Friday, May 08, 2015

BPM is still broke. So I'll just take the bits I like.

Back in July 2014 I announced that I would be stepping back from Consected and the Improving It / Consected Blog. I had the excitement of a new startup drawing me in, and I felt then, as I do now that the technology and practice of Business Process Management (BPM) had become too partisan for me. There were too few right answers to the questions organizations were having about how to improve their businesses, but still no consensus on which of those few right answers would work well in any real situation.

The short story is, I'm Back!

I'm carefully stepping out of the day to day operations at REPSE, the startup I co-founded, having contributed some great technology. That technology worked amazing well, proven by how it morphed quickly in support of a business that moved from "commercial real estate not-quite-crowdfunding", to "online advisory and investor management for private companies" as they move through their investment lifecycle. It was a fun tech challenge as CTO, and I still hold the title and live up to my responsibilities on evenings and weekends. At this point in time it doesn't need me playing technology leader and coder 60 hours a week.

Humbled by the experience, appreciative of the amazing people I've worked with, and rested after a little break, I'm back in the land of Consected. So what is my new focus? If I still believe that BPM continues to be little more than a pile of "he who shouts loudest" marketing from software companies and consulting practitioners, how can I reasonably re-enter this space?

My focus is what I think Business Process Management should be. Stirring up the best parts from BPM practice (some Lean, some Six-Sigma, some smart analysis), formal project management (including the PMI PMBOK), balanced scorecards, agile development (Scrum-ban being a ready made melange), change management and good-ol' common sense. All whipped up and given some 21st century splashes of technology for good taste.

Here are some early thoughts on where I see challenges and how to make them better.

Balanced value generation

Recognize that business value is generated in many different forms, not just financial (or operational efficiency or customer service or human potential). Help organizations recognize all the components that they can control, and admit their true value proposition to customers, employees, investors, communities and the environment.

Structure drives ownership, communication and focus

Clearly analyze and present to companies how they are structured. Demonstrate how this structure both contributes to and impedes their generation of value. 

Businesses often choose to believe that some aspect of their operations is failing due to the people working on it (and that may be the case). The same businesses also need to see how a land-grab mentality to creating an org chart affects communications between individuals, leads to lack of ownership of objectives and subsequently failures in focus. This includes soft-focus, rose tinted, completely ignoring the truth that you just f'd up and it's time to fix it.

Continuous improvement

In these days of data everywhere, you'd think that businesses would have a clue what is going on. But using all that data, not just storing it is what matters. And if you can understand your data, you can measure your performance in the factors that affect value generation. And only then can you really make changes to see what got better and what potentially unintended side-effects you had.

I'm going to stop there. With a million other things that can be done we all have to present the grand vision. Mine is not fully formed, and it will continue to evolve. But I won't forget that with the "grand" there is also the simple and pragmatic: removing activities that are obviously broken or offer no value; processes that can be automated to avoid wasting time; and change controls that can be easily implemented to avoid project timelines from slipping.

We all have to start somewhere. I've started by fixing my business. Can I help you fix yours too?

A post from the Improving It blog