Business Process Management: Link Your Team, Increase Your Agility
Wes Simonds 120000EFD6 firstname.lastname@example.org | | Tags:  marquard healthcare ibm dave westside process software system blueworks capability live presbyterian ward-dutton wes simonds business services management capabilities
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Even as a small child, I knew it would one day be my destiny to write poetry about Business Process Management (BPM). That day has come. I present to you this humble work:
Ignore the process? All too soon
The outcome you'll be ruing.
Because without good BPM,
You don't know what you're doing.
It lacks, I admit, a Shakespearean elegance and lyricism, but I think the essential point is there.
Business process management is all about getting things done well: engaging the right people at the right time to do the right tasks and thus achieve some overarching goal. And unless you optimize that complex process, you probably won't achieve the goal.
This concept -- intuitively obvious though it may seem -- is not always pursued very well by organizations today. Several possible explanations occur to me.
(1) The default human tendency to wing it -- improvise, and see where things go. If we're talking about one guy tying his shoes, yes, he can probably wing it and still get things done on time and under budget.
But if we're talking about an organization of 10,000 people keeping track of fluctuating customer demand for a wide range of products and services, and then meeting that demand in a way that ultimately creates growth and pleases steely-eyed stockholders, then winging it is for the birds.
(2) Process entrenchment. An organization is founded, grows, succeeds and then just…coasts.
It got used to doing things in certain ways, casually assuming they would always work, and it continued to do things in those ways even when the world changed around it. Meanwhile, nimbler competitors adapted more successfully. Instead of becoming the next-generation Amazon.com, one day the organization woke up and realized it was only the last-generation Borders. Here, too, problematic BPM is likely a major culprit.
(3) Fumbled potential for internal collaboration. Suppose senior execs have a new plan; getting that plan implemented by the troops is often slower and clumsier than it ought to be because business processes aren't well understood.
Alternately, ideas from new team members who enter the company at various levels in the hierarchy may be a great resource. But because those ideas are hard to illustrate and communicate intuitively, they don’t usually create real change.
Keeping the focus on the people -- not the tech
Directly on point in solving all three of these problems is an offering from IBM Software called Blueworks LiveTM . This service and capability, hosted and run in an IBM cloud, is specially designed to simplify and accelerate the creation of and/or improvement of processes.
It allows organizations to pay a nominal monthly fee, based on an editor/contributor model, which empowers team members to collaborate with each other in discovering and documenting existing business processes, developing new ones and optimizing both.
Because it executes in an IBM cloud, it spares organizations the need to purchase, deploy and integrate special BPM software of their own. Instead, they can just pony up a little money and be productive in less than one day, using any standard web browser as an interface to the service, and sharing the results with each other in ways they can easily control.
That's not just better BPM; it's faster BPM, and it helps improve business agility in a larger sense. This is a change sorely in need at most organizations today, and also a major factor behind their renewed interest in BPM generally.
Dave Marquard, with the IBM BPM Product Marketing team, made this clear to me. ‘Given today's larger economic environment -- which is challenging, to say the least -- and the speed of competition today, you either fall behind or become radically more efficient. And if you want to become more efficient, improving your business processes is a great place to start. Ideally, processes should be as optimized as the technology you use to carry them out.’
That made a lot of sense to me. Too often, in business, it seems that the concept of optimization applies largely to the obvious technical areas like processors, system performance or workload efficiency, or the speed of this or that algorithm.
But even added up, all the optimized technology in the world isn't going to drive a more agile outcome if your business processes are sluggish.
Marquard, too, sees the case for Blueworks Live as a business-centric one -- keeping the focus squarely on what the organization does, as opposed to the tools used to do it.
‘With Blueworks Live, we're helping teams put business in control of their processes, instead of handing those processes to IT, and then watching as IT spins its wheels for a year, finally handing them back something unwieldy that they can't use easily or quickly, and that's out of date the day it arrives,’ he said. ‘When you've actually got business people involved from the start, they're creating something they understand, and the spotlight stays where it should be: on improving whatever it is you're trying to do.’
Another strong suit of the solution: cross-team, cross-generation, hierarchy-spanning collaboration.
‘We're seeing, in our discussions with customers, that a lot of new employees entering organizations come from a Web 2.0-esque paradigm -- the Facebook and Twitter world, in which they can create a new account and get busy in a matter of minutes. But they don't usually get that kind of experience from the BPM tools in place, which are usually pretty cumbersome in comparison,’ said Marquard. ‘That's why we designed Blueworks Live to drive quick productivity in that Facebook-like way -- rapid development and quick time-to-value. New hires can see how things are done right away, be more productive, and maybe even suggest optimizations that would help accomplish things even faster and more easily.’
How does 1100% improvement sound to you?
The business risk to Blueworks Live clients is also remarkably low, because so are the costs and time needed to get busy; outstanding ROI is practically assured as a result.
That stands in sharp relief to some of the current solutions commonly used for process development -- you know, the kind that have to be purchased, installed, configured and integrated, often requiring IT to hit individual workstations for every team member involved. In contrast, the instant time-to-value of Blueworks Live translates into a potentially instant improvement in business agility.
Presbyterian Healthcare Services, an Albuquerque-based not-for-profit provider, has had exactly that experience. Until recently, they used a different process visualization tool, and ran into this all-too-common problem: almost as soon as the tool was used, the organization literally ‘forgot about the results.’ Whatever processes were developed, there was little to no sharing, no optimization, and as a result, no significant improvement in the business outcome. It was almost as if the visualization tool wasn't there at all.
With the IBM solution, adopted in 2011, this organization is singing a different tune. Said Doug Johnson, director of innovation for Presbyterian Westside Healthcare System: ‘Using IBM Blueworks Live, employees are about 12 times more productive. The key word here is empowerment. Employees are now empowered to create the processes that they need.’
What can your organization do, in one business day or less, to improve employee productivity by a whole order of magnitude?
Check out IBM Business Process Management capabilities
More on improving business agility at the IBM Impact blog
Learn more about Blueworks Live
See how IBM Business Process Manager simplifies your complex business
Check in with the BPM Socialite blog
Great blog post from Neil Ward-Dutton on people and business agility
About the author
Guest blogger Wes Simonds worked in IT for seven years before becoming a technology writer on topics including virtualization, cloud computing and service management. He lives in sunny Austin, Texas and believes Mexican food should always be served with queso.