5 Take-aways for business process work...

Amber Naslund over at Altitude Branding has produced a post based on an interview she did with Scott Monty from Ford Motor Company. The subject of their discussion was Social media and how Ford are approaching it. Amber came up with 5 takeaways from their discussion. I recommend reading the post alongside this one.

The reason I'm pushing her post is because I can see a large number of parallels between her take-aways and the world of business process management (lower case letters, rather than 'BPM' in upper case)

Let's go through them:

Strategy First.

As Amber says:

The tools don’t matter a fig. They’ll change, ebb, flow, and go away. But you have to approach social media from a holistic viewpoint: how is this going to touch and affect what I’m doing across the board, and what do we want to accomplish? (Don’t forget that goal-setting is part of strategy).

I believe the same can be said for business processes. Yes, you probably need some sort of tool to help you manage your process definition and evolution, and yes, Visio may well be what you end up using (although you know my thoughts on "Visio - the Devil's tool"), but at the end of the day it is the strategy for your process initiatives that is more important.
  • Why are you managing your processes?
  • What do you hope to achieve through doing this?
  • How are you approaching the whole area of governance and capability?
These are the questions that you need to be answering before you can even start to think about the tools.

Individual faces matter.
It is a sad truth today that in many organisations the big command from corporate "Thou shallt follow this diktat" is likely to alienate more people than it converts. It's worth remembering with business process management (and with pretty much any sort of human facing change) that adoption of the change is a human process. Faces matter in this case. You need to put a face at the head of the effort. Someone who is approachable and will listen to what people need to say. Not necessarily someone who will completely kow-tow to whatever is asked, but at least a face that people can talk to.

Business Process requires commitment.
A good business process programme will touch many areas of the business. As such it will require good management buy-in. The benefit of getting the management buy-in is that you can then start to focus on commitment from other parts of the business. I've worked in companies where business process change was pushed through in a bottom up approach rather than a top-down approach. Believe me, the difference is phenomenal and huge. it is much easier to push things forward with the right commitment at the top.

Keep your feet on the ground.
Amber says :
It’s very easy to get swept up in the idea that everyone and every business ought to be using the latest and greatest shiny new tools. But those aren’t always the best, or the most practical, especially considering that most customers are operating in the mainstream and have never heard of some of our more fringe tools ..
This is even more apparent when you come to something like business process management. This tends to work on a 'hype-cycle' basis (see this from Gartner regarding the hype-cycle) - where people tend to get caught up in the fever of what can happen and then expect it to deliver more than it will. The ability to keep one's feet on the ground and link your efforts to a reality rather than a dream are paramount to making things like this work effectively.

Measure based on your goals.
I've written before about the issues with measuring processes. I've also written about Comerford's Three Laws of Metrics. So it's easy to understand why I have an affinity for this particular take-away.

It all comes down to the simple question of "Why are we doing this and can we prove that it is adding value?". If you can't measure whether you are being successful in what you are doing, you can't measure whether this is something that needs to be continued. Nobody wants to be in a situation where you are actually removing value from a value chain, or adding overhead unnecessarily.

Again, as Amber states:
The entire point of measuring is to learn. Analyze how you’ve done against your goals, but don’t stop there. Figure out what’s next. Where to keep fishing, where to cut bait. And don’t discount the anecdotal evidence of what you’re doing. It matters, too.:

Sage words, and ones we would all do well to listen to....

(Photo courtesy of Plindberg. Released under a creative commons attribution licence)

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