Architecture & Process keynote: Bill Curtis

The second part of the morning keynote was by Bill Curtis, who was involved in developing CMM and CMMI, and now is working on the Business Process Maturity Model (BPMM). I’ve seen quite a bit about BPMM at OMG functions, but this is the first time that I’ve heard Curtis speak about it.

He started by talking about the process/function matrix, where functions focus on the performance of skills within an area of expertise, and processes focus on the flow and transformation of information or material. In other words, functions are the silos/departments in organizations (e.g., marketing, engineering, sales, admin, supply chain, finance, customer service), and processes are the flows that cut across them (e.g., concept to retire, campaign to order, order to cash, procure to pay, incident to close. Unfortunately, as we all know, the biggest problems occur with the white space in between the silos when the processes aren’t structured properly, and a small error at the beginning of the process causes increasingly large amounts of rework in other departments later in the process: items left off the bill of sale by sales created missing information in legal, incomplete specs in delivery, and incorrect invoices in finance. Typical for many industries is 30% rework — an alarming figure that would never be tolerated in manufacturing, for example, where rework is measured and visible.

Curtis’ point is that low maturity organizations have a staggering about of rework, causing incredibly inefficient processes, and they don’t even know about it because they’re not measuring it. As with many things, introspection breeds change. And just as Ted Lewis was talking about EA as not just being IT architecture, but a business-IT decision-making framework, Curtis talked about how the concepts of CMM in IT were expanded into BPMM, a measurement of both business and IT maturity relative to business processes.

In case you haven’t seen the BPMM, here’s the five levels:

  • Level 1 – Initial: inconsistent management (I would have called this Level 0 for consistency with CMM, but maybe that was considered too depressing for business organizations). Curtis called the haphazard measures at this level “the march of 1000 spreadsheets”, which is pretty accurate.
  • Level 2 – Managed: work unit management, achieved through repeatable practices. Measurements in place tend to be localized status and operational reports that indicate whether local work is on target or not, allowing them to start to manage their commitments and capacity.
  • Level 3 – Standardized: process management based on standardized practices. Transitioning from level 2 to 3 requires tailoring guidelines, allowing the creation of standard processes while still allowing for exceptions: this tends to strip a lot of the complexity out of the processes, and makes it worth considering automation (automation of level 2 just paves the cowpaths). Measurements are now focused on process measures, usually based on reacting to thresholds, which allows both more accurate processes and more accurate cost-time-quality measures for better business planning.
  • Level 4 – Predictable: capability management through statistically controlled practices. Statistical measurements throughout a process — true process analytics — are now used to predict the outcome: not only are the measurements more sophisticated, but the process is sufficiently repeatable (low variance) that accurate prediction is possible. If you’re using Six Sigma, this is where the full set of tools and techniques are used (although some will be used at levels 2 and 3). This allows predictive models to be used  both for predicting the results of work in progress, and for planning based on accurately estimated capabilities.
  • Level 5 – Innovative: innovation management through innovative practices. This is not just about innovation, but about the agility to implement that innovation. Measurements are used for what-if analysis to drive into proactive process experimentation and improvement.

The top two levels are really identical to innovative management practices, but the advantage of BPMM is that it provides a path to get from where we are now to these innovative practices. Curtis also sees this as a migration from a chaotic clash of cultures to a cohesive culture of innovation.

This was a fabulous, fast-paced presentation that left me with a much deeper understanding of — and appreciation for — BPMM. He had some great slides with this, which will apparently be available on the Transformation & Innovation website later this week.

Now the hard part starts: trying to pick between a number of interesting-sounding breakout sessions.

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