Continuous Innovation With A BPM Program Wins Over The Sporadic Tinkering Of Projects

In her presentation at Gartner BPM 2013, Elise Olding addressed an issue that ties in with my presentation last week on BPM maturity and centers of excellence: BPM’s real value is in becoming an enterprise capability, not through occasional BPM projects. From a BPM maturity standpoint, that means getting beyond levels 1 and 2, where you’re just doing isolated projects, and crossing the chasm to enterprise BPM initiatives that permit greater innovation.

She gave the audience a quiz on how BPM is being adopted within their organizations: Is there a 2-year vision for BPM? Is there a link between BPM and strategic vision? Are your projects focused on delivering measurable business benefits? Are you communicating why process is important? Are you constantly tweaking your BPM techniques? Are you innovating and constantly improving? I’m not sure how much of this is just because I’m firmly ensconced in the BPM echo chamber, but I’m really seeing BPM being put forward as a driver for innovation; this is the “big picture” BPM that is really about the methodologies and mindsets, not just the technology, but technology plays an important role. If you’re stuck on projects and technology, then BPM just becomes another silo.

Olding is much less focused on BPM technology and more about organizational change, so she brings an important point of view on the mindset of the individuals and the organizational culture required for change. Her suggestion is to start thinking like a startup (presumably a startup that is not wallowing around in a glut of VC cash), where every effort has to be directly linked to some value to the organization. To ensure that you don’t get trapped in the project mentality, don’t just solve the immediate problem: drill in to find out the motivations behind those problems or desired changes to see the bigger picture. Her technique involves asking “why” several times in succession (which appears to be effective but does remind me of someone’s five year old), moving from a tactical problem such as “we need to reduce costs” to a more strategic “we need a better strategy for integrating our recent acquisitions”. Also, consider that best practices are really standard practices, and you don’t have to slavishly do what your competitors do, especially if you want to differentiate yourself in the market.

She finished with some case studies of companies that have gone beyond BPM projects to full-on programs, such as multi-nationals that were able to leverage locally-created solutions worldwide, and had some final recommendations:

Stop driving efficiency, tinkering, and mapping all processes.

Start enabling effectiveness, innovating, and defining outcomes.

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