BrainStorm BPM Day 2: Transforming to a Process-Driven Enterprise

Following our morning break in the beautiful but sadly lacking in hot water (for tea) vendor showcase area is a panel moderated by Tom Dwyer on Transforming to a Process-Driven Enterprise, featuring speakers from Adobe (Ashish Agrawal) and BEA (John Lauck, former president of Fuego before it was acquired by Fuego) as well as the last session’s speaker, Jeremy Alexis. Surprisingly, the speaker from Adobe didn’t show up until 13 minutes after the panel was supposed to start, but many of us think that Adobe is pretty late to the BPM space anyway.

I’ve been tagged by Tom to ask a question early on in order to get things rolling, which means that I’m paying more attention than usual. 🙂 Panels are difficult to blog about because they’re so unstructured and there’s no visual aids, but there’s often some conversational gems that pop up.

The first question was about the business-IT divide, which resulted in a completely expected reply: if you don’t get the business and IT people together, then BPM initiatives will almost certainly fail. Lauck just referred to “SOA” derisively as a buzzword, which was a bit unexpected and did make me laugh — wonder what his current bosses think about that — and then took a swipe at BPEL.

I then popped up and asked how organizations can move from being functionally-focussed to having an end-to-end view of their processes that will move from local optimization to global optimization. Unfortunately, the two vendors appear to have thought that I asked the question “how can I sell more software to my customers”, because they both spoke about how you start with small projects, then roll out other projects across the enterprise and possibly find some efficiencies via shared services. In fact, Lauck said that if you have “grandiose plans” (his words) like modelling your end-to-end processes, then you’ll just be modelling forever. Okay guys, but you’re not answering my question: everyone’s talking about moving from functional silos to process-centric views, but how do you actually do it? Shared services is not equivalent to finding a global optimum. Tom must have known that I wasn’t satisfied, because he came back to me and asked if I wanted to clarify. By then, I was itching to have the microphone back, and said explicitly that I hadn’t asked them how they could sell more software, but that’s the question that they answered, and said that I was interested in Alexis’ view on this since it is really a question about how companies innovate. He responded that leadership is key, which is a sort of motherhood and apple pie statement, and talked about the importance of change management. Okay, that’s closer, but still doesn’t answer the initial question.

A third question came up about how transitioning to a process-driven organization creates winners and losers, and how companies deal with losing people who just don’t fit into the new world order. I think that the question was really about people who can’t adapt to the new way of thinking, which is essentially a change management issue.

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