You Need BPMS to do BPM

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This interview originally appeared in the members only BPM Strategies Magazine.   Join today to receive your own copy. 

"To do good work, one must first have good tools." - Chinese proverb

The acronym BPM means business process management. BPMS, business

process management systems, is the set of technologies that support doing

BPM.

A BPM orientation views the business as a set of end-to-end processes that deliver goods and services to customers. Performance and value have to be measured and monitored from the process perspective. Changes need to be managed from a process perspective. The major barrier to managing by process is that most firms’ legacy systems and nearly all packaged solutions implement a functional management perspective. The management information systems (MIS) created in the 1980s and since were all based on functionally oriented management models. The information to track end-to-end performance and analyze the business from a process perspective just isn't available in these systems.

Typically, businesses are organized into functional units and functional unit management teams are established. Functional units and specific locations form the basis for performance management and the data collected reflects that structure.

Trying to build a picture of the end-to-end process from the data captured in traditional operational and MIS systems is problematic at best. Data and measurements from system to system are not consistent. Many times, it is literally impossible to piece together a complete picture of the end-to-end process and its performance. If we don't have the information, or if it is of poor quality, we can't manage by process with much hope of success.

"Our ‘Age of Anxiety’ is, in great part, the result of trying to do today's job with yesterday's tools-with yesterday's concepts." -Marshall McLuhan

To manage by process, we need high quality information about the end-to-end processes, the transactions, the process flows, the performance at every step and overall. To deliver that information, we need BPMS-style solutions. But just using BPMS tools won’t give you a BPM philosophy or capability. Many of the so-called success stories cited by vendors of BPMS tools are about projects to replace older legacy systems or to automate discrete business functions. They aren't implementing BPM. The real success stories are those where they have implemented a process-oriented management program and used BPMS tools to support it. These tools allow greater visibility into the business operations from an end-to-end process view and the ability to analyze and manage processes more directly. They also let practitioners develop a process portfolio view that helps align business strategy and process changes.

The dominant management paradigm for the 21st century is a business process management model, and there is no doubt that we are going to be using BPMS tools to provide support for that management model. The strategic imperatives calling for agility, real-time response, adaptability, and the ability to execute change faster, necessitate BPMS solutions. There really isn't an alternative.

"Man is a tool-using animal. Without tools he is nothing, with tools he is all."

- Thomas Carlyle

Brett Champlin, CCP, CDMP, is the president and founder of the Association of Business Process  Management Professionals. He is also a business process improvement manager with a large insurance firm where he leads business and IT process redesign projects. He has over 25 years of experience working in information systems and management.

This interview originally appeared in the members only BPM Strategies Magazine.   Join today to receive your own copy. 

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