My 3 Gold Nuggets from Conferences by Wilmer Pereira, Salesforce

By: Wilmer Pereira

Wilmer Pereira is a certified Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt with more than 15 years of experience in process improvement. Currently working as the Senior Manager of Process Innovation for customer success platform Salesforce, Wilmer is leading and managing Operation Excellence project portfolios to accomplish measurable business improvements. Below, he shares his final thoughts on attending OPEX Week 2019.

If you saw my previous blog post, you know that I had a “Eureka!” moment at OPEX Week 2019 when I encountered process mining. I’m kind of a “miner” anyway when it comes to conferences, ready to venture into any cave or conference room with my pickaxe and dig in as part of my burning quest for gold. And new ideas, as we know, are gold.

It sure felt like a gold rush in Orlando in January with all of the operational excellence gurus and colleagues swirling around, hungry to make their time there count.

Even just one or two new ideas can make the investment of attending a conference worth it to me. (I’m not greedy!) More than anything else, I’m looking for that moment of “Oh wow! I didn’t know that!”

Sometimes that inspirational mother lode is hidden inside a small breakout session, or just during lunch while sharing a bite with a newly introduced colleague, which makes me feel especially victorious when I strike the vein. At any rate, once I stumbled upon demos of process mining at OPEX Week, I knew I had something I wanted to share.

Again, check out my March blog post for a full discussion about that precious find.

“Yellow, White, and Rose Gold”: Three Reasons Why I Go to Conferences

The search for new ideas is my No. 1 reason for attending OPEX Week, or any conference for that matter. Show me some reasons to walk away excited and reinvigorated by my field!

There are a couple other reasons why I go to conferences. The second one is so that I can validate my current thinking about my field.

This year’s OPEX Week was no exception to that benefit. What I’d had on my mind coming into the conference was how lean six sigma, agile software development, design thinking, change management, and project management are coming together. I’d been wondering, how can we leverage the best principles/tools from various methodologies to advance problem solving and operational excellence?

I was hoping that my interactions with colleagues at OPEX Week would lend me some validation in my current line of thinking.

I was not disappointed! I found some definite agreement among my peers that these methodologies do complement one another. There is not a perfect method for problem solving, and we should leverage the strengths of each, and mix and match as needed. Let me describe a couple of examples: MVP and rapid prototyping.

MVP … Your “Most Valuable Player”?

What if we took the principle of minimum viable product (MVP), which is part of agile, and applied it to process projects? MVP says that, in developing a product, you want to start with the bare minimum of core features to get it working satisfactorily for the customer. In other words, you want to start small and incrementally because if you fail early on, you fail small, pick up the pieces, and improve from there.

I can see some real value in the transfer of this approach to process. Think “minimum viable process.” If you can break a big process project down into smaller sprints that deliver incremental value, you lower the risk of implementation and keep resources flexible.

And then, with rapid prototyping, which is used in design thinking to brainstorm new products quickly and with low risk, we have a technique that could be leveraged more often during process improvement efforts. Instead of prototyping a new product, we can prototype a new process. Again, folks at the conference seemed to concur with me on this, and that was good to confirm.

There’s a third reason I put on my miner’s cap and head to conferences. That’s in order to try and verify what sort of return on investment others are getting for their process improvement efforts. Again, by comparing notes with fellow professionals in the field, I hope to understand what operational excellence approaches yield the greatest value. Let’s explore the BPM mine.

Is BPM Fool’s Gold?

What was most on my mind this year heading into the conference—at least where ROI is concerned—was business process management (BPM). BPM is an operations management discipline in which practitioners use various methods to discover, model, analyze, measure, improve, optimize, and automate business processes.

That’s a mouthful, and it all sounds very impressive, but the value for me, well, I’m not so sure. The task of mapping it all out is so gargantuan that the effort always seems to collapse under its own weight, and I’m never able to see an end-to-end use case that has changed my mind on the subject. If you have one, I would love to hear it—please reach out!

I chatted to OPEX Week attendees about BPM, but my forays were inconclusive. The value promised by software vendors and BPM consultants simply doesn’t match the current experience and sentiments of their customers. The jury still seems to be out on this subject.

But, all in all, I was super happy to have been at OPEX Week. Goal No. 1 (new ideas), check. Goal No. 2 (validation of my thinking), check. Goal No. 3 (ROI), still in limbo, but at least I had some good dialogue about it.

Fellow panners for gold, I’m eager to hear what have been your most recent “Eureka!” moments in the OPEX field. And what other value have you derived from attending conferences in the past? Let me know on LinkedIn.