It's a thrilling (some may argue terrifying) time to be working at a large enterprise swimming in a sea of competitors and disruptive technologies that can change an entire industry over night.

As consumers have more choices than ever before, companies have greater opportunities to flex their creativity and innovation muscles to deal with newfound complexities.

The new wave of business process management, BPM, celebrates these principles to build greater efficiency and ultimately greater business value.  

According to Forrester, BPM projects typically deliver 30-50 percent productivity gains for processes involving primarily back office, clerical staff in addition to delivering 15-30 percent productivity gains for processes involving knowledge workers. Gartner research says BPM investments can provide a cost savings of as much as 20 percent within the first year of implementation.

So how should we revamp our BPM to guide our organizations toward a bright future?

We spoke with former Gartner VP Jim Sinur, who has research and areas of personal experience focus on business process innovation, business modeling and business process management technology (iBPMS).

In the first part of this series on the Future of BPM, Jim discusses the modern, complex enterprise and business principles that must shift to gain competitive advantage.


How can we build a culture of change during a time of perpetual business disruptions?

JS: That’s the number one thing that organizations have to do, but obviously if you build a culture for change and your technology can’t change with you, then it’s all for nothing. Obviously there are more cultural things and they are more difficult because people in general resist change. If you look at an average set of folks that might work for you, about 15 percent are what I might call leaders who are not afraid of change and actually embrace change. Then there’s about another 45 percent that are fast followers and about 25 percent that are just never going to change. There’s a few in the middle there. But the point is, you’ve got a bell-shaped curve; very few are on the front-end of that bell-shaped curve so it’s skewed towards not changing.

It’s then up to management to do a number of things, which include:

  1. Setting the right tone. Hopefully it comes from the very top, but it doesn’t always. Sometimes it comes from a visionary in the middle and then works it way through an organization. But you have to have the right attitude and culture because you need the right rewards. People will not take risks unless you reward them. Let’s say you’ve got a person that likes to accept change and really embraces it -- that’s reward for them. But the other 85 percent need some more incentive, so coming up with a rewards system is important.

  2. Activating your change cadence. You have to make change a muscle memory kind of activity. Part of that change cadence is a lot of communication along the way because people will invent fears when they face change. People who don't want to change are going to be the ones to invent the most fear. So you have to get a cadence and in that cadence, communication has to ripple all the way through.

  3. Communicating results. Once you learn how to execute those changes and you start getting that good cadence, you need to really communicate the results, particularly if they are positive, but even when they’re negative you have to take the nuggets out and learn. Now a lot of organizations are saying that’s a long path to change and we want to create experimental sandboxes so that people don’t have to worry about change or failure -- that’s another approach to change, but to get change on scale, you have to start from the sandbox and reward people who embrace change. 

What are some business principles that have to shift for organizations to stay competitive?

JS: People are aiming at principles that are going to work in the new digital world in order for organizations to reach the kind of competitive levels that they want. There are two categories -- one is a business principle, but you have match it up with technical principles as well because the success is the collaboration between business and IT. We have to get that very smooth -- that’s part of that muscle memory.

Some examples of business principles I’ve seen organizations be very successful with include:

  • Attracting and spoiling customers. We really need to have an Outside-In view in an organization in order to spoil them. But for the most part we punish our customers by having them go across our organizational specialities in our organizations. The Outside-In view is very important and companies are finally addressing it rather than just giving it lip service and saying “yes, we love our customers as long as they take our standard transactions and pay us on time.” 
  • Building inclusion and organize for change. It really changes the equation that agility is better than perfection because if you have ability to change and change fast, you don’t have to be 99.9 percent perfect -- particularly if you treat customers well.
  • Creating operational excellence. Eliminate technical complexities, reduce the costs, make it compelling. You need to encourage and reward innovation and outcomes should come ahead of processes. Setting the right goals and the right time and having processes that adapt to it is important. We’re looking for goal-driven processes. Visibility is also a priority to all. How many times have you submitted something to a company and had no visibility? That happens all the time. It’s not just visibility for governance, which is what the accountants and lawyers want, but for results analysis and satisfaction. And again, speed wins over perfection.
Those are some new business principles that were unheard of 10-15 years ago. And now there are some technical principles that come along with this:

  • Collaborate with business first. The business represents the customers and other constituents, whether they be partners or employees. We have to keep in mind that business is in charge, not you just because you know the technology.
  • Experimentation is essential. Getting technology that supports business is crucial and you have to put up guardrails and limits like a sandbox. You don’t want sand all over the playground.
  • Composition is first rather than creation. Everyone wants to invent their own thing, but someone’s already done most of what you’re doing.
  • Agile development is first prize. That encourages agile methods, agile practices and iteration.
  • Scalability and security should be designed in as early as possible. Once you’ve got something designed that you think is going to work well and business people are really going to like, you need to start thinking about scalability and designing for sustainability.
  • Designing with autonomy in mind. Central control has to relax from maniacal micromanagement. Instead, give goals and processes to people -- don’t micromanage them.

Learn more Jim Sinur and setting digital principles on his blog and in his book, BPM: The Next Wave.

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