Thriving In A Process-Driven World

Clay Richardson and Dave West (definitely the two snappiest dressers at Forrester) opened the second day of the Forrester Business Process and Application Delivery Forum with a keynote on thriving in a process-driven world by shifting both your business and IT culture. These shifts are hard work and fraught with risk, but necessary in order to achieve transformation. It’s critical to lead change, not just manage it, by creating change agents inside your organization.

They discussed some tools for doing this: identifying value streams that can point everyone in the same direction; using process as a common language for transformation, although not necessarily a common process representation; extending agile thinking to the entire enterprise; and lean governance that starts at the top but pushes down responsibility to empower teams to make decisions.

To achieve agility, it’s necessary to align business and IT into integrated process teams and adopt agile processes for those integrated teams, as well as selecting tools and architectures that support change.

Good governance is less about telling people what to do (and what not to do), and more about educating people on why they need to do certain things and empowering them to make the right choices. Many successful organizations adopt not just centers of excellence, but build communities of practice around those CoEs.

Since Richardson focuses on business process and West on agile software development, this was an interesting hybrid of ideas that spanned both business and IT.

Dynamic Case Management In the Public Sector

There was nothing that could have entice me to attend the Lean Six Sigma presentation this late in the afternoon, so instead I opted for the public sector track (which is not really my area of interest) for a discussion on dynamic case management (which is my area of interest) by Craig LeClair.

Government workers have low levels of empowerment and resourcefulness, for both cultural reasons and lack of technology to support such activities. So why is dynamic case management important in the government? He lists several reasons, including the increased need to manage the costs and risks of servicing higher numbers of citizen requests, the less structured nature of government jobs, demographic trends that will see many experience government workers retiring soon, and new regulations that impact their work.

Forrester defines dynamic case management as “a semistructured but also collaborative, dynamic, human and information-intensive process that is driven by outside events and requires incremental and progressive responses from the business domain handling the case”. A case folder at the center of the case is surrounded by people, content, collaboration, reporting, events, policies, process and everything else that might impact that case or be consumed during the working of the case. It’s a combination of BPM, ECM and analytics, plus new collaborative user interface paradigms. Forrester is just wrapping up a wave report on dynamic case management (or adaptive case management, as it is also known), and we’re seeing a bit of the research that’s going into it.

Le Clair discussed the three case management categories – service requests, incident management and investigative – and showed several government process examples that fit into each type as well as some case studies. He moved on to more generic Forrester BPM advice that I heard earlier in sessions today, such as leveraging centers of excellence, but included some specific to case management such as using it as a Lean approach for automating processes.

39 minutes into a 45-minute presentation, he turned it over to his co-presenter, Christine Johnson from Iron Data, although he assured her that she still had 15-20 minutes. 🙂 She walked through a case lifecycle for a government agencies dealing with unemployment and disability claims through retraining and other activities: this includes processes for referral/intake, needs assessment and service plan, appeals, and so on. Some portions, such as intake, had more of a structured workflow, whereas others were less structured cases where the case worker determined the order and inclusion of activities. There were some shockingly detailed diagrams, not even considering the time of day, but she redeemed herself with a good list of best practices for case management implementations (including, ironically, “clutter-free screens”), covering technology, design and process improvement practices.

Interestingly, Johnson’s key case study on a federal agency handling disability claims started as an electronic case file project – how many of those have we all seen? – and grew into a case management project as the client figured out that it was possible to actually do stuff with that case file in addition to just pushing documents into it. The results: paperless cases, and reduced case processing times and backlogs.

Building Process Skills To Scale Transformation

Connie Moore (or “Reverend Connie” as we now think of her 😉 ) gave a session this afternoon on process skills at multiple levels within your organization, and how entire new process-centric career paths are emerging. Process expertise isn’t necessarily something that can be quickly learned and overlaid on existing knowledge; it requires a certain set of underlying skills, and a certain amount of practical experience. Furthermore, process skills are migrating out of IT into the business areas, such as process improvement specialists and business architects.

