BPM – Have we been flying upside down?

I was watching the current season of Mad Men last night and a bit of dialogue struck a chord. Ted Chaough was flying his new colleague Don Draper in his small private plane to a meeting with a client. After some bumpy weather Ted uses an airplane analogy, “Sometimes in life you think you’re the right way up when in fact you’re upside down. Gotta check your instruments.”

Mad Men - Ted and Don

Mad Men – Ted and Don

This got me thinking about BPM. BPM has for a long time been regarded as a strategic play. It’s often said that successful BPM projects require both cultural and strategic change within organizations. Establishment of BPM centers of excellence, back office integration and the optimization of processes that cut across multiple departments all require that the organization and its employees are in sync and are willing to review established practices. But all of this takes time, effort and significant cost, creating barriers for widespread BPM adoption, putting the BPM suite out of reach for many smaller and medium sized businesses. All this time we’ve been recommending building this huge BPM ecosystem within enterprises and have then wondered why BPM has struggled to take off.

Maybe all this time we’ve been flying upside down. Maybe we should have been deploying rapid, pre-built or almost pre-built BPM applications, with clear business value and rapid ROI. Maybe we should have been searching for the quick win, to show off the potential of BPM suites before thinking about broader, more strategic process improvement.

With the emergence of BPaaS and Smart Process Applications it would appear that at long last someone has taken a look at the instruments.

3 thoughts on “BPM – Have we been flying upside down?

  1. Projects require change. Yes.

    Projects cost money. Yes – doing nothing costs money.

    A pilot project (quick win) definitely is a good way to start any initiative, No reason why things should be different for a BPM initiative.

    As for deploying “pre-built BPM applications” why write a specification and slide this under the door of IT when BPM off-the-shelf mapping and run time process instance environments are readily available?

  2. The choice of the image of processes carved in stone wall is perhaps also flying upside down…. One of the value of BPM systems is that it allows change of activities, sequence and business rules without need of changing underlying application. Allowing may variation of processes supported by one implementation of underlying application. So depending on your perspective one can indeed be flying upside down.

    • Hi Parimal,
      Thanks for your comment. I deliberately created the image precisely to show the nature of the problem; fixed, resistant to change, set in stone business processes.


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