The Seven Deadly Sins of Business Process Management

The Seven Deadly Sins of Business Process Management

Chris Taylor over at Process Excellent Network has a piece about the damp world of  Business Process Management (BPM) gaffes that struck me as interesting. In it, Taylor riffs on his seven deadly sins of BPM, which are:

  1. Taking the word management in vain
  2. Working in process silos
  3. Reinventing the wheel
  4. Making it hard to find
  5. Failing to keep it up to date
  6. Making it hard to understand
  7. Failing to drive adoption

As a person who’s been heavily involved in BPM most of my career, I have some thoughts on each of these. Here goes.

Taking the word management in vain

Taylor discusses how BPM has come to mean “automation” for many vendors — but it does not matter how equipped you are to streamline your processes, BPM still comes down to “humans not machines.”  I totally agree with this assessment. You can have the best and newest HR and financial systems but the end result is still going to fall within manual business processes. Something as simple as having to follow-up on a timesheet or expense report that was either late or posted incorrectly — unless your systems have a mind of their own and can talk to you and others —  is likely to fall within “human hands.”

Working in process silos

In today’s world, because of increased risk, process improvements are in fact fixed within each department.  I agree with this assessment in that the overall process is often duplicated across departments, and thus a waste of time. The example given about ERP once it goes live is quite interesting — that process knowledge discovered by specialist integrators is lost once the project goes live.  Is this really the case for ERP-centric processes? Does everything really sit in a forgotten network folder until it is time to upgrade? I am in agreement that so much time really could be saved if all projects started off with an updated single source of process truth. On the flip side, having individual departments is something companies tend to like for security purposes.  For example, ideally you wouldn’t want your Security Administrator as part of the hiring process anymore than you would want Human Resources to necessarily be part of the Accounting Department.  So I guess this would depend on how much you want your employees from all levels and departments to know? How segregated do you need your organization to be? These are all valid considerations.

Re-inventing the wheel

To me, this is pretty self explanatory. Basically this ‘sin’ is stating that you don’t need to re-invent the wheel to put BPM into motion. I agree every company already has some type of process in place that they can improve/expand on.  (If you don’t you have more important things to worry about.) Engineering new processes from the ground up to get your BPM ‘done right’ is unnecessary.

Making it hard to find

Many employees’ play ‘compound’ roles in their organization. When someone needs something urgently they are not going to accept the answer of “I am sorry but she/he is not available ’till Thursday, so I will have them call you back.” My experience has taught me that you should always have job sharing and training involved for multiple people to be able to serve as a backup.  Things always come up, and often unannounced. I believe every employer would love for the business to continue to run as smoothly as possible instead of everyone running around in a panic because the head accountant isn’t available, since the accountants Gympie already took it. This coincides with setting up your software systems to provide easy access with respect to to tasks and roles that more than one employee can easily access. Without this, you can all too easily cause organizational confusion.

Failing to keep it up to date

Agreed! What good is documentation that you don’t update when your systems and processes grow? If there is no one person assigned to this task to ensure that documentation gets updated once a process either changes or is put into place, when it comes time for one of those unannounced emergencies to come into play no one person can jump in and run the operations smoothly. Updating process documentation is huge.

Making it hard to understand

Weasel words have no home here. If  your BPM stuff is cryptic, don’t expect it to be effective.

Failing to drive adoption

You can’t drive adoption of a new way of doing a business process unless you do make note of Taylor’s rules for this:

  • Provide a single source of truth instead of multiple process silos
  • Use frameworks to accelerate discovery and adoption
  • Make it easy for every employee to find what they need
  • Keep it all up to date
  • Make it easy to understand

People either dramatically under-or over-think BPM. It doesn’t have to be that way. Sometimes, following some basic rules, thinking ahead a little bit, and making sure the process knowledge you put in place can grow as your systems expand is all it takes.

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