Everything you have heard to date about Business Process Management is wrong, says Lombardi president Phil Gilbert. BPM is not about SOA, or BRM, in fact, it is not about a technology at all! It's about reclaiming the business by the business and for the business; a business that's been stolen by technologists over the past 40 years.
Before computers, business processes were owned by business people. For example, processes, and the data that powered those processes - from accounts payable to product development - were all owned by the business. With the introduction of computers, all of the information that drives processes became lines of code or bits in a file, held hostage by IT. With the proliferation of IT, there can now be multiple references to one given document such as an individual invoice when previously there was only a single paper document. This complexity has meant that IT became the focus, not the process that it should have been serving. Business process management is not a new tool to "align business and IT"; instead it is about business taking control of its technology assets so that it can participate in the creation, change and management of its processes. The major transformation that is now starting to be seen across companies around the world is that business people are actually becoming empowered to understand and constantly improve their own processes.
To achieve this requires every person to develop a direct connection to every process and all the assets that that process moves around. But people don't do processes, they do tasks. Implementing an effective business process management strategy therefore requires you to connect those tasks to the process activities, and by extension to the processes, so that each individual can understand how they contribute to the mission of the organiszation. This connection of what a person does to the outcome the organisation achieves in the marketplace has been lost due to IT. BPM can bring that back.
How do we do this? Over the next twenty-five years, social technologies will play an increasingly important role in the enterprise. Bringing BPM to every desktop and into every business person's hand will require new ways to collaborate - in structured forms - around their tasks, and will give that insight into how that task fulfils an important element of the company's mission. Social technologies have the potential to give individuals that and in doing so will drive increased productivity. For the first time, such technologies present an opportunity to connect individuals to encourage faster business improvement, in structured ways, in real-time. Microsoft Access, Lotus Notes, and, today, Sharepoint have created multiple databases and only increase confusion.
Real BPM seeks to align rationalised data around disparate processes, and using social technologies to tie all that together in ways that real folk can understand. Unlike the old fashioned paper-based suggestion box where the idea might be looked at in a week, a month or perhaps a year's time and the idea might be acted on eventually. The social technologies enable the user to know how many suggested improvements there are, when they were submitted, which ones have been implemented and what the impact of acting on the suggestions has been.
If you're thinking about BPM, don't get fooled about rules or "automation" or any other technology buzzword. BPM is about reasserting ownership of the company's assets. It's a battle worthy of being fought, and over the next decade will determine the best companies in the world.
About the author:
Phil Gilbert is Lombardi’s President and oversees the operational responsibility of its Global Business Solutions group. He was formerly Lombardi’s executive vice president of products and CTO
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