One of the rapidly evolving solution areas in the IT industry is what vendors and analysts refer to as 'Business Process Management', or BPM for short. The premise behind BPM is that operational processes in many organisations cut across departmental and system boundaries, are based on a lot of manual processing, and often don’t …
More fun to play B.S Marketroid Bingo
Let's get this right kids, shall we? A Frictionless Architecture of Out of The Box Thinking combined with a heuristic approach to in your face products now in effect? Don't forget that the blue sky drinkers will be waiting for loyal punters to express doomsday prognosis of a P2P study leading to a PPI challenge.
I've worked for two organisations in recent years who are big in implementing BPM for customers while their own Process Manglement depends on post-it notes, phone calls and email. And even worse Lotus databases.
People spend a lot of time documenting process but it's only read by the auditors and the folks who might have to talk to the auditors. (except for expenses and holiday bookings)
Whether the paucity of automation is because internal projects are always below fee paying or bid-work in the priority list or whether it's ok to foist it on a customer in return for money but we know ROI calculations are a heap of dingos' kidneys, I'm not sure. But I have my opinion.
Whatever the reason these organisations find themselves in the same situation as the cobblers children.
BPM's not the problem: users are.
BPM: Users don't like it (as it forces them to change). Directors have only the most superficial understanding of it.
As a result of this, IT's remit is expanding from bits 'n' chips to helping the silly sods organise themselves and make sure they are actually (e.g.) buying systems that will do what they think they will do (IMO the major driver for BPM is a new system deployment)
Great for me and my salary (Head of IT and a former business analyst), but a shoddy state of affairs when the IT chaps have to get involved to make sure business basics are being followed.
N.B. Lord knows, if we didn't get involved and lead on stuff like this, we'd have endless complaints about "the IT"- which would be "the IT" they'd bought, specced, and deployed poorly.
Too young to remember O 'n' M?
Clipboards and stop-watches.
Magic in the BPM Quadrant
A few years back I had the displeasure of spending a day, courtesy of my then employer, of sitting through a rather horrid presentation of a BPM system that was the aforementioned "magic". It turns out the only magic involved was it was utter vaporware (or some partial .net wrappered in Java for the layperson), so I only assume it was given that rating for its sheer sleight of hand.
Apart from that I have personally been involved (coding wise) in several open source version of BPM and to date (and maybe I am the common theme) I would recommend sticking with the traditional "write it yourself" then letting some generic gubbins process your business logic.
My 2 farthings, and halfpenny to boot.
O 'n' M? More haste less speed...
Surely T 'n' M. aka Time and motion. My late father worked in engineering in the mid 1970's where he was approached by a university whizz kid with the mentioned clipboard and stopwatch. He asked "Can you make the machine (a large pipework cutting bandsaw) run faster?" to which my father replied "Yes, I can make it go faster". "Okay then - make it go faster". With the manchine cranked up, the blade then shattered, putting the whole joint behind on orders. It took a few days to get it fixed which cost an arm and a leg. The whizz kid was never seen again.
BPM, ISO and other TLAs
This latest industry buzz has all the earmarks of an excuse to keep otherwise useless middle management occupied, starting with it's freshly coined TLA.
In the mid to late eighties, I worked for a small branch of a large company. We had maybe 20 people in our division, yet we shipped 20% of the company's total sales (repackaged OEM gear that we integrated with our own product).
In 1987ish, a VP convinced the CEO that we had to become ISO certified.
All of a sudden, our small division had 8 new "managers" trying to document everything we were doing. That's a 400% increase in management ... to produce the exact same product.
Our division went from zero(!) power-on field failures over four+ years to an industry acceptable 2.5% ... That's right. We went from perfect to one in forty didn't work on power-up in the field. The folks who shipped our own home-grown kit wound up with a 4% field failure rate (up from just under 1%).
Our "perfect in the field" reputation was ruined, sales dipped, profits dropped, the Board ousted the CEO/President, and we hired MORE middle-management to try to figure out why sales and profits were falling ...
Needless to say, the dude in charge of ISO certification was promoted.
No icon. This isn't AOL.
Nuff said. Wish marketing creatures could do a search like this before they release an identical abbreviation onto the unsuspecting public.
Sorry Reg, started the survey, got bored. Can we have shorter questions and answers next time, with potentially some sarcastic ones thrown in for good measure?
Paris, cos she'd know about rhythm.
More things for the people in the middle to discuss while the work's being done by someone else.
How to create an industry in ten seconds.
AtoCrapita-Andercoopers seem to be pushing Performance testing at the moment.
