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Business Process Management, the misconceptions

May 21, 2020 | Articles

Business Process Management (BPM) has come up as an evolution of many tried and tested improvement methodologies, from Deming’s SPC, Goldrat’s TOC, Hammer’s BPR, Toyota Production System (TPS), Wolmack and Jones with Lean, Motorola’s Six Sigma to today’s IT and technology enabled process improvement.

With all these still very much in play, one is surely likely to get lost on the road to process management and improvement. To make matters worse, there is no universally accepted definition of what BPM truly is, with both academics and practitioners all taking a stake at defining it conveniently for the purposes and advancement of their particular missions. Without this much needed fundamental understanding, how then is today’s business supposed to fully embrace this system, and reap the rewards that the great proponents of process management have achieved?

I do not believe though, that a hard coded definition of BPM will help address the misconceptions that characterise implementation and adoption of Process management the world over. It is the central themes that make up BPM that one needs to understand, and their business will certainly be on the road to all the great things that have been painted on every wall that talks about BPM.

The strength within BPM is the fact that it does not prescribe a particular tool or methodology for process optimisation.

Customer Focus, Daily Management System, Continuous Process Improvement, Systems Thinking, People, Tools and Technology. BPM is fundamentally how all of these come together to improve business performance. Note that I have conveniently used the word system rather than methodology. BPM is the system through which these central themes are planned, organised, coordinated, executed and controlled together to achieve organisational excellence by focusing on the critical processes of the business. It needs to be the overarching “personality” of the organisation for it to be a success.

It is noteworthy that BPM within IT circles and amongst many software vendors is conveniently yet vaguely portrayed as the Suite of Software products (BPMS) that allow for the mapping, modelling, execution, and monitoring of automated business processes. Unfortunately, this misses the mark as it gives the impression that manual processes and other activities that cannot be automated are not subjects of Business Process Management. Nothing may be further from the truth!!!

BPM is way more than its technological component. In fact it is critical that while BPM and BPMS are complimentary, the two need to be clearly de-coupled for each component to deliver and surely be measured for the value it brings. On the one hand, BPM delivers continuously evolving and improving, fully functional and technology independent customer focused processes that have the capability to meet the organisation’s vision, mission and values. BPM becomes the heart and frame for any change while the technology that enables the process serves only as a catalyst.

A very common misconception amongst process improvement practitioners and executives alike is to view BPM as a competitor or better still as synonymous to other improvement methodologies, Lean, Six sigma, TPS, Enterprise Architecture, Process Re-engineering etc. However BPM is much higher than all these. I view BPM as an overarching system to manage all the process initiatives of an organisation be it Lean Six Sigma or ERP implementation, a small 5s initiative in one section, or a big bang Business Process Re-engineering approach in another.

BPM provides for example, the much needed framework, management system and data for Lean Six Sigma initiatives or processes and workflow rules for ERP implementations.

In many organisations, BPM is limited to Business Process Mapping and Modelling. However, very little is done to integrate the activities of the organisation. I have seen in many instances, the same process being mapped several times within a year for different initiatives, simply because the other group had no idea that same process existed already in their database or what the impact of their improvements would be in other areas of the business.

The strength within BPM is the fact that it does not prescribe a particular tool or methodology for process optimisation and is therefore not another fly by improvement philosophy. It will be sad, and principally a tragedy to the performance improvement world to see these misconceptions render BPM inappropriate as has happened to BPR. More so with the proven results it has demonstrated, in cases where it was quite understood.

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