Wednesday, July 16, 2014

No more business process improvement?

This week I received some surprise congratulations on LinkedIn for my 5th work anniversary. Five years of Consected. Scarily, there are archives on this blog, pre-Consected going back to May 2006. Let me know if you find anything there. I'm almost too afraid to look!

On this Consected / Improving It blog I have always spent most of the time talking about businesses, the processes they run, and how they can improve. Occasionally, though sadly rarely, how these organizations are model citizens in the world of business process management or BPM.

Business process management, as anybody in the industry of helping companies work more efficiently already knows, is a term that comes with confusion, even from its own practitioners. Some believe that BPM is just about the discipline of skilled professionals going and helping companies see what they are doing wrong and helping them do it right (or at least a bit better, then a bit better again, etc...). There are others that believe BPM is about the tools and software to help people do their jobs better, faster, cheaper. They are generally the software vendors.

Me? I thought of BPM as all of the above and more. Hell, sometimes the best thing to happen to a business is an Excel spreadsheet, copied and pasted every time you use it. Sometimes, though I hate to say it, a Microsoft Sharepoint site is enough to help people work together better. But do anything seriously repetitive, requiring a bit (or a lot) of automation, and some controls to ensure compliance and you're hitting the essence of what business process management should be:

  • seeing how things are not working
  • using experience to understand how to do things better
  • defining the most cost-effective tools to help run the new process
  • implementation of that new process
  • measuring that it is working
  • fixing and improving it, over and over
  • throwing it all away and adapting to a complete change in the industry you are in
We've seen the software vendors fight, come up with their own terms to describe BPM, band together to generate silly concepts like the BPM suite (BPMS), 'adaptive' BPM, then get acquired and their technology integrated (in other words, forgotten). And we've seen the consulting practitioners fight to reclaim their turf, which they believe is the true BPM. Or call it Lean, Six-sigma, or something else that you can't trademark, or at times even pronounce the main concepts.

Me? I thought that applying close to 20 years of enterprise software, consulting and business improvement experience needed a little more than riding the bandwagon. I backed off a great job opportunity, with a solid company, with great people. Because I wasn't ready to retire myself to an industry that is clinging to partisan divides, and vendor lock-in. I decided that I needed to apply this experience back into a real business, of the type I'd spent years trying to help (and sometimes sell to).

So, with a couple of co-founders we created REPSE. It isn't BPM. It isn't technology. But it does have the vision that smart processes and carefully placed software can help businesses, investors, and financial technology (fintech) work better for more than consumers' iPhone apps. To help real estate businesses raise the money they need when the banks won't help. And to make sure that less money is wasted on administrative junk.

That for me is what BPM is about. Using processes, technology, tools and skills to make real businesses work. 

I'm now CTO at REPSE, and I hope to make a huge impact on the business (OK I believe I already am, only 7 or more months in, depending how you measure it). For now, thanks for watching Consected, and feel free to follow +REPSE on Google+, or @repse_inc on Twitter where you'll see me write more stuff about the REPSE business. Or if you really want to connect with Phil the person, rather than Phil the corporate brand, my LinkedIn profile is the place.

Check out my posts on REPSE and share it with friends, family and wealthy investors!