You cannot teach BPM, you have to experience it first to understand it


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This one is a remnant from last year which occasionally crops up at the back of my mind every now and then when I receive the odd spam email offering me a fantastic opportunity to be BPM certified.

The crux of the argument is always down to the same thing: Business Process Management is more than simply continuous improvement and therefore selling certified courses that stop short at that point is not BPM in my mind, it’s just BPR. Six Sigma and Lean are not BPM, they are continuous improvement methodologies. As such they have an established methodology and framework to assess competency against. Google for Six Sigma training for example and you’ll find they’re all much of a muchness, based on the same material and assessed in the same way (apart from the dodgy Black-Belt-by-Multiple-Choice websites). Same goes for Lean. Google for BPM training and it’s an entirely different story because there is no such thing as an established methodology or practice.

The ABPMP is the closest thing we have as an educational model for practitioners through it’s BPM BOK and it needs supporting. However, consider this press statement:

“Many people confuse BPM with process improvement efforts such as Six Sigma,” comments Mark Treat, ABPMP’s Vice President of Education.  “BPM contains process improvement methodologies, but is much more.  As BPM practitioners we view Six Sigma, Lean, and other similar methodologies as individual tools in a larger tool box, each appropriate for some things, inappropriate for others.  BPM is a much broader, more comprehensive approach to process management.”  

The last sentence kind of undermines the whole paragraph. “BPM is a much broader, more comprehensive approach to process management” ? BPM IS Process Management. Thankfully as part of the certification process they have introduced an experiential element (4 years with documented evidence and references) and this is absolutely key in understanding BPM as a whole, not just the parts. BPM is different for every organisation that intends to embark on that journey, and as such that discovery cannot be taught outright it has to be lived through. And because it’s more than improvement the outcomes will be different too.

Oh sure, you can mumble on about BPM frameworks and such like but they’re perspectives and very much dependent on the industry, a BPM framework for Financial Services will mean nothing to a Manufacturer for example. Continuous improvement however is different because it’s goal-oriented and very definitive (definitive in the sense that it has a cycle, it might roll on and on but goal is the same). BPM is an ongoing adventure.

Personally I’d like to call on the practitioner community to start to embrace, recognise or at least support the ABPMP educational programme as something which puts a firm stake in the ground. Whether you feel you need it or not (depending on your own years of experience) it’s a step in the right direction for a foundation for others and spreading the word might get some standardisation in the messages we use every day.

And it might also distinguish BPM finally from those who train only in simple improvement techniques under the BPM banner.

Footnote: I am not affiliated with the ABPMP, in fact I’m a lapsed member but it doesn’t stop me from forming an opinion 😉

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Theo Priestley
Theo Priestley is Vice President and Chief Evangelist at Software AG, responsible for enabling the marketing and voice of the industry's leading Business Process, Big Data/ In-Memory/ Complex Event Processing, Integration and Transaction suite of platforms. Theo writes for several technology and business related sites including his own successful blog IT Redux. When he isn't evangelizing he's playing videogames, collecting comics and takes the odd photo now and then. Theo was previously an independent industry analyst and successful enterprise transformation consultant.


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