Advancing BPM Maturity

Janelle Hill of Gartner presented on how to advance your BPM maturity, starting with the concept that not only isn’t there one path to get to BPM maturity, but there’s more than one maturity destination. There are many different mind-sets that organizations have about their BPM programs, ranging from simple automation and improvement efforts up to strategic business optimization; how you think about BPM will have an enormous impact on the potential value of BPM within your organization. This is really an excellent point that is rarely explicitly stated: if you think of BPM as a low-level tool to do some automation – more of a developer tool than a business tool – then you can see benefits, but they’ll be limited to that domain. Conversely, if you think of BPM as a tool/methodology for transforming your business, your use of BPM will tend to be more aligned with that. The tricky part is that BPM is both (and everything in between), and you don’t want to lose sight of its use at a variety of levels and for many different sorts of benefits: as fashionable as it is to see BPM as purely a strategic, transformational methodology, there are also a lot of practical BPM tools that are used for automation and optimization at a more tactical level that have huge benefits.

Gartner’s business process maturity model – the same, I think as the OMG BPMM – passes through five levels from process-aware, to coordinated processes, to cross-boundary process management, to goal-driven processes, to optimized processes. In line with this, benefits move from cost and productivity improvements at the low levels; to cycle time reductions, capacity and quality gains at the middle levels; to revenue gains, agility and predictability at the higher levels.

Advancing maturity requires work along six major dimensions:

  • Organization and culture
  • Process competencies
  • Methodologies
  • Technology and architecture
  • Metrics and measures
  • Governance

She then showed a mapping between the maturity levels and these dimensions, with the level of effort required for each, with the critical transition points highlighted. There are some interesting transition points, such as the effort required for organization and culture increasing right up until when you are well-entrenched in level 5 maturity, at which time the organization and culture aspects becomes systemic and mostly self-sustaining, and the explicit effort required to maintain them decreases sharply.

She broke out each of the dimensions in more detail, showing within the organization and culture dimension how the roles and responsibilities must be developed as the maturity level increases through education, establishing a BPCC and becoming goal-aligned.  Some dimensions, such as process competencies, methodologies and technology/architecture, follow fairly logical paths of increased effort as the maturity level increases, although there will be decisions within those such as which particular methodologies to develop within your organization, and your tools may change as your maturity level increases. Metrics and measures tend to be more aligned with the maturity levels, changing from individual lagging indicators to shared real-time metrics tied to strategic objectives and SLAs, and is also heavily supported by technology. Governance is the most difficult of the dimensions, with a collection of very different initiatives, and probably won’t even properly start until you’re transitioning from level 1 to level 2. A lot of what she covered here is centered around the process governance committee, and some level of centralized stewardship for end-to-end processes: otherwise, it’s impossible to fund and push forward with processes that span functional (and budgetary) boundaries. It’s also necessary to create incentives to support this, so that the entire process doesn’t end up sub-optimized when one of the functional subprocesses is optimized.

Gartner’s research has shown the impact of a BPCC on achieving business process maturity, and in turn, delivering more successful BPM projects across the organization; I definitely agree with this, although believe that you need to grow your BPCC more organically on the back of a BPM project rather than making it an independent project of its own. The BPCC should not be part of IT; although it contains some technical people with skills in the tools, it’s really about operational processes and should be under the auspices of the COO or other business leader.

She finished up with a contrast between functionally-driven and process-driven organizations in terms of roles and responsibilities, visibility, hand-offs, cost accounting, risk analysis and other areas, plus a great chart summarizing the linkages between maturity levels and the dimensions.

Excellent talk, and lots of great practical advice on what you need to do to increase your BPM maturity level.

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