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Process Power

Process Power

Many companies use their process models as a kind of wallpaper, leaving the CIO to wonder whether there are any real benefits to be gained from the exercise.

Using a more mature BPM tool helps overcome those limitations and also helps organisations as they go through the learning curve.

It is also important for organisations to adopt a life cycle approach to BPM, Rosemann says. Too many companies adopt a one-year time frame, and expect that buying new software will fix all their problems.

"So many companies thought SAP stood for 'Solution to All Problems'," he says. "So you talk about their shortcomings and they will tell you: 'In one year we've got this new piece of software coming and everything will be better.' This is a clear over-estimation of IT capabilities. We like to say: 'Well, talk about what happens in two months. What happens without a service level agreement, without a Web-based solution? What can I do in the short term?'

"At the same time we like to leave them with a three-year out picture - like at the Health Insurance Commission in Canberra, we did some work and designed a process model for the year 2005, where we say: 'Okay, have some kind of a carrot, what are you aiming for?' "

Once and Future Benchmarking

The message is that BPM should never be done as a one-off process. Instead, the organisation should have a process that describes what it would like to achieve in future years and should employ both a current and ongoing benchmark for its BPM-related activities. The term "business process maturity management" describes such an ongoing effort, which aims for increased competence and capability in the management of business processes.

So follow-up is vital.

"Our experience is that it is one thing to go to a company, do some modelling, get stakeholders excited and involved, and come up with ideas of what can be improved. We might leave the organisation with an idea for how they save $2 million, then come back a year later and find nothing has changed," Rosemann says. "And I think this is what you also see very often: You've got people who are creative, who come up with the ideas, but actually changing the organisation, doing something, executing ideas, implementing ideas is a completely different story of course.

"So you've got great ideas, but then you've got culture barriers, you underestimated certain issues. So we really see this as three main steps: awareness, design and implementation. First is to get the buy-in, get the awareness: 'Why should I be interested in BPM?' The second step is to understand the processes and what can be improved, and this is literally still in a modelling tool or a piece of paper. And the third step is the actual implementation of the redesigned business processes. And of course this presents a complete new challenge."

All BPM activities should be conducted with an eye to the future, Rosemann says. Five or six European organisations are already heavily into process performance measurement, or business activity monitoring. The idea is that once the organisation has implemented its BPM process, and has a workflow, document management system and ERP, it is quite cost effective to extract data so that the CPO can gain information about the speed, cost and quality of processes. But most Australian organisations should see this as something to aspire to, not something to achieve in their early BPM activities.

"I think for most Australian organisations this goal is far down the track, because it really requires that you have got a more integrated, process-oriented IT infrastructure that can extract data. But I think this is something that will come and will then satisfy the information needs for the new CPOs," Rosemann says. "And I think it is good for the organisation to be aware that this capability will exist as an opportunity at the start of the exercise."

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