Part Two – Technology wagging the dog?
In Part One of this blog series, I attempted to identify a common problem with digital transformation efforts – they are often driven by technological advancements instead of supported by them. This can result in several negative, unintended consequences (monetary losses, increased cultural resistance to change, and processing errors and defects which require human resources to repair). If we are to avoid jumping the gun in implementing a new technology and thus, experiencing these consequences, we must first clearly understand the people and processes this technology is intended to support.
As I posited previously, business process management (BPM) can be the mechanism by which we “learn to see” opportunities for improvement and change within our existing work structures, allowing us to maximize the value generated by implementing a new technology. As the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a good first impression. It stands to reason that our digital transformation efforts only get one chance to make a good first impression with our line-of-business customers. BPM can help us make it count.
Recall the definition of BPM referenced in my previous post:
The practice of improving company performance through managing and optimizing business processes.
What does this look like as it functions within a business? Imagine a world where your organization’s business processes are clearly defined, accessible, kept relevant by subject matter experts, and continuously improved. This is what effective BPM looks like. It’s not a one-time documentation effort to satisfy third-party auditors or a half-baked idea from the executive team to “do that process thing that everyone else is doing.” In a sense, BPM is not simply a means to an end, but an end in-and-of itself.
Assuming you agree with me – or will humor me – that understanding the people and processes impacted by our digital transformation efforts is critical to the success of the effort, and that BPM is an appropriate methodology to clearly see those people and processes, we now must ask “How does one go about implementing BPM?” Like any other business transformation effort, BPM must follow the time-tested change management methodology of Plan, Do, Check, Act (the PDCA cycle – check out this short video for more information). For the purposes of this blog series, I am going to shorten PDCA to three phases – 1) Planning – 2) Execution – 3) Continuous Improvement.
As I will address phases two and three (Execution and Continuous Improvement) in more detail in a future blog post, below I will simply survey the Planning phase at a high level:
Planning for business process management consists of three main parts. Crafting a vision, deciding upon a process governance structure and selecting a technology platform, and communicating with the project stakeholders. Much ink has been spilled over the years regarding vision statements, and rightfully so. Consider this quote from change management expert John Kotter:
“Without an appropriate vision, a transformation effort can easily dissolve into a list of confusing, incompatible, and time-consuming projects that go in the wrong direction or nowhere at all.”
It’s important to remember that your vision statement is not simply a checklist of things that are to be done, but a document that paints a clear picture of the problems being experienced and provides direction and motivation for people to follow in pursuit of a solution.
Governance and technology
Successful BPM implementation seeks to marry the correct process platform and appropriate methodology of process governance. For example, if you desire your line-of-business employees to get involved in managing processes, the technology you select must be suitable to engage those persons and not act as a barrier to their involvement. This is where so many organizations get it wrong – they desire the line-of-business to take ownership of their processes, yet provide them with a complex process tool designed for a formally-trained business analyst. This misstep of combining the right process governance strategy (line-of-business process ownership) with the wrong process tool (complex solution designed for the business analyst) can lead to frustration, disengagement, and ultimately – unreliable and irrelevant process documentation.
To avoid this problem, an organization must select a process tool that is simple to use, promotes accessible process information, and supports healthy, line-of-business process ownership. This is where a solution such as Nintex Promapp – a G2 Crowd BPM Leader – can be of tremendous value. Not only does Nintex Promapp facilitate simple process documentation and management – it is designed to specifically to support the line-of-business process governance methodology. Regardless of the process platform you choose to deploy, insist upon a technology that provides process simplicity, accessibility, and governance.
After establishing a vision, selecting a process management platform and governance methodology, you now must establish lines of communication with your various stakeholders. I find it helpful to think of your stakeholders at three different levels – 1) line-of-business partners, 2) middle-management and strategic corporate partners, and 3) executive leadership. It is critical to ensure that these stakeholders understand the BPM vision statement and buy-into the effort. During these conversations it is helpful to explain clearly the expectations of each stakeholder regarding their involvement in the implementation.
The specific responsibilities of each stakeholder will vary from organization to organization, but generally you can expect the following: The line-of-business partners will be heavily involved in creating and managing process knowledge. The middle-management team and strategic corporate partners will play an important role in allocating the necessary human resources for achieving documentation and ongoing process management. Finally, the executive leadership team will need to support the effort through clear and consistent top-down communication strategies.
For your consideration
Next time we will address how you can begin moving forward implementing the organizational vision for BPM. In the meantime, I encourage you to consider attending Nintex ProcessFest 2019. It will take place from September 30 – October 3 in Bellevue, Washington. Over these four days, attendees will have the opportunity to hear inspiring keynotes, learn from process management and automation experts, and network with like-minded process professionals. I hope to see you there!
 John Kotter, Leading Change (Harvard Business Review Press, 2012), 8.
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