors in the main suggested that the modeling of the first wave was over complicated and unnecessary and instead provide simplistic process visualization techniques. Now such vendors have "grown up" and realized that having nothing more than visual representation of software processes is not enough and many are starting to either provide more powerful modeling capabilities or partnering with vendors from the first wave to provide more complete solutions.

All is far from perfect in this world of course as the second wave vendors are still in the main trying to find ways of implementing software systems rather than actually enabling you to address both the automatable and the non-automatable aspects of your organization. They also still do not assist in helping you deal with the people or cultural aspects of change which form a major part of any initiative to manage your business around processes.

Thirdly, BPM as in Performance, yes in the third wave we leave the "M" for management and instead change the "P" from Process to performance. Why? Well, a quick look at the vendors espousing the technique shows they are more into package solutions and business intelligence than process, so it makes sense for them. Putting this to one side what they are really suggesting is the third "M" is key, Measurement. From that perspective some of what they say makes sense, if we have modeled our business processes and have decided that we wish to manage our organization by use of them, then, of course we need to be able to define performance metrics and then manage our performance against them.

So in the end the concept of Model, Measure and Manage makes perfect sense. The problem lies with multiple vendors with multiple solutions all trying to market and sell under the single banner of BPM. Of course a cynic might argue that what they are all doing is recognizing that Business Process Management is the right way for companies to organize and run themselves and that each of their offerings provide an incomplete solution to the problem. For it is certain that if a client could purchase a solution that enabled them to capture and model all aspects of their enterprise define metrics and have those populated and updated in real time, whilst enabling them to run simulations of change before implementing them either by people or where applicable by automation and could then view a digital dashboard that allowed them to monitor the key aspects of their company, whilst communicating all this with their staff, they would buy one! But for now at least, in order to get such a solution they will need to assemble a number of tools from different vendors, each of whom is likely to make exaggerated claims over the level of functionality they provide in their non-core area.

Note: This article first appeared on Mark McGregor's series of articles on