Forrester recently did a role deep dive to take a look at the process roles that exist within organizations, and found that different organizations have very different views of business process:

  • Immature, usually smaller organizations with a focus on automation, not the process; these follow a typical build cycle with business analysts as traditional requirements gatherers.
  • Aspiring organizations that understand the importance of process but don’t really know fully what to do with it: they’ve piloted BPM projects and may have started a center of excellence, but are still evolving the roles of business analysts and other participants, and searching for the right methodologies.
  • Mature organizations already have process methodologies, and the process groups sit directly in the business areas, with clear roles defined for all of the participants. They will have robust process centers of excellence with well-defined methodologies such as Lean, offering internal training on their process frameworks and methods.

She talked about the same five roles/actors that we saw in the Peters/Miers talk, and she talked about how different types of business process professionals learn and develop skills in different ways. She mentioned the importance of certification and training programs, citing ABPMP as the up-and-coming player here with about 200 people certified to date (I’m also involved in a new effort to build a more open process body of knowledge), and listed the specific needs of the five actors in terms of their skills, job titles and business networks using examples from some of the case studies that we’ve been hearing about such as Medco. The job titles, as simple as that seems, are pretty important: it’s part of the language that you create around process improvement within your organization.

Process roles are often concentrated in a process center of excellence, which can start small: Moore told the story of one organization that started with four developers, one business analysts and one enterprise architect. Audience members echoed that, with CoE’s usually in the under-10 size, and many without a CoE at all. You also need to have a mix of business and IT skills in a CoE: as one of her points stated, you can do this without coding, but that doesn’t mean that a business person can do it, which is especially true as you start using more complete versions of BPMN, for example. There’s definitely a correlation (although not necessarily causation) between CoE and BPM project success; I talked about this and some other factors in building a BPM CoE in a webinar and white paper that I did for Appian last year.

She had a lot of great quotes from companies that they interviewed in their process roles study:

“These suites still required you to have [a] software engineering skill set”

“The biggest challenge is how to develop really good process architects”

“They [process/business analysts] usually analyze one process and have limited ability to see beyond the efforts in front of them”

“Process experts are a rare type of talent”

“We thought the traditional business analyst would be the right source, but we were horribly disappointed”

A number of these comments are focused on the shortcomings of trying to retrain more traditionally-skilled people, such as business analysts, for process work: it’s not as easy as it sounds, and requires significantly better tooling that they are likely using now. You probably don’t need the 20+ years of experience that I have in process projects, but you’re not going to just be able to take one of your developers or business analysts, send them on a 3-day course, and have them instantly become a process professional. There are ways to jump-start this: for example, looking at cloud-based BPM so that you need less of the back-end technical skills to get things going, and consider alternatives for mentoring and pairing with existing process experts (either internal or external) to speed the process.

Phil Gilbert On The Next Decade Of BPM

I missed Phil’s keynote at BPM 2010 in Hoboken a few weeks ago (although Keith Swenson very capably blogged it), so I was glad to be able to catch it here at the Forrester BP&AD forum. His verdict: the next decade of BPM will be social, visible and turbulent.

Over the past 40-50 years, the hard-core developers have become highly leveraged such that one developer can support about five other IT types, which in turn support 240 business end users. Most of the tools to build business technology, however, are focused on those 6 people on the technical side rather than the 240 business people. One way to change this is to allow for self-selected collaboration and listening: allowing anyone to “follow” whoever or whatever that they’re interested in to create a stream of information that is customized to their needs and interests.

Earlier today, I received an email about IBM’s new announcement on IBM Blueworks Live, and Phil talked about how it incorporates this idea of stream communication to allow you to both post and follow information. It will include information from a variety of sources, such as BPM-related Twitter hashtags and links to information written by BPM thought leaders. Launching on November 20th, Blueworks Live will include both the current BPM BlueWorks site as well as the IBM BluePrint cloud-based process modeling capability. From their announcement email that went out to current Blueprint users:

The new version will be called IBM Blueworks Live and you’ll be automatically upgraded to it.  Just like in past releases, all your process data and account settings are preserved. All of the great Blueprint features you use today will be there, plus some new capabilities that I think you’ll be very excited to use.

Blueworks Live will allow your team to not only collaborate on daily tasks, but also gain visibility into the status of your work. You’ll be able to automate processes that you run over e-mail today using the new checklist and approval Process App templates. Plus, you’ll have real-time access to expert online business process communities right on your desktop, so you can participate in the conversation, share best practices, or ask questions.

