IIR BPM: Roger Burlton keynote

Amazingly, there’s open (although weak) wifi in the Hotel Del Coronado’s conference hall, so I’ll be able to post as I write.

The day started with an opening keynote by the conference chair, Roger Burlton of the Process Renewal Consulting Group, on “BPM at the Tipping Point”. This was mostly a review of a few high-level generic BPM case studies, some of the reasons that companies adopt BPM (compliance, boomers about to retire, competition, agility), and a lengthy anecdote about a computer manufacturer’s broken RMA process that Roger ran into when he tried to get his laptop fixed a few years ago. He’s a good speaker, I’ve just heard variations on these same themes too many times at recent conferences. I’m assuming that most of the attendees don’t attend as many BPM conferences as I do. 🙂

He spent some time talking about the importance of considering your end-to-end supply chain processes, and how attempts to maximize internal efficiency (e.g., on time, on budget) can be in complete conflict with the overall effectiveness of the core processes (e.g., customer retention, revenue). He returned to this theme near the end of the presentation, stating that enterprise BPM requires full lifecycles and value chains, and highlighting some of the frameworks, such as SCOR, that can help get started with process management. He also pointed out that you need to focussing on improving the processes where you have most to gain from an end-to-end process view, not those that don’t impact the effectiveness of the core processes, no matter how broken they are.

He also had a great case study from a tomato packing plant that has no organizational chart, and the non-core-process workers believe that they report to the core process workers, that is, they’re only there to support the core processes. This is a brilliant concept: I’ve often railed against organizations where IT or purchasing or some other non-core functions loses sight of the fact that they’re only there to support the core business. This is more of an organizational maturity case study than anything to do with BPM, although obviously processes are managed as part of the whole. This obviously wouldn’t work in most organizations, but there’s some great lessons to be learned about focussing on the effectiveness of core processes rather than attempting to maximize local efficiencies within functional silos.

His conclusions:

  • Process is the only useful mechanism to translate strategic intent into capability — it’s what we do to get what we want
  • Process and other capabilities must be aligned — they all have to go in the same direction
  • We must put in place new strategic frameworks that use processes at the heart of the management system — we have to manage what we do

Watching him use his tablet computer does remind me, however, that it was he and a few others presenting on their tablets at the BPMG conference in London a few years ago that inspired me to buy one, which allows me to write on slides as I’m presenting and greatly enhances the experience (at least for me).

The roundtable idea that we’ve seen at the BPM Think Tank for a couple of years is starting to spread, and following this session are three “facilitated sessions”, which I assume are similar in format to the roundtables. I’m going to drop in on the one on standards, since I’m speaking on the same subject later today and will likely pick up some interesting thoughts. The unconference idea is gradually creeping into the mainstream, although I still don’t think that we’re ready for BPM Camp.

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