Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Absorbing the BIG Elephant. Part 2

This is the part with most fun (at least from out-side); absorbing the processes. To be honest after working almost 20 years in the ICT world – I’m sometimes really shocked about the fact that companies doesn’t know how they are working inside. I’m not talking here about the higher management who thinks to know how their company is working, but about the people on the floor.As most companies are a sum of departments or teams, which are all working within their own safety zone, they just know what’s happening in front of their face. Take a sample: (again I’m still surprised about the number of companies who are using paper and paper-based flows to do by example a holiday request or expense note claiming) somebody request holidays on a paper form, this paper form is then dropped in the tray of their department/team manager. If you’re lucky you have a good relationship with your manager and you tell him also about your holiday request, otherwise if you’re one of the black-sheep’s in the team … it could disappear also … but this time in the paper bin. My point here is: processes are not stopped when you don’t see them or when a task is not your responsibility.Let’s go back to our BIG Elephant and take a high level overview of the process part. If we analyze the potential issue to absorb this big and very important piece, we can define some important potentials pitfalls here:

1. Missing the total overview of the process – across teams/departments. In fact we have to start here from the big end-to-end business process and slices this back down in smaller pieces.
2. Everybody looks at their own important part – not on what’s happend before or what’s coming after. So you should know the consequences of what you’re doing, and how it can influence the next step.
3. Hiding Actors or non-visible influencers. What or who can influence the execution of a process? In which way? What can be the consequences of it? As we are all dealing with people, customers and suppliers, we all know that real live/business isn’t going like we want it. A truck load with supplies and involved in a road accident, can lead to a big test of your exception handling or procedures.

It’s important to know your processes exactly, in the way they are running in real business and map them one-on-one to the execution. Having 25 binders with an outdate process documentation in a nice cabinet makes really no sense at all. Some companies are spending 3-5 men years in describing their business process using nice tools or standards like UML. It’s like carrying water to the sea!At the other side one of the main reasons why BPM-Related projects are failing, is the leak on knowledge of their processes or when you try to discover and improve them at the same time. Look back to our BIG Elephant, which is holding 3 big pieces; people, processes and information. Absorbing the process piece via discovering and improvement of your process will not work, as you may not forget your people slice. Improvement of changes means adaption of these improvements in the organization. If you want to absorb them at the same time, then do it in small controllable items: Think Big, Start Small!To be continued …

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Absorbing the BIG Elephant. Part 1

Companies who are looking to start with BPM and searching for BPMS in order to help them, are most of the time finding the BIG Elephant on their way. Almost all BPMS Vendors are receiving the big question; how do we get started with BPMS and how will our organization absorb this? (The Big Elephant is not they nice looking animal call elephant – but the visual expression of a big project – for which you don’t know in the 1st view how you can oversee it).
If we want to eat our BIG Elephant, then we have to look how we can slice it in smaller absorbable pieces. So if we apply this to a BPM-Project, we will mainly have 3 big pieces or elements: People, Process and Information.
Let’s focus on people for now. This will raise the most important question: what’s the impact of this project on people and how will their daily work be affected by this?
You probably discovered already that the biggest problem on absorbing our piece called ‘People’ will raise a lot of issue and resistance from them. By nature people are not very open to changes and will try in some situations everything to avoid it. (Adoption failure is probably the number 1 reasons why a project fails at the end). So we have to focus on how we bring changes to them and show them the benefit. In some cultures and companies they spend a lot of time and effort, in order to learn people handling changes (Japans cultures are very focused on ‘Kaizen’ – a methodology to guide changes in an organization)
Somewhere in their mind a question is coming up: ‘What’s in it for me?’ or ‘Will I lose my job?’
Let’s look what an organization can do on this and make sure that they have the ‘People Slice of our Big Elephant’ under control.
· Build a strong visible business case
· Build a strong executive sponsorship
· Build a team of change agents, which are guiding and messaging the changes across the organization
· Create a clear vision and roadmap
· Show business and user benefits
· Communication, communication and once more communication! But it their own language.
· Empower people and share responsibility
· Start small, think big and scale fast!
· Improve continuously, based on lesions learned

Part 2: Processes ... coming soon

Thursday, October 16, 2008

BPM ≠ Workflow

As I’m daily working with partners, customers and prospects around BPM and workflow, it seems for most of the people not to be clear what the difference is. Most people think BPM and Workflow are the same and therefore they are comparing apples with peers and lemons. Workflow has to be seen as a sub-set within a BPM, in other words a BPM Process is build of several workflows and is putting the whole management, control/monitoring on top of this. BPM is looking at the real business process, by example a sales order process, which is containing several workflows.
At the other side BPM is not about technology, or drawing just nice process diagrams or having a nice underlying SOA-Implementation, but it’s about driving Business Agility!
And this is where the problems are starting with purely workflow solutions. They are looking from a technical point of view, in sometime situation these solutions are nothing more than code compilers (converting nice graphics into code/assemblies). And are not allowing the business users to have more control over their business processes or allow them to dynamically change the execution path of the processes. BPM will allow you also to create a higher transparency over your processes, streamline them and of course optimize them.
The success of Microsoft MOSS/SharePoint and its underlying Windows Workflow Foundation is not making it easier for people. MOSS and WF are great for what they are made and are intended to be used for, but at the other hand it’s dangerous as it can make a wrong impression or understanding to the outside world.

