Gartner BPM opening keynote: Janelle Hill

I’m here in Vegas for the Gartner’s 5th BPM summit, and I have absolutely no complaints about the wifi. 🙂 They’re reporting about 1000 attendees here (I’m not sure if that includes Gartner and vendors), and I’m sure that those of us who attend these religiously are hoping that this is not a complete replay of the September show in Orlando.

After a brief introduction by Michele Cantera, Janelle Hill gave us Gartner’s big picture view of BPM, which will be covered in detail in other sessions throughout the conference.  Hill seems to be hitting her stride as Gartner’s face of BPM since Jim Sinur left almost a year ago. She started with the now-familiar view of process improvement over the ages, from Deming and Taylorism through TQM, BPR, Six Sigma and a variety of other methodologies and tools since the 1920’s. This has changed from a focus on scientific management, to computerized process flow, to package applications as best practice, to flexible and adaptive process.

Her view of how BPM might change with any coming recession is the same as most that I’ve heard (and agree with): BPM is likely to increase, not decrease, in tough economic times since it helps organizations to run their businesses more effectively and efficiently.

This talk is definitely a rework of her keynote from the last show (even the last two shows); check that out in case I miss anything. As she did then, she focuses on how BPM — both the management discipline and the technology — can support and encourage innovation within an organization. There is a focus on people within the processes, and how to enhance people’s efforts within a process, not just look for ways to automate the human activities: what Gartner is referring to as “the process of me” (seriously). This is key to innovation in business processes; although she doesn’t use the term “emergent applications”, that’s really what she’s talking about: providing process participants with the experience and tools that allows them to express some creativity about how to get the job done better.

She also discussed the impact of compliance and regulations on processes, requiring greater agility and greater visibility, particularly when dealing with regulatory bodies in multiple countries.

We saw a familiar chart showing how although productivity and efficiency is typically the greatest perceived value of BPM today, that will shift to visibility being the most important benefit by 2012, and innovation being the most important benefit by 2017. That doesn’t mean that productivity and efficiency become less useful, but a baseline expectation will be established for these benefits and they will no longer become the most important thing that organizations get from their process management.

Hill changed tack to talk about why BPM technology matters, and the decoupling of process models from the underlying technology into a model-driven architecture. These explicit process models allow business professionals (usually a trained business analyst, but still someone on the business side) to make changes to the process, providing improved immediacy in linking needs to the executing processes, and providing better visibility into the process to see if the changes to the process are actually improving it. This is the driver for a complete paradigm shift, where the business team now owns the process modelling part of the implementation, and IT adds to those models to provide the necessary technical linkages but doesn’t redo the processes in some other tool: the process that the business modelled is what actually runs. By establishing KPIs on the processes, further process improvements can be tracked against those KPIs, and services can be developed to help meet those KPIs within the process context.

Driving to a model-driven architecture means that processes have to be pulled out of the packaged enterprise applications, where processes have been implicit within the applications themselves. The packaged application vendors are starting to expose their functionality as services, and some are even rolling their own BPM as well as allowing other BPM suites to call their services as part of a larger process orchestration. These enterprise vendors, plus the middleware vendors and the BPM pure plays, are all fighting for turf in the current BPMS space.

BPM involves more than just technology: it takes leaders with vision, disciplined culture, BPM expertise and standards as well as the tools. She focused on how technology leaders (e.g., CIOs) need to contribute to the BPM vision and efforts in order to make it strategic, but I also feel that the business leaders need to make the same level of contribution: bringing the B back into BPM.

Gartner has some standard material that they’ve been using for a year or more on what it means to move from a functionally-driven organization to a process-centric one: align roles and responsibilities to the business processes, not by the functional area; business leaders have end-to-end visibility of the business processes; business rules and processes are changed by the business; and there’s more explicit views of handoffs within the process and other points contributing to process optimization. One key point made here is that cost accounting needs to move from being aligned with the functional area to being aligned with the process steps — I’ve seen first-hand how not doing this can cause tremendous problems within an organization attempting to implement enterprise-wide processes.

There are a number of organization issues when dealing with BPM, not just the technology part. In addition to business leadership from a high level, there will need to be process ownership and support from mid-level management, and explicit change management. As mentioned previously, individual process participants also need to be encouraged to look for ways to improve the process, much like the Lean tenet that allows anyone to stop a broken process and offer an improvement.

Hill talked about the type of people that you need for a process-centric organization: people who “think process”. However, I think that we need to have a greater focus on how to take current teams and imbue them with that process orientation.

She also discussed management actions such as creating a governance framework and BPM competency center, appointing specific business process analysts focused on end-to-end processes rather than by functional area, and creating a real-time management culture that is focused more on a view of what is happening in their operations right now rather than through the rear view mirror of historical reporting. There are some specific actions for IT management as well, starting with recognizing that IT should be enabling BPM, not leading it. There’s a lot of groundwork that can be done even if the business is just starting (or hasn’t yet started) BPM initiatives, such as SOA and service definitions.

Her wrapup was on the value of BPM, looking at specifics of cost/efficiency, time/adaptability, risk/compliance and revenue/innovation — a lot of great points here on where the benefits can be expected.

She also mentioned a good fundamental principle for process improvement that came from a customer during a session that she held yesterday: when considering a process change, be driven by how that change will impact the end customer. Excellent words to live by.

2 thoughts on “Gartner BPM opening keynote: Janelle Hill

Leave a Reply