Putting a Human Face on BPM

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If there is one thing that most IT departments love, it's automation. Taking people out of processes reduces potential for error and makes everything nice and predictable, just the way IT likes it.


Problem is, points out a recent well-done article on Intelligent Enterprise, an all-encompassing focus on automation results in viewing people as little more than "being there only to handle specific exception steps when things go wrong in straight-through processing."


It's pretty tough to get all-important user buy-in with that kind of a viewpoint. As we've blogged before, technology should be there to serve people -- even though some IT folks approach their jobs as if the inverse is true.


So now experts are advising companies to put people back into the process.


The idea is to create new opportunities for process improvement by giving business users the capability to perform at least some process modeling and to share suggestions for improvement via collaboration tools. Gartner predicts that fully half of collaboration and user productivity interactions will be integrated with process technologies such as BPM by 2010.


Another Intelligent Intelligent article features a product that fits squarely into this "put people into process" philosophy. Intalio's latest iteration of its BPMS software features support for standards geared toward making it easier for business users to model processes, notes the article.


The first article referenced above offers some suggestions from Forrester Research that echo advice given by Transformation+Innovation President Nathaniel Palmer in his IT Business Edge interview, Pick the Right Project for BPM Success.


Rather than simple automation, says Palmer, the goal of BPM is "really changing operations in a way that is going to be beneficial to the organization."


A logical starting point is a small yet highly visible process such as the new hire process. It lends itself especially well to BPM, Palmer says, because it affects the entire organization, is an understood -- but not rigidly defined -- process, tends to be fairly straightforward and can offer a compelling ROI.

It's generally one where you could go to the CEO and say, "We want to make this experience better, cheaper and faster. It's going to be key to our success as an organization. We also want to use it as a proof point for how we are going to transform the organization by taking a more process-oriented approach. Can we get your support in doing this?" It becomes an enterprise-wide initiative without trying to boil the ocean all at once.