The Future of Business Process Management


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I have just returned from an enjoyable three days workshopping, chairing and presenting at the IIR Telecoms Business Process Management conference in Prague. It was a great opportunity to exchange ideas with some of the best process management people in business: the companies they represent are responsible for literally billions in annual corporate turnover.

It was the third time I have attended the conference. It is interesting to see how Business Process Management has evolved over the past three years and where it is evolving to.

Many of the speakers talked about the same few themes during the conference:

  • Fast, Agile, Results-driven BPR – When Business Process Reengineering (BPR) started in the early 90s, it quickly got swept up into the world of big projects, long time-spans and far too often, economic value destruction. Some estimate that as many as 75% of BPR projects failed to create value. But BPR has reengineered itself. The new BPM is fast, agile and results-driven. Projects that would have taken a year in the past are new delivered in 100 days. They are run almost as startup companies on a shoestring budget. They are piloted early to learn through doing. And they deliver results quickly.
  • Capabilities, Not Just Processes or Systems – One of the key reasons BPR failed in the past was the over-emphasis on processes and particularly, on systems. Put in SAP or some other all-encompassing system and all your problems are solved was the mantra. How wrong we were. The new BPM recognises that businesses are made out of value-creating capabilities comprised of a mixture of processes, business rules, supporting systems, information flows, work climates, organisational structures, and other assets and resources. And that building out all the components of the capability are required if it is to deliver any kind of value. One speaker told me that he wouldn’t even talk to BPR consultants who didn’t have a solid understanding of business capabilities. Neither should you.
  • Customer Co-creators – Customers have always played a major role in BPR. Indeed, Michael Hammer in ‘Reengineering the Corporation’, the book that started the BPR revolution, advised to start with customer-facing processes and work back into the organisation. The new BPM not only starts with customer-facing processes but involve customers intimately in the process of reengineering itself. Whether through customer communities, lead-customers or customer advisory boards, customers are now firmly part if the BPR team. Customers are surprisingly willing to play their part, without pay, if they thing it will make doing business easier, quicker and cheaper for them too.
  • Structured Approaches like Lean Six Sigma – Although some don’t like structured approaches like lean and six sigma, they are now firmly in the minority. Speaker after speaker showed how they are using lean to remove non-value-adding waste from processes and six sigma to remove unnecessary variation. And to provide the flexibility required to manage customers during the most complex touchpoints. Indeed, there was a consensus that starting with lean to create customer-centric, efficient and effective processes and then applying six sigma in specific areas with a process variation problems is the best way forward. The new BPM is driven by lean six sigma.
  • Social Collaboration Tools – Traditional BPR produced reams of paper documentation. Documentation that was never read and that quickly became obsolete. The new BPM uses social media like wikis to maintain project documentation and blogs for internal project communication. These tools not only make project management more efficient and more effective, they make it possible for project staff, sponsors and business staff to be kept up to date with project progress and of course, to contribute themselves. And it doesn’t stop there. The same tools can be used to maintain process documentation so that it is always current and always available.
  • Process Automation, Activity Monitoring & Event Detection – Once you have reengineered your processes, they need automating. Today’s BPM tools allow you to automate your business processes, to monitor their health and critical in today’s hyper-competitive business environment, they spot unusual events that need attention. Process automation isn’t for everyone, but if you have many complex processes, large volumes of transaction running through them and customers who can easily switch, you cannot afford not to automate them. And then to monitor them like a hawk.
  • As you can see, it was an exciting three days. I can hardly wait for next year to see how much progress everyone has made since this year’s event. And what tomorrow’s future of BPM looks like.

    What do you think? Is BPM the wave of the future? Or don’t you need to worry as you already ‘did BPR’ years ago?

    Post a comment and get the conversation going.

    Graham Hill
    Independent CRM Consultant
    Interim CRM Manager

    Further Reading:

    IIR Telecoms BPR

    Graham Hill (Dr G)
    Business Troubleshooter | Questioning | Thoughtful | Industrious | Opinions my own | Connect with me on LinkedIn


    1. There was one other common theme I forgot to mention.

      • Continuous Process Beta – Just like websites such as Google or Amazon never stand still, today’s processes are never truly finished either. They are always in beta-test, always being continuously improved and always being adapted as the business evolves to fit changing market conditions. The capabilities approach is critical to continuous beta as it is through changing different components of the organisation’s capabilities that it is able to adapt. And the social collaboration tools allow the changes in capabilities to be instantly made available to everyone oin the organisation. That doesn’t mean that all an organisation’s processes are in continuous beta, just those that directly face the market.

      What do you think the future of BPM looks like?

      Graham Hill
      Independent CRM Consultant
      Interim CRM Manager

    2. Another reason why BPR failed was because managers and workers were reluctant to embrace and adopt reengineering solutions for the fear of losing their jobs, positions or influence in the workplace. Now, another reengineering trend is emerging called Income Reengineering. Income Reengineering principles and processes are the counterbalance to business processes reengineering in that Income reengineering seeks to link worker prosperity to reengineering applications.

    3. Hi Dwight

      Thanks for your comment. It is much appreciated.

      I had a look at your The Reenginering Process blog. Very interesting.

      The challenge in income reengineering is that paradoxically, income should be the least of people’s worries at work. Although income is top of mind in the difficult period after the end of a very deep recession, as things return to some semblance of normality, people will look to other things to motivate them at work.

      As recent research published in HBR’s Breakthrough Ideas for 2010 showed, these things include being able to make progress in the company, collaboration with colleagues and getting support from management. Money and incentives were not one of the top motivators. This raises the tricky questionss: Just how much control do people want over setting their own income (and that of their colleagues)? And are they willing to take the personal consequences if things don’t work out as hoped for?

      Why don’t you write an article or blog post for CustomerThink setting out your ideas on income reengineering and the evidence in support of them. I for one would be interested to read more.

      Graham Hill
      Customer-centric Innovator
      Follow me on Twitter

      Interested in Customer Driven Innovation? Join the Customer Driven Innovation groups on LinkedIn or Facebook to learn more.

    4. That’s pretty interesting… That’s great, I never thought about The Future of Business Process Management like that before.

    5. Interesting… I’ve been long out of touch with those subjects ever since I’ve started working. Since like it’s time to start again. Thank you for sharing.

    6. Hi Graham,

      It’s almost 3 years since you wrote the original blog.

      Do you have an update on the current state of BPM? Is it better now than before? Is it gaining market share?

      Thank you.


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