It’s good to see IBM consolidating these social BPM efforts; the roadmap for doing this wasn’t really clear before this, but now we’re seeing the IBM Blueworks community coming together with the Lombardi Blueprint tools. I’m sure that there will still be some glitches in integration, but this is a good first step. Also, Phil told me in the hallway before the session that he’s been made VP of BPM at IBM, with both product management and development oversight, which is a good move in general and likely required to keep a high-powered individual like Phil engaged.

With the announcement out of the way, he moved on with some of the same material from his BPM 2010 talk: a specific large multi-national organization has highly repeatable processes representing about 2.5% of their work, somewhat repeatable processes are 22.5%, while barely repeatable processes form the remaining 75%, and are mostly implemented with tools like Excel over email. Getting back to the issue from the beginning of the presentation, we need to have more and better tooling for those 75% of the processes that impact many more people than the highly repeatable processes that we’re spending so much time and money implementing.

With Blueworks Live, of course, you can automate these long tail processes in a matter of seconds 😉 but I think that the big news here is the social stream generated by these processes rather than the ease of creating the processes, which mostly already existed in Blueprint. Instant visibility through activity streams.

BPM: The New Language Of IT To Business Technology

Alex Peters and Derek Miers presented in the business process track with a session on BPM as the new language of IT to business technology. Forrester has been pushing the phrase “business technology” instead of “information technology” for the past year or so, and it was funny this morning to hear John Rymer say that he didn’t like the term at first, but he’s really bought into it now, since it really describes the role of IT in supporting the business, rather than off in their own world.

Peters discussed three recent technologies that have become game changers: social computing to expand the customer interaction channels, dynamic business applications for cross-functional processes, and the cloud as a delivery platform. There are also new key actors in business process transformation initiatives, characterized as VP process improvement (“change agent”), business architect (“guru”), process architect (“prodigy”), business analyst (“wannabe”), and manager of IT business systems (“operator”). Business analyst = “wannabe? That’s gotta hurt, although it was Forrester that claimed that more than half of all business analysts couldn’t cut it as a process analyst.

In moving to this new world order, where technology is focused on business, it’s necessary to evaluate the maturity of the organization’s business process management, and start the journey by eliminating waste in processes. Suddenly, this is sounding a lot like Lean. He showed some examples of companies at various stages of the journey: an organization with immature processes, where IT uses a plan-build-run structure; an aspiring organization starting to move from reactive to proactive, with more of a demand-supply structure and the beginnings of centers of excellence; and an organization with mature process management, leveraging cross-business process centers of excellence and shared services.

Miers took over to explain how the language of BPM can be used along this journey to process maturity and a business technology focus. He’s not talking about a graphical notation for process models like BPMN; he’s talking about the natural language words that we use to describe processes and process improvements, and how we need to decide what they mean. In other words, what do you mean by process? Task? Process model? Object? Capability? And does everyone else in your organization use the same words to describe the same concepts? If not, you’re going to have some alignment problems, since language is key to building a common understanding between different roles.

He stepped through each of the five actors, the challenges that they encounter in doing their business transformation work, and the language that they need to use to describe their world. Although the call to action at the end was to do your process maturity assessment and portfolio analysis, there was little of that in the rest of the presentation.

A bit of a meta topic, and a bit unfocused due in part to logistical problems at the beginning of the session, but some interesting nuggets of information.

Fidelity Investments’ Evolution To Product-Focused Software Delivery

Darrell Fernandes, SVP of advisory solutions technology at Fidelity Investments, finished up the morning at Forrester’s BP&AD Forum with a discussion of their IT transformation: how they changed their software delivery process to become more like a software product company. They created “fences” around their projects in terms of centers of excellence and project management offices, with the idea that this would drive excellence on their projects; what they found is that the communication overhead started to bog them down, and that the silos of technology expertise became obsolete as technologies became more integrated. This is a really interesting counterpoint to Medco’s experience, where they leveraged the centers of excellence to create a more agile enterprise.

