In the fair dinkum department, the most important question about BPM must be "is it worth the effort?" It works in theory, but does it work in practice? What is the return on process? How should we measure, and report, the outcomes of process-based management? The Wrong Answer Let's deal with the wrong answer first. It's not about the artifacts. No organization has a business problem called "we don't have enough process models." It is not a business improvement outcome to say we've trained 50 people on Six Sigma analysis, or appointed some process owners, or modelled a process architecture, or assigned process KPIs — these are all necessary, but none is sufficient. To the executive not yet fully engaged with the promise of process-based management, all this activity might sound more like a problem than a solution, more like a waste of resources than a successful outcome. And if that is all that is happening, she would be correct. We need good models, architecture, methods, and training — a metamodel of management — they are a means to an end, but not an end in themselves. Just having management tools is not the point; we must use them to deliver real organizational performance improvement. If our process management and improvement activities are not delivering measurable, objective, proven organizational performance improvements — improvements better than we might have otherwise achieved — then our process activity is, by our own definitions, waste.
As some readers will know from my previous writing, for example here, there, and everywhere, I take a broad view of BPM, seeing it as a management philosophy, preferring the term process-based management over business process management. A brief summary of that view is as follows. An organization's resources are managed 'vertically' via the organization chart. Value is created, accumulated, and delivered 'horizontally' across that chart, i.e., via cross-functional processes. Value is accumulated across, not up and down, the functional organization as the various parts collaborate to create, accumulate, and deliver value in the form of a desired product or service. It follows that an organization executes its strategic intent via its business processes. In this context, where cross-functional processes are key to the delivery of value and execution of strategy, the improvement and management of processes is critical to the optimization of an organization's performance. BPM is not a one-off project, nor an IT system; it is a management philosophy.
For nearly two decades I have worked with many organizations in different countries, cultures, and corporate structures to understand and advance the theory and practice of process-based management. There is a common problem, a change of mindset and practice that many organizations fail to make. Process improvement alone is not enough. Successful process-based management also requires … management.
A new day, a new process modelling project. The project plan has been signed off, reference documentation was gathered, all stakeholders have been identified and now…now what? While process models increase in popularity and most businesses seem to agree that process models are indeed a good way of representing how an organisation creates and delivers value, there is little to no guidance on what a good process model is, how to create one and how to successfully go about executing a process modelling project. While this guide does not claim to be a silver bullet for all your process modelling problems (look at our Modelling Excellence framework for that!), it aims to be a guide for Project Managers and BPM Professionals in every stage of the modelling journey, regardless of whether you’re just kicking off a new modelling project, are in the middle of a major project, or are just looking for a refresh. Please note that this guide does not address steps to set up or configure a process modelling tool. It is focused on the activity of process modelling. Let’s get started! This section includes topics that should be covered prior to kicking off any process modelling project. If a project is already underway, but struggling, we recommend revisiting this section to ensure the basics have been covered. If your project is already underway and going well, you may opt to skip ahead to the “Business Process Modelling” section. It’s all about the purpose… Firstly, ensure the purpose for modelling has been identified and agreed upon by all stakeholders. Whether it is communication, training, process measurement, improvement or configuration of a workflow tool, any modelling effort must serve a purpose. Major decisions such as “What modelling tool is the right one?” as well as minor decisions such as “Should I include this detail in my model?” can easily, logically and consistently be answered once the purpose has been identified. Consequently, if a clear purpose for modelling cannot be identified, no time and money should be spent on modelling as the models would end up being waste. The start of a process modelling project is also a good time to identify additional use cases for process models and pitch those to the stakeholders. The more use cases there are, the more robust the business case for process modelling becomes. Models that are re-used often are valuable to the organisation, rather than just useful for a one-off project. This does not mean that creating models for one-off use is waste. Although we generally recommend maintaining and re-using process models as much as possible, there are many valid use cases for and circumstances under which organisations choose to create process models that will be deleted once the project is completed. We do however emphasise that this purpose needs to be clearly identified and agreed upon, so nobody comes looking for the model two years later and needs to then kick off another modelling project since the former models are either out-of-date or nowhere to be found. Understanding the purpose of modelling will also help Modellers in the information elicitation and model validation stages of the project. They must always be prepared to explain what they are doing, why they are doing it and how it benefits the organisation. A strong pitch for modelling, tied back to the purpose, will help to keep stakeholders focused during workshops.
Continuous process improvement is a common organizational aspiration, and it is one of the most difficult things an organization can attempt. The continuous aspect is quite a challenge, as is realizing business performance improvements—especially once the easy and obvious changes have been made. Organizations need an ‘internal improvement engine’ that replaces insistence with evidence.