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Let’s Get RADICAL – Stop Paving the Cow Path

by Elise Olding  |  September 27, 2011  |  3 Comments

Think about your last BPM implementation – was it merely paving the cow path, or did it include a radical redesign from how things are done today? I talk with vendors, companies, government entities and read lots of case studies. While the results are often impressive, I often feel underwhelmed. Where are the nuggets of radical redesign or breakthrough thinking in the solution?  It seems much of the benefit was achieved through automation of manual effort.

My first immersion into enterprise-wide process improvement was at Levi’s in the 90’s. I attended one of the first course’s taught by Dr. Michael Hammer and poured over his book “Reeingineering the Corporation.”  His messages resonated with “blow it up” and “start with a blank sheet of paper.” We spent time visiting other companies, gaining insights from customers and creating a vision for how we could work in the future. Then we did the heavy lifting of figuring how to get from here to there.

Unfortunately this style of work became associated with downsizing. It also suffered from trying to take on too much all at once (changing everything) and ignoring the impacts to people in the organization (change management). But most unfortunately, we also lost the essential message – to think differently, to challenge the status quo – to strive for something completely different.  We need to bring this back – soon!

A friend (an enlightened BPM sage) said to me a few days ago, “the only place automation should come before discovery is in the dictionary.”  So true!  We have taken a detour down the BPM tinkering path – with benefits of increasing productivity and delivering an ROI predominantly achieved by automating manual processes. 

They are certainly great examples of breakthrough thinking – my favorite is BAA and the rethinking of airport capacity/gate handling to increase retail sales, using Pegasystems. These seem to be the exception lost is  a sea of workflow projects. At some point we will exhaust these incremental opportunities – let’s keep BPM at the forefront and top of business executives minds – let’s continue to reinvent, rethink and radically redesign. 

Send me your radical redesign successes.

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Category: bpm-strategic-planning  gartner  organizational-change  

Tags: business-process  radical-redesign  redesign  reeingineering  

Elise Olding
Research Director
7 years at Gartner
32 years IT industry

Elise Olding is a Research Director covering the complex challenges of organizational change and business transformation from a people perspective. Her areas of focus include organizational change, communications strategies and emerging trends in employee engagement from a hands-on practitioner view. Ms. Olding provides research on a worldwide basis, advising clients on best practices to achieve sustainable change and business transformation. She is a member of Gartner's Business Process and Transformation team. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Let’s Get RADICAL – Stop Paving the Cow Path

  1. Pearl Zhu says:

    Hi, Elise, as usual, enjoy your blog, especially the radical redesign concept, as you pointed out, the BPM is transforming from automation/re-engineering into more radical innovation/optimization, to delight customer or accelerate business growth, especially for many legacy industries and businesses. thanks

  2. […] BPM ROI – Elise Olding I talk with vendors, companies, government entities and read lots of case […]

  3. Dear Elise,

    I come to your blog from time to time. And, it regularly provides me with a complementary market vision quite useful. Now, my grain of salt. I have been involved in BPM for a long while and there are more of those breakthroughs which never get the visibility of the big names. But, in total, they will likely provide bigger benefits than the big ones. As a matter of fact, what can be considered a breakthrough in BPM? An automatic system? Or, something which increase worker productivity or sales proactivity?


    Juan Vázquez

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