For Fidelity, the answer was to structure their software delivery to look more like that of a software product company, rather than focusing specifically on projects. They looked at and introduced best practices not just from other organizations like themselves, but also from software companies such as Microsoft. Taking a broader product portfolio view, they were able to look for synergies across projects and products, as well as take a longer-term, more disciplined view of the product portfolio development. A product vision maps to the product roadmap, then to the release plans, then ties into the project high-level plans. They’ve created an IT product maturity model, moving through initiation, emerging, defined, managed and optimizing; Fernandes admitted that they don’t have any in the optimizing category, but told about how they’ve moved up the maturity scale significantly in the past few years. They also started as an IT-led initiative before coming around to a business focus, and he recommends involving the business from the start, since their biggest challenges came when they started the business engagement so far along in their process.

They’ve had some cultural shifts in moving to the concept of IT products, rather than IT providing services via projects to the business, and disengaged the project/product cycle from annual IT budgets. Also, they drove the view of business capabilities that span multiple IT products, rather than a siloed view of applications that tended to happen with a project and application-oriented view. Next up for them is to align the process owners and product owners; he didn’t have any answers yet about how to do that, since they’re just starting on the initiative. They’re a long way from being done, but are starting to shift from the mode of IT process transformation to that of it just being business as usual.

Interesting view of how to shift the paradigm for software development and delivery within large organizations.

Texas Education Agency’s Process Transformation Journey

After a somewhat lengthy introduction by Marie Wieck from IBM’s middleware group, Rick Goldgar, CTO of the Texas Education Agency, talked about their process transformation. This was mostly about good software development practices – componentize, use a shared bus, agile methods, providing tools that empower the users to create their own solutions – but also about focusing on business process rather than UI when first prototyping. They start with a business process model of all business activities, then an implementation model to show what will be automated, then an operational model that translates directly to BPEL for execution. This idea of different perspectives on the process model is key to success at process modeling, but I hope that they’re using tools that allow for a shared model or some sort of automated translation, not having to recreate the process model three times.

In addition to their core WebSphere process modeling, they had the happy accident of using products that were eventually bought by IBM, such as ILOG and Cognos, so IBM is actually doing some of their integration for them as the product portfolio matures. Goldgar pointed out that it’s critical to choose technologies that integrate well; a timely comment after hearing a presenter from Scotiabank at a seminar earlier this week say that “most vendors integrate really well with themselves”. 🙂

In response to an audience question about the speed of system changes, he responded that many of the changes now are not limited by the technology – they can enact a change a business rule or report format in minutes – but by the users of the technology, who may need to be trained on the changes, or consider the full business impact of the changes relative to governing regulations. That’s the way it should be: the speed of technology change shouldn’t get in the way of the speed of business change.

Medco’s Agile Enterprise

Kenny Klepper, president and COO of Medco, gave the second keynote at the Forrester BP&AD Forum today on their business transformation. I saw him speak at PegaWorld earlier this year (and Pega even published the video), so this was a good update on what they’re doing – check out those reference for background on Medco and more information.

They’ve created an enabling architecture – frameworks, service bus, data fabric, data management and data warehouse – that enables their agile enterprise, and he believes that this level of supporting technology just couldn’t have been created a few years ago. We’ve reached a tipping point, where the technology has empowered the business for self-service, leading back to the themes from the opening keynote earlier: they’ve moved hundreds of people out of their IT groups and into centers of excellence, turning them into mentors and innovators rather than just back-room techies. What’s key is that they didn’t create some new group for the fancy new technology, but changed the roles of their existing people to allow them to take on the challenge. This resulted in business process centers of excellence, business innovation and agility centers, core IT centers of excellence, and operations centers, all working in concert. They don’t see this as a technology play, however, it’s financial: he sees these four centers as key to their return on invested capital, and an earnings-generating activity.

They use embedded “imagineers” with no technology constraints and rapid prototyping tools to rethink their business processes, not just apply some incremental process improvement techniques. This links up the market view of the business innovation and agility centers with the internal view of their operations centers, then pushes the innovations back through the business process and core IT centers of excellence. The result: they’re seeing business changes in days, not weeks or months.

This new agile enterprise structure has changed how they deploy and manage capital: they allocate capital both for growth and productivity, rewarding agile methods in order to incent movement away from legacy projects and into the new infrastructure. Interesting idea: choke off the funds going to the old legacy development, and people will start to focus on moving off the platform.

