BPM: The intellectual challenge


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“Business process management is an intellectual challenge, not a technological or financial one”

Hats off to Gartner for creating two major discussions out of one press release.

“Between now and year-end 2014, overlooked but easily detectable business process defects will topple 10 Global 2000 companies.”

Now, that statement doesn’t really deserve all the attention it’s receiving on its own merit as it’s nothing new. I would think that number has been with us all along and – with the benefit of hindsight – can be easily filled with names from [formerly] well-know companies.

What makes this interesting though is what you can read between the lines and that is that business process management is more than design and operations – or rather that process design and operations require management on a continuous basis. I have often mentioned that the way we approach processes creates a false sense of security in our minds: If we can describe what a process should look like or how it is, we tend to believe that this is also the way which it will be in future. Processes are often regarded as stable and therefore reliable because their description leads us to think so.

The other issue is context. Looking at a single process separated from the rest of the process architecture will in many cases lead to the impression that a process can exist on its own. There are of course valid reasons why we tend to get that impression, starting with complexity and going all the way to drawing the lines between your process and ‘theirs’. Nevertheless, for the majority of processes it’s a false impression. During our coaching sessions for process managers we usually ask the participants how and to what extent their areas of process responsibility influence the annual profit and loss sheets of their company. The answer in many cases is ‘indirectly, because there are other processes involved as well’. That statement alone should be enough justification to rethink creating artificial boundaries between processes – only it isn’t. As long as companies refuse to accept that process management begins at the top and doesn’t stop halfway down, everyone currently tasked with some sort of process management responsibility will hide in the safety of their process cocoon.

“General BPM certification will grow in value but will not be materially relevant to BPM hiring decisions before 2015.”

I wish I could disagree but unfortunately I can’t. First of all, what the Gartner analysts seem to postulate is that companies currently have a lack of skills and qualifications. Yes, I couldn’t agree more. So more trainings? Or even BPM certification?

We believe the problem goes deeper. What positions are those certified BPM-educated specialists going to fill? How many companies possess a game-plan for the roles and skill profiles needed to enact and enable the management of business processes? What are those specialists going to do? The same as before? How about responsibility and accountability? Shouldn’t the head of HR start thinking about these things first and then put people through the necessary trainings? I think that we still have a lot of ground to cover before any training programs will lead to anything beneficial. It has to start at the top and work its way down.

The other issue that has me unconvinced is that any form of formal, standardized training runs the danger of being taken for actual ‘qualification’. Knowing the rules of the game and having looked at a football doesn’t make anyone Premiere League material. Trainings are no substitute for experience and that experience will only be gained on the job in the course of time. So we will need career development paths (HR, take note) and a whole host of other things besides trainings.

My worst case scenario is that people will take note of the Gartner report, re-designate all positions as BPM positions, put people through training courses – nothing will have changed. We only become more qualified to fail.

But yes, Gartner have put their finger on some of the problems and judging by the tons of comments and tweets may actually have drawn some attention to them.

(Forgive me for smiling as I write this, but somehow I feel that a lot of our postings on the blog as well as the advice we provide to clients ties in perfectly with the Gartner assessments. Approved by Gartner comes to mind)

Should process quality be an issue you’re interested in, visit the taraneon Process TestLab for more information – yes, we do actually identify those process defects Gartner talks about. :-)

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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