Gartner BPM Day 1: Creating a Process-Rich Strategy

This analyst panel was moderated by Daryl Plummer, and included Shafqat Azim, Eric Deitert, Janelle Hill and Michael Smith. Azim is with the consulting arm of Gartner and focusses on IT process improvement, whereas the other three are from the research side, and Plummer asked them about three key issues:

  • What is the value of a process-rich strategy?
  • How hard is it to align a vision for process with a business strategy?
  • What are the important topics one needs to master when creating a process-rich strategy?

The first issue was defining “process-rich strategy” as the operationalization of a business strategy, such that the causes and effects of individual parts of the process are well-understood by the process participants. As the discussion continued, it became clear that “process-rich strategy” is just the current relabeling of having a process-centric view of your organization, with a strong focus on dissolving some of the boundaries between functional silos in order to perform end-to-end process optimization.

One value of a process-rich strategy is to put individual business users in the context of the overall business strategy so that, for example, a call centre operator understands his position as a key customer touchpoint and how his actions impact the end-to-end business process; this, in turn, encourages the individual workers to look for ways to improve the overall process. By putting individual functions in the larger context, and providing visibility into the end-to-end process, improvements tend to address the entire process rather than focus on local optimization. Hill pointed out that team sports are a great analogy for business process visibility: everyone on the playing field can see what everyone else is doing, and understand exactly how their actions contribute to the overall team success. Athletes are motivated by their own personal success, but are also strongly motivated by their team’s performance since it’s great from a career standpoint to be on the winning team and to be seen as team players, not just to score all the points themselves. In some sports, team play is rewarded explicitly, such as tracking assists for hockey players as well as goals, since the game just doesn’t work without it. Similarly, the key to motivating business users to look for ways to improve the overall business process is to provide some reward for them. Sometimes, that’s financial (bonuses and overall corporate profitability resulting in increased wages); sometimes, it’s merely public recognition of the contribution; sometimes, it’s recognition of an individual’s ability that improves their overall career path.

There was a big focus on agility in this panel, and how both management and technology agility must be embedded within the business strategy. Management agility is the facility to think about new ways to do something or even a completely new business function, whereas technology agility provides the ability to make those thoughts a reality. Cause and effect within processes must be well understood in order to remain agile.

Process metrics and how they contribute to visibility was also a major area of discussion: if you don’t identify specific metrics for your business processes and start capturing that data, then you can’t analyze that into the higher-level process measurements that are required to see how well the business processes are performing and therefore optimize the processes. Smith will be doing a session tomorrow on how performance metrics help to align business processes with strategy for more detail in this area.

At the end of it, it comes down to the ability to execute business strategy: a process-rich strategy combined with the appropriate technology are more likely to see success in making business strategy a reality.

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