Process Innovation vs BPM
The article explores some of the pitfalls and controversies of innovation. It makes a point of a contradictory between highly structured and defined process and innovation. It also provides several solutions that help avoid hindering innovation while implementing a BPM or a BPMS solution.
Process Innovation is essential. It emerges from top and from bottom of the shop, and often, from immediate management who have clear visibility on the day-to-day operations. Process Innovation is about a positive change, about adapting the business towards the ever-changing environments, optimizing procedures and creating more efficient organizations.
The modern BPM industry is full of talks on “innovation” in BPM and “adaptability” of BPM solutions. In our practice however, full-fledged BPM implementation not only defies process innovation, but also often reverts any innovation and turns a business process into a concrete block that has zero flexibility and hence, hinders innovation efforts. How does that happen?
Well, for one thing, the implementation of BPM and BPM systems often starts with the discovery of a process. That’s where the process is studied by business analysts and turns into process maps, descriptions and defined SLAs. Often, this is done on a substantially detailed level, getting down to particular decisions made and workarounds taken.
Once the process is defined, there’s little left for the staff than to follow it. The bureaucracy that entrenches the process into formalities has its multiple benefits, however it does degrade flexibility. Imagine an employee or a manager thinking of a new work-around due to changed conditions. Not only the process itself has to be amended (i.e. the actual sequence of actions), but also the documentation, possibly SLAs and formally defined roles.
What adds to the problem is the implementation of the BPM IT solution. The IT systems are a great productivity booster, but when comes to process innovation they have a detrimental effect. Not only the process needs to be formally defined, but also it will have to be configured in the system. Such systems usually require IT experts to translate these process definitions into BPMS configuration. Such configuration as user forms, sequence of action, automated decision-making and notifications are good examples of such expensive configuration. When a few systems need to be integrated as part of this implementation, this becomes really expensive.
What all of these activities do is adding to the inflexibility of organizations, while possibly improving some of procedures.
What is the solution?
So how to improve visibility and efficiency of processes in your organization without undermining the process innovation? Well, start step-by-step:
1. Do not get into a exhaustive and detailed process analysis that will take much time and come and high cost. Instead, approach the process from high-level point of view: define critical high-level milestones in the process. The measurement of average time between those milestones should be an important parameter to collect, if the process time is of concern.
2. Why not try simpler tools?
Spreadsheets or similar tools are a great way to make a first step towards taking the process under control. Get rid of sporadic emails (or use them only as a device for notification, not for sending actual information), set up a consistent document storage.
Another tool that helps well to get much of the benefits of BPMS without so much siacrifices is ProcessMate (www.processmate.net). It’s a web application that helps setup a process, define milestones and key information fields in minutes, and enjoy the features of collaboration, document management and process analytics that it provides. Disclaimer: the author of this post is the founder of the software.
3. Even if implementing a complex BPM tool, make sure it addresses your needs, that is it covers the inefficiencies and really improves the process. Nowadays, many vendors and consultants promote solution as a cure-for-all means. We recommend accomplishing a pre-study to identify gaps before choosing a solution.
It’s a simple fact: the more flexibility there is, the more innovation is welcomed. Equally, it’s reasonable that Business Process Management (both practice and IT systems) add to structure, to definition and therefore to bureaucracy surrounding processes.
An organization should be careful not to mire its flexibility and adaptability into formalities and documents, as they would eventually damage its ability to change and adapt.
ProcessMate is a Process Management cloud software of new generation that delivers productivity improvements with significantly lower implementation effort comparing to traditional BPM and workflow systems. Please check our product page: www.processmate.net and don’t hesitate to let us if your opinion or your specific business case.