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A beautiful example of how NOT to do BPM!

by Samantha Searle  |  December 19, 2013  |  Submit a Comment

Currently there’s a blog from a Scandinavian BPM consultant “doing the rounds” on the internet at the moment, because it describes a supermarket chain’s journey to BPM failure. As I read it, it struck me as a great case study for how NOT to do BPM! Here’s why….

On closer inspection of the unfortunate company’s BPM journey (captured on this blog, “Are You on a Path Into a Process Wilderness?“), several things become immediately apparent. Firstly, they weren’t really doing proper BPM as we define it at Gartner. by which I mean treating processes as assets and aiming to achieve continuous improvement by establishing the necessary visibility of processes and how they perform, true accountability for improving process performance (i.e. effective process ownership) and the ability to adapt to changing business conditions. The supermarket chain was just beginning its process improvement journey by embarking on process standardization and automation, as many organizations do. To give them credit, they realized the disadvantage of having their processes implicit in an ERP system and sought to make them more explicit and visible.

Howevver, they still managed to fall for all the other classic traps:

  • Let’s go the ERP route so we don’t have to figure out what our best practice processes are
  • Oh no, now our processes are implicit, undocumented and we have no idea what they are…
  • SO now we need to do BPM to figure out what our processes should be…
  • Only we haven’t got the right skills and expertise in house, so let’s get some consultants in to do it for us…
  • They’ve told us that we have to invest in a nice shiny modelling tool to map our processes so let’s use that to map 500 processes…

BUT they didn’t think about how to support end-to-end processes in ERP and it’s likely that all they succeeded in doing was reinforcing functional silos! Consequently they missed a huge opportunity to improve cross-functional processes key to strategy execution and eliminate the white space between boundaries that usually damages business performance but remains invisible to the organization due to the functional silos. There are some very revealing sentences under the section on “Eight months into the journey: processes are mapped and presented”; they mention dividing functional areas into processes and that they presented the functional processes to the functional heads. It’s also interesting that they state that some activities were to be done inside the ERP system and other manually – shame there’s no further explanation of why these manual tasks were left outside the ERP system.

At some point the CFO/Board of Management must have gone “Hang on a sec.. you’ve spent how much money on an ERP system implementation + maintenance, external consultants and a process modelling tool?!!!! What value (financial and otherwise) has this generated for the business?”

At no point whatsoever does the supermarket in question appear to have considered the following aspects:

  • Why are we doing BPM, or deciding to standardize and automate our processes?
  • What business outcomes and objectives are we supporting or hoping to achieve?
  • What is our desired future state?
  • What’s the business case and desired benefits?
  • How we will deliver quick-win business results?
  • How we will demonstrate real business value from the investments in ERP, consultants and modelling tools?
  • How will we know if we’ve succeeded?

This is why we put such a strong emphasis on achieving business results for the BPM excellence awards – to encourage people to adopt the mentality that regardless of the type of project you’re doing, you must think about how you will deliver value back to the business in return for the technology investment. Implementing ERP just because everyone else appears to be doing it just isn’t good enough – do you really think your business is the same as everyone else’s organization? How will you survive as a company if you have no competitive differentiation or ability to innovate?

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Samantha Searle
Research Analyst
5 years with Gartner
5 years IT industry

Samantha Searle is a research analyst in the Business Process Management team, focusing on process governance and getting started in BPM. Previously, she worked as a research specialist for Gartner's Best Practices Council…Read Full Bio




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