Want to make a difference? Get out of the weeds! Part II

Dan Morris

Today, most of the efforts are often small but they don’t need to be. However, all are vital in removing problems that clog up the workflow and hurt the quality of products. They are important and must be continued. Their real value is that they remove the clogs in the process flow. As such they are vital to keeping the company running smoothly. They provide real value, but may not provide much benefit.
My point here is that these smaller projects should not be the only type of projects that are supported by the BPM group in any company’s quest for cost management or quality improvement. Clearly, as important as these smaller projects are, they will not provide the level of change needed for a business to remain competitive in the future. Preparing for this level of rapid support requires experience with larger, more complex projects, and a focus on business operating optimization.
I recommend that you look at your BPM project portfolio from the perspective of your role evolution. Does your project backlog contain a fair share of larger, high value projects? If not, BPM is living in the small improvement weeds. I also suggest you look at the way larger projects are run. Are these projects really IT projects or business projects? Are they run by IT or business managers? Is there a business focused BPM group or is the BPM group really a technical group focused on the use of a BPMS – the traditional relationship between IT and business, just with a new BPMS tool set?
I also suggest that you look closely at the benefit (bottom line cost reduction) and value (improve the ability of the company to successfully compete) that have been and are being delivered. Are either measured at the end of projects? Is there a usability evaluation conducted with the business area managers and staff? Is there any concern for customer experiences as they interact with the new business operation? Does anyone ask if this change really helps the business be successful? Did the change really make a difference? How are each of these defined, or are they defined at all?
I find that these questions are seldom asked at the end of a project. I also find that more often than not, benefit and value are not formally measured and it is difficult to determine success because it is not formally defined at the start of the project. By the way, success is not the delivery of all the requirements on the requirement checklist. The reason is that any requirement can be delivered through a zillion different ways to change the business. Many of these changes to the operation can be beneficial, but some can be harmful. I call these harmful projects "technical successes, but business failures". The problem here is that they are common.
As noted above, you can never afford to get totally out of the small project weeds. They do provide benefit, and cumulatively they do provide value. However BPM groups also need to pay attention to the long term viability of the group and the strategy that is needed to expand their presence and value to the company. This begins with open discussions with senior management on the role they envision for business transformation and how they think the activity will change over time. If their vision is weeds level work, a strategy of selling business transformation to the company will need to be a foundation activity in moving forward.
Business transformation and it’s supporting BPM and BPMS foundation has the ability to significantly change how business is approached and supported. BPMS enabled BPM has the potential to be the game changer that we have looked for.
An extra dimension to the BPM group’s operation
Today many BPM groups operate in a reactionary mode – they react to project requests and focus solely on providing immediate support. This is not surprising since this is how and why the BPM group came into existence in the first place — to focus on a specific improvement. But I find that few have taken the time to consider what the group could do or how it should evolve in the company to take on the role that is going to be necessary for the company’s success. And I am not aware of a BPM group that manages its evolution according to a strategy that will allow it to increase its value and importance in the company. I submit that this is a missed opportunity.
It is important for the BPM group managers to take on a more strategic role and create a vision of the BPM group’s service in the future and the value that it will bring to the company. Then define why that is necessary and how that vision will be made reality.
This addition of strategic thinking to the daily tactical focus of most BPM groups represents an additional dimension to the way a manager looks at BPM and the BPM group. However, until this more strategic view is added, it will be impossible for the group to evolve to fill the need that is coming or create the foundation needed to support rapid change. Being able to shift to a more strategic view requires an internal strategy of its own to build a record of providing value as well as cultivating relationships that can help support an expanding role. Sadly, in some cases it may prove impossible to move to a more strategic role unless the culture of the company itself changes. If you are a key executive, are you supporting a path that will lead to a more flexible and more competitive business by supporting this move to a more strategic BPM group?
To read the first part of Dan Morris' blog, click here.