Gullible PM : "It's not fast enough."
ACAC Consultant : "Why don't we get some metrics? We've got some people who can do that."
Cue influx of cost centre eaters.
or as should happen.
PM : "It's not fast enough."
ACAC Consultant : "Why don't we get some metrics? We've got some people who can do that."
PM : "What? To tell me how fast it isn't?"
Performance testing. The biggest waste of money yet invented. If it's not fast enough, spend money speeding it up, not on proving it isn't.
Nothing new here
People who can, do
People who can't, watch and criticise
Inefficiencies always creep into systems as the demands change over time
Good management is about recognising the points at which the inefficiencies need to be addressed by quick fixes, exception procedures and major revisions.
Crap management is about paying consultants to tell you that you need to overhaul your entire methodology once a year because you can never be sure that it isn't broken.
BPM's not the problem: process fitting is
My experience of process mapping implementation is that it covers standard cases, more or less, then collapses exhausted. If a job lives from exceptions, change or details, like logistics or data management, then it's fit in or join the army time.
@ Mister Cheese and everyone who commented so far
Thanks for the comments - a good spread but all tending in the same direction, as we suspected they might :-). I'm going to save them for the write up.
Ref Mr Cheese's comment: Its been a tough one to work out how best to word things to balance finding stuff out in the shortest amount of space versus making the questions short etc etc, so the point is well made and taken. We'll get some sarcastic options in there next time, although the open ended questions do provide that leeyway too :-) (we read every single one, seriously)
It doesn't matter much anyway...
all they're trying to do is to come up with an object database of the optimal process for every possible business. Unfortunately, anywhere there are humans involved, the optimal process is degraded by mistakes and lack of 100% productivity. After all, the optimal process would be wholly automatable - no humans required.
I agree with the others, BPM is a waste of time...unless they can do a stopwatch run on the new process that's faster than the previous process and doesn't detract from productivity - but that's an engineering process (tiny revisions to the model) rather than re-doing the entire process and hoping it works not only 100%, but better.
And don't forget that all the while, the poor users are trapped in the middle trying to hang on to their jobs. Change things, and productivity automatically drops.
This is not good business. Good business is not changing the production floor until the new process model is proven to be more effective than the previous model.
Business rules to live by:
1. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
2. Don't break anything (you idiot).
3. If you break it, you buy it (and you're fired).
Live by these rules and you already have the optimal process, which has been in place for time immemorial. BPM is making management people forget rule #3 (especially when they change the production floor with unproven ideas).
Waste Not, Want Not
Hehe... I was involved in a LOT of "BPM" work at a certain gov. dept dealing with Johnny Foreigner a few years back - and given the uproar at the time you would think that BPM was going to be of no help whatsoever: when no one even wants to firefight because it's still raining asteroids you'd think BPM wouldn't even get a look in...
But it worked - mostly because it wasn't done "by the book" (the book never made it through the front door, let alone left by the window). Most problems are due to Mushroom Management (keep them in the dark and sh*t on them), so if you actually listen to the staff, ignore "the big picture" and deal with the problems sensibly it can make a surprising difference.
I drew a short straw and had to deal with what were internally known as a bunch of obstreperous luddites who were to be obliged to accept some IT they didn't want and who were therefore expected break it out of sheer spite in order to prove it didn't work. So... a bit of "process capture", a bit of understanding that what people say happens isn't necessarily what actually happens, a bit of redesign of an IT solution and a very dirty pair of hands later and they were even willing to change their SOP's to work around some IT problems.
Other business rules include:
1. If something seems broken find out what is actually broken first (Bitte nicht fingerpoken)
2. Fix it properly
3. If you fire an idiot for breaking something, don't hire another idiot to fix it.
BPM works nearly everywhere if done with common sense... but I thought "BPM" per se went out of fashion years ago... to be replaced with BPR - Business Process Re-engineering... and I thought that was passe too...
Mine's the one with "How much????" on the back
Will all BPM technicians please raise their hands. OK, will all ISO9000 technicians raise their hands. OH!, no hands. How can BPM be a technology without technicians? I only mentioned ISO9000 because it is much the same as BPM, with the exception that it has the support of a large standards organisation rather than a bunch of money grabbing TLA generators.
If we haven't already, I am sure we will soon have BPM Engineers. Now, they will never actually build anything, will have to use design tools built by others and will be unable to fix the washing machine, but they will call themselves engineers.
My last comment was:
When you are up to your arse in alligators it is difficult to focus on the objective of draining the swamp.
This I think is the situation for most SMALL and medium enterprises.
TLAs are like, soooo 20th C...