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Stories from the BPM trenches


Blogger: Richard Watson

For the last 2 months, we have been running a contextual research project, our take on in-depth field research on BPM, as I mentioned here.  It is a fascinating learning experience. Turning the tables on us analysts as we hear stories about how your BPM efforts are progressing is very refreshing.  I couldn’t resist picking out some of the great quotes I’ve heard to share them here.

Here is a BPM program manager on the activities needed to constantly evangelise in order to get executive buy-in for the program:

“A combination of endlessly and relentlessly communicating about it and demonstrating benefits wherever we could.”

The methodology for successful outcomes with BPM is changing, from Taylorist micro-automation, to more collaborative, non-linear, and case management usage patterns.  Using BPM infrastructure at the right level to allow smart people do their work, not get in their way, but get visibility into the results, has been a theme of some of the stories, for example:

“A lot of people treat [BPM] like a production line for a car. If you don’t build the car on that production line in the order it needs to go then it’s not going to end up the right color for the car the customer ordered.

But the reality is, for example, you see this a lot in insurance, and especially in underwriting – effectively you are doing a sales process, and you are using very knowledgeable people to do the underwriting. If you try to follow a strict process and enforce it you end up actually being able to handle 85% of the work, but it’s the low value stuff.  What you try to do then is automate the processes around the high value things, where there’s high risk, or huge clients. The moment you try to automate those processes that are really more projects than processes, you end up in big trouble.”

ford production linecase_mgt_folder_1

This also feeds into customer requirements for BPM tools.  BPM Infrastructure that supports these new ways of work will prosper.  

On the platform side things are also getting interesting, from frustration with products lacking cohesion:

“Anything they are calling a suite is just a grab-bag of their last dozen acquisitions.”

Some of the more forward-looking companies are looking for a modular, service oriented architecture to really leverage their existing platform investments:

“The [main] difficultly is to integrate an engine into your platform so you can leverage it. This is something most vendors do not understand…Usually the vendors say, you can import users, import roles, import the organization. Why do you need auditing outside our systems? … In protecting their systems they make integration of the systems so difficult that they don’t get leverage from them. In the current market, the leading systems I’m afraid, are architecturally ill.

We will see a 4th wave of BPM platforms over the next 3-4 years which from the beginning are built for high scalability requirements, support all standards on the market, and different process types. Then you can integrate them fully.  Existing systems do not have a modularity that you need for this.”

I told you we were going to challenge the BPM orthodoxy!  In the coming months, I’ll be writing more about these emerging themes: collaborative and social BPM, a modular service-oriented BPM platform architecture and what it takes to get a program going.

If you have BPM experience to share, I’d still be delighted to hear from you.

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