Eye of the Beholder
If empowering managers is one part of that effort, says CSC Australia chief knowledge and technology officer Derek Binney, another is developing the clearest possible understanding of what BPM is all about and what it can do for the organisation.
Across Australia process is certainly back on the organisational agenda, taking on many forms and open to numerous interpretations. But Binney says too many current BPM efforts are being hindered by the fact that how BPM is perceived remains very much in the eyes of the beholder. Most IT groups and IT companies interpret BPM through a technology filter, he points out, while most business units tend to focus on the process improvement aspects.
Binney believes this lack of agreement on definitions is one of the major factors thwarting organisational BPM efforts. "Most organisations when they start, either have a view that [BPM is] a technology thing, or else that it's a continuous improvement thing, and really, the promise being offered by the emerging BPM is of both, together. If you only do half of it, then you're missing the opportunity that BPM provides you," Binney says. "Once you get over that perception hurdle, then what BPM can do for organisations really changes."
Realising both promises depends first of all on developing a clear understanding of what BPM is in its totality, rather than as it is promoted by vested interests, and then on taking full advantage of emerging technology, he says. "Because of some advances in technology, you can more immediately reflect these processes and these changes to these processes into technology. The ability to automate these things is much greater than it ever was, and because the technology is supporting you, you're getting your data and your information about processes feeding back on itself, to help you with this life cycle."
Setting Rules of Engagement
Enhancing organisational BPM capability equally involves enforcing acceptable business standards, and ensuring strong governance.
Paul Griffin is general manager for the Business Entry Point (BEP), originally set up by the Department of Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business (DEWRSB) but now run out of the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources (DITR).
BEP was instigated under the Prime Minister's "More Time for Business" statement in 1998 with a mission of delivering government services online, reducing the compliance burden on small business and driving down the cost of doing business in Australia. As an all-of-government initiative, the BEP team works very closely with counterparts in the state, territory and local government arenas, as well as those in other federal government organisations like the Australian Tax Office.
"We allow interaction from all levels of government and we're an aggregator. We don't have any transactions ourselves, we don't actually have any source information ourselves - we aggregate it with metadata, we put it into business context, and we have delivery mechanisms for delivering it," Griffin says.
He says with so many players involved, much of the process improvement achievements of the BEP team have come from the fact that it has established firm governance arrangements and has sorted out the fundamental business processes. That has meant getting all the players truly involved and giving them a real say, in contrast to the traditional situation between federal and state governments, where the sector holding the money has tended to dictate to the other parties. Griffin says in the past that flawed approach had frequently created situations where no one would take ownership and responsibility, leading to the stalling of many initiatives.
"Governance - the rules of engagement and the governance overseeing the process itself - is absolutely essential [to successful BPM]," Griffin says. "Otherwise, particularly when you're dealing as we do in a whole-of-government environment, every government agency is there to administer what they administer. The Tax Office is there to administer the collection of taxation, local government is there to administer a broad range of administrative services and regulations. And as with all of us, we all believe the sun rises to shine on the particular thing that we're doing. Getting the governance right, and the rules of engagement right, means that we have to broaden our perspective and understand that we're part of a process of delivering services to an individual business. An individual business really doesn't care where in government those services are coming from as long as they can carry out their business process."
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