Organizational Change and BPM, Part 1: Know Thyself (and Thy Process)

Smart businesspeople are always looking for ways to improve operations. “Faster is better” is often the mantra, as we humans are somewhat predisposed to looking for ways to arrive ‘there’ (wherever that may be) more quickly. In today’s technology-driven world, that means we usually default to looking at devices and software to help us get where we need to go faster than anyone else.

While technology can often deliver noticeable value when an organization needs things to change, the people choosing the BPM solution don’t always account for the fact that humans need to guide the actions coming from the technology. BPM software and workflow software itself is basically worthless without engaged and motivated people trying to mold it to fit an organization or solve a problem. All too frequently we rely on a solution to take care of itself, forgetting that it is the job of business stakeholders to act as caretakers of the business – not only the software that runs it but also the covenants and guidelines by which that software performs its job.

The adage “garbage in, garbage out” is too often ignored. A tool (software, process, hardware) is only as good as the data that goes into it. For a technology solution to work, it needs to have been well thought out — and directed at a specific solution. The tool you choose to solve a problem might be fundamentally sound, but the way it is implemented might be flawed. When this happens, the results of your efforts cannot be as profound as they could be.

The cultural changes that need to happen before you implement BPM have to do with this mindset. Undoubtedly you will encounter people within your organization who want to open a metaphorical box labeled “BPM”, plug it in and start using it. They believe that THAT is what process change is all about. You certainly do not want to disabuse them of the notion that business process management (BPM) can bring about massive change — but it behooves you to get them to recognize that the way they work may need to change (at least somewhat) before any tool can bring about improvements.

The BP Logix approach begins with first understanding your business and your needs. That may sound simple enough, but businesses are complex, and it is not just a matter of us reviewing a checklist of issues. The first step involves you communicating your vision and needs. How we address those needs to provide a solution that brings value to the organization is the next part of the dialogue. Just doing things faster, or even just doing them differently, is not necessarily going to give you better results. The opportunity to learn about your business, opportunities, gaps, and how a solution might help you achieve specific business goals is the next step in our conversation.

This is where the culture of change begins to take shape, and where an organization can gain a better understanding of how it can automate processes as a way of doing business (not just as a tool). Decision-makers will be best served if they think of change as an evolutionary part of their business, not a goal unto itself. As they consider BPM solutions that will help them automate tasks and implement workflows, they should also think about how ‘process change’ can be manifested throughout the organization. Change can be good— but if there is no fit culturally or environmentally, or if attitudes impede innovation, it is likely that no solution will work.

Thinking through the issues regarding what is important to your business will help you get a better understanding of the type of solution that can help run your business — and result in a greater impact on your goals. When considering your current state and its  challenges, these conversations will hopefully guide your thinking regarding the fundamental aspects of how — and whether — your organization’s culture can capitalize on process change.

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