This has obviously been a huge success for them, both financially and in the enthusiasm of the people in their organization: the video clips that he showed were mostly of the business people who are impacted positively by this, one of whom claimed that you would have to “pry [the system] out of my cold dead hands”. We should all have such passionate stakeholders.

Forrester BP&AD Forum Keynote: The Empowered Future

I’m in DC at the Forrest Business Process and Application Delivery Forum – always a good conference in my experience – and Connie Moore opened the event with the morning keynote on business transformation and IT transformation. She showed some really great imagery about agility: a video clip of running water to represent where we should be, moving easily within a fluid environment, then a still shot of boot-covered feet mired in concrete. Also a good quote from someone at Linklaters:

Business transformation is not a series of discrete process improvement efforts.

That’s a great point, since we sometimes get too focused on a specific process improvement project and lose sight of the bigger picture of improving our entire organization.

Up next were John Rymer and Mike Gualtieri to talk about succeeding – and leading – in the empowered future. Empowerment is a big theme here, which I’m sure isn’t exactly a coincidence, given the recent release of Empowerment by Forrester’s Josh Bernoff and Ted Schadler. They talked about the rise of social media in empowerment, such as how Heather Armstrong kicked Whirlpool’s butt over a new broken washing machine via her hugely popular blog (although they neglected to mention why she ended up with 1.5 million Twitter followers, which is a great story on its own), and about finding the empowered people within your company and your customer base. They point out that empowered people accelerate everything; by creating crises (I admit to doing that sometimes myself 🙂 ) and by publicly promoting those who respond appropriately. We need to have empowered (or rather, empowering) technology and empowered employees in order to properly engage with empowered customers; otherwise, we risk missing out on the conversation altogether and allowing an empowered competitor to take over.

For many organizations, the old non-agile ways haven’t been working all that well. Business is going around IT to get things done, and innovation is at a standstill. They have four recommendations for achieving a newer, more responsive organization:

  1. Design for faster change. This allows you to change at the pace that the business requires it, which virtually assures business-IT alignment. The keys here are flexible platforms and tools that enable continuous transformation, and allow business professionals to share the responsibility of delivery. Create ever-evolving programs that deliver streams of value.
  2. Get passionate about people experience. Experiences need to be useful, usable and desirable, allowing people to accomplish their goals, easily perform tasks, and enjoy their tasks. That’s right, enjoyment of the experience actually makes a difference, both for your customers and your employees.
  3. Deliver smart solutions. This is about creating solutions that have a lot of flexibility built in to allow the business people to configure and extend them, through goal-driven processes rather than strictly structured processes. Events and analytics have a big part of this, by delivering key information at the right time to process participants, using suggestions for guided experiences as well as awareness of the process context. The result: huge productivity gains, both for IT (who do less development) and business (who can do more without having to wait for IT to change the applications).
  4. Make proposals to the business. Innovation comes from a combination of business and technology knowledge, and IT needs to learn the business in a very deep way in order to be able to recommend new technologes that will really make a difference. I can personally attest to this: my work with clients, which is a lot about helping implement BPM technology, relies on me having a deep understanding of what the business does; otherwise, I can’t visualize a solution that will have a significant impact on their business. That means that by the end of a project, I can do the job of half the people in the business area: knowledge that I’m unlikely to use everyday, but invaluable in helping them to innovate their business. To generalize, the right combination of analytic skills, technology know-how and business knowledge allows IT professionals to propose breakthrough innovations that the business just won’t come up with on their own because they didn’t even know that they were possible.

They were directly addressing the IT professionals in the crowd; given that this is also a conference on business process, I’m not sure that’s all who’s here, but great suggestions nonetheless.

They finished with some thoughts on changing language from the old school IT speak as part of creating the new empowered ways:

  • “User” becomes “Person” to stop some of the alienation between business and IT
  • “Project” becomes “Program”, which requires a change in focus as well as language
  • “Application” becomes “Business capability”, since the iPhone has ruined the word “app” for us 😉
  • “IT (Information Technology)” becomes “BT (Business Technology)”, since it’s really about the business, not just the information underlying the business
  • Industrial metaphors becomes creative metaphors, since we’re not just cogs in the wheels of business – a message on the Twitter stream suggested that we do away with “Lean” while we’re at it

This was a call to arms for IT to do things better, and lead us to the empowered future.