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Enterprise BPM: Fit processes to align with goals, not personalities

Enterprise BPM is supposed to improve workflow; however, at many organizations it's a relic of past employees and practices.

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BPM is one of the few acronyms that stands for what it actually is, as business process management describes precisely what the discipline centers on. However, for many organizations, enterprise BPM reflects an earlier time when it just as well may have meant best practical ministration. Specifically, when an organization first established its processes, it was likely done with a specific employee preference in mind.

business employees sitting at table with tablets

The problem is that a lot of organizations never move beyond this stage and continue to operate with the same processes in place -- never mind that the original employees are long gone. The result typically is a decline in efficiency and, often, a degradation of quality, as current employees have their own personalities and skills placed into someone else's mold.

Point in case

A client situation involving printing and sending a monthly report to a line of business executives highlights the aforementioned problem. A business executive says he always throws out the report and doesn't know why he gets it. The person producing the report says he was sending it because he was told to do so when he started working at the organization.

Acknowledge employees' discomfiture, but also point out how ineffective the processes in question have become.

Chances are, the previous executive asked for a copy of the report from whomever produced it at the time. The practice stuck and now time, energy and resources are spent on something no one wants or uses. No one stopped to question why the practice exists, and operational inertia kept the process going.

View turf battles as early indicators

Rectifying the situation is as easy as canceling the rogue print job and lopping the delivery branch off the process tree. Unfortunately, most situations are not this simple: Legacy work often involves functions that overlap several departments, and untangling the mess can be incredibly difficult.

Imagine, for example, a product marketing function in a technology-driven company. In the beginning, it would not be unusual for the head of engineering to actively shape the promotional materials to ensure every spec is accounted for and accurately articulated. After a certain amount of growth, most establishments create a marketing department, and a push-pull of editorial authority inevitably ensues that causes missed deadlines and a weakened message.

The emergence of this kind of conflict is a good indication it's time to reshuffle responsibilities and rethink processes so they align with current business objectives and personalities. This transition must be done carefully so people affected by the pruning don't get offended or take it personally -- and humans being human, this may be the biggest challenge of all.

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It's best to keep the conversation focused on the organization's goals and how new processes will help accomplish them. Acknowledge employees' discomfiture, but also point out how ineffective the processes in question have become and how much more fulfilling the new responsibilities will be.

There's no escaping the fact that most long-established processes reflect the personalities of the employees they were created for. Inefficiencies can be escaped with enterprise BPM; it just takes a shift in mindset from convenience to intelligence and the courage to modify operations accordingly.

About the author:
Steve Weissman has a 20-year track record of innovation and success in helping organizations derive maximum total value from their information solutions. A seasoned consultant, analyst and professional trainer, he uses his keen strategy, business and technology skills to identify, measure and mesh his clients' needs and goals, and recommend effective best-practices and solutions for managing processes, content and data. He can be reached at sweissman@hollygroup.com or 617-383-4655.

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This was first published in February 2014

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