Bad products don’t exist any more, as long you use them for what they are made for.
Ever saw a plane sailing or a vessel taking off from the run-way?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

SOA for ICT-People, BPM for Business

I found today a great article from Prof. D. Deschoolmeester from the BPM Research Centre at Vlerick Management School (Gent – Belgium). Prof .D Deschoolmeester is stating also that BPM is not equal to SOA or vice versa, and that each aspect has to be signed on the right level and be used by the right audience. SOA is a great approach if you want to support the business, which are looking for dynamic and hybrid business solutions.
BPM has to enable the business again to take control over their processes and allow them in first phase to know how their business is running! Today a lot of the business processes are hiding inside monolithic and robust ERP-Solutions, and this is now creating a problem in this dynamic world. How can you align quickly the market situation or re-align a sales process, if it’s wrapped in a black box?

Some food to think about it!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Surving the technical SOA-World

I'm today at the SOA Symposium in Amsterdam and very surprised about the technical and high levels almost magical language they are using. For most of the people here SOA is a technical instrument only, which they want to keep far away from the business people. (Managers don’t understand IT)
However if I remember correctly IT is there to support the business, meaning without business you don't need IT stuff.
I fully agree with the mean vision of SOA, but it still believes that it should be aligned to the business need. In this very hectically and under high economic pressure situation, companies are looking for solutions that can quickly adapted to changing business or market needs.
SOA and BPM can be used to SUPPORT the business, DECREASE the total cost of IT development and platforms, but not to make this more complicate or keep the business people stupid.
Remember without business, nobody needs IT !

Wednesday, February 28, 2007


As the interest into BPM is growing quickly these days, the new buzz-words and notification language is becoming hot topic. As the market is trying to push BPMN as business process modeling language, I’m wondering if this not again will lead towards to technical focused orientation of BPM.
The goal of real BPM is to enable business people, to have again control over their processes and not only from a documentation point of view, but also from real execution. Would it not be great that the designed business process model is directly understood by the BPM-engine and can be executed without any code translation? This would give all business users a real view of the business process status and will allow them to react if needed.
What will happen if we force people to use BPMN? Do we have to teach everybody this notation language? I believe this will scare of some people and make it more complicated than needed. Where is the pragmatically and no-nonsense approach?
BPM Notification should be understandable and readable by business users, and make sense to their environment or way of working. Everybody knows that one picture is saying more than one thousand words, so use self explanation notification.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Following Gartner BPM Summit from home side

I'm trying to follow the Gartner BPM Summit via my colleagues in the US and by reading several blogs about this BPM Event. (Like Sandy's Column or BPMS Watch From Bruce).

Quoting Bruce Blow:

Hayward and Janelle Hill both make a big deal of the idea that BPM has to make the process “explicit” but leave activities decoupled from their actual implementation. Explicit here is kind of a code word. I think it means fully defined at the logical level, i.e. almost executable. They also say that BPM must empower the business side (not IT) to make changes to the (executable) process model. They make this sound like reality, even though it is a vision (one that I support)… rarely fulfilled by actual products.

Well for the first time in my live I have the feeling to by at the right side of the table. The last few years I have spend a lot of time to learn more about BPM and the impact on the business. As I have also a technical ICT background (for more than 17 years; starting in IBM-world and moving afterwards to the Microsoft world). The last years it has become clear to me that the current way of handling projects by IT, was not about serving the business from a statically point, but sometimes from 'I known better then you' approach.

The economic pressure of the last years and the need to become a dynamic and flexible organization to serve their domination customers is becoming a nightmare for some IT-people and business owners.

And this brings me back to the quote of Bruce and the vision of Gartner. BPM seems today the only way to serve this dynamic and flexible business model. BPM should empower the business by having dynamic process models which can be adapted to the business needs, without leaning back on IT.

I’m glad to work for a BPM-Solution provider called Ascentn, via established over the last year a real BPM-solution which is serving this model for at least 100% ! As I’m involved in dealing with Partners and (potential) customers, I can clearly state that this vision is not yet fully spread. This brings us to the never ending discussion between the definition of workflows and BPM-Solutions, the coding solutions by IT or giving back control to the business.

However I have to admit that some visionars in some larger companies are seeing the light, and are looking for the nicely described solutions by Gartner.

Ascentn’s AgilePoint solutions is leveraging today the IT knowledge and expertise (about integration) towards the business users, and give them back control.

To be continued….