Forge your Lean process improvement game plan #BTF09

After an intro by Mike Gilpin, Clay Richardson gave the first keynote of the second day, focused on Lean process improvement. We were visited by the ghost of BPM past being Michael Hammer and business process reengineering, focused on mass production but forgetting the people; essentially, it became a euphemism for downsizing. The ghost of BPM present, although it has moved beyond that frightening past, is stuffed full of consultants, books, tools and certification programs, to the point of confusion. The ghost of BPM future, however, envisions an empowered front line and engaged customers.

There’s a greater demand for BPM than ever – 66% of those that Forrester surveyed want to do more with BPM – but almost no one has increased budget to implement it. ROI might still be used to sell BPM projects (necessary in these budgetary times), but the final metrics will be business value-based, since ROI doesn’t necessarily measure the actual business improvement.

Lean is shaping the new world of process improvement: processes are moving from standardized to flexible, and the focus is moving from ROI to value since the old IT-centric metrics just don’t work any more. From an implementation standpoint, Lean is about moving from waterfall to Agile, and shifting from on-premise to cloud computing environments.

In order to develop a process improvement game plan, it’s necessary to understand your approach (methodology, tools) and your strategic intent; he had an interesting Lean process improvement (LPI) measure where looking at the correlation between those two factors could diagnose whether an enterprise’s process improvement efforts are bloated, lean or anemic. From there, each of those ranges has a specific plan: if bloated, then you need to connect your process to strategy, and eliminate waste from the BPM technology portfolio (which could mean eliminating some of the tools that you use); if anemic, improve process governance and your process improvement talent pool.

Any process methodology needs to be customized to your specific environment and requirements, and you need to assess gaps in your skills (particularly process analysts) and work towards empowering the business. Process improvement has to be connected to your value drivers, including the center of excellence.

Interesting discussion following between Richardson and Gilpin, especially about BPM mashups (Richardson is just as hot about social BPM as I am): he says that the key to a successful mashup environment that will be used by business people is to make it look like Microsoft Office 2007. He also mentioned that closely pairing a process analyst with the developers can reduce bloat on the project since it reduces the amount of miscommunication across that critical boundary (this, of course, assumes that the process analysts comes from the business side and not part of the development team to begin with).

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