Friday, March 02, 2007

BAM and visibility - driving 50 Mph without a steeringwheel?

Recently I say two interesting articles, dealing with "management" as a separate proces-area.
See:, who writes about control and BAM (and confuses the two)
And..., a good article about management as a process, in relation to BPM.

I am working currently on an interesting project, which needs to quickly build a administration factory, that is able to handle a large volume of transactions (which are partly client facing, partly technical, involving a large number of stakeholders, including the unavoidable indian offshore backoffice). My client has already done good work on the key processes, however I quickly discovered that we needed to distinguish between a number of proces area's, with different levels of control.
The first level was the operational level: the exact process to handle a transaction. Most focus seem to go here, typically (and also for this client).
However, two more levels were needed:
A level, which is above the transaction layer, which I call the "logistical process layer". It's the whole operational planning and coordination of the large volume of transactions. Here, business rules and approaches such as Lean, TOC and operations research come in. At this level we design the factory, making sure it will be able to support the transaction amounts.
A third layer is what I call "governance". Here we talk about planning and steering on a higher level. Maybe you could call it planning & control, or simply management: making sure the goals of the factory are reached.

Back to management. I find it interesting, that a lot of attention in the BPM area is currently going to BAM - Business Activity Monitoring. And most people are enchanted - wow, we can provide management with almost real-time information at their fingertips.

My observation:
If your car is running at 50 Mph, the oil level is fine, the lights are on, the motor temperature is on, the airconditioning-temperature in the car is 20 degrees celcius, the time is 10.25, engine RPM is 100, and you see a tree approaching fast, a steer and a break would be nice....

In short: BAM without a Control mechanism does not add value
(well, ok, at least you'll know you will crash)

Or: don't measure if you can't steer
(So, I agree with Gartner that visibility is a great thing as a result from BPM, but it's not the full answer to business BPM needs...)

It links back to a lot of lessons people learned from Business Intelligence projects. Sure, in the beginning management will be thrilled, and will ask for various KPI's. Even so for BAM.
But quickly, you will find they are no longer looking at all the numbers. Why? Because KPI's that are not in their control are simply not relevant. KPI's that are in their control, and (ok, this might be simplifying things) are linked to some personal commitment (such as bonus, prestige, pain-such as be fired) will get the most attention.
Actually, KPI's that are not in their control will make them feel awkward (compare it to the feeling you get when confronted with global warming, hunger in africa, forrest destruction in brazil - it's all in the news (KPI's), but what (little) can I do about it??)

So, when designing a BPM environment, advices:
- Do design a management proces as well (plan do check act)
- Determine what controls the manager has (and which are linked to his/her(!) areas of interest)
- Define the KPI's (and frequency/events - alerts)
- Make sure that the controls are in some way known/modelled as well "if KPI X is below Y, then ....."

Hm. Controls. E.g. the "Act" when the "Check" did not satisfy the manager. What type of controls can you think of?

Here we get back to classic management theory:
- Operational management decisions:
- Set a different priority for a certain task/set of tasks "staff, please fix Client A NOW!"
- Re-assign work "Jim, please take over this task, and Mary, take Jack's job"
- Shout "Why didn't you do this already??" or ask "Could you please handle this now?"
- Quickly add resources "Get some temp workers right away"
- Create adhoc fixed to the process, probably specific to a certain transaction "forget check A for now!"
- Adhoc reward people (with money, fun, interesting challenges, etc)
- Coach, coach, coach
- Tactical management decisions:
- Send people to training
- Replace people, increase staff or decrease
- Analyse waste (Lean), including Defects (why, how often, how to prevent?)
- More structural changes/optimizations to the process - tune logistics and business rules
- Automate certain steps/innovate certain parts of the process
- Reward people more structurally (and grow them)
- Fire the manager :-)

A BPM system (or a manual BPM framework) will help here. A BPM system can support quick tuning of process (steps, assignment rules, flow business rules)

- Sure, a maximum optimized operational process is needed...
- However, if the management proces is ad-hoc, chaotic and immature, I bet fire fighting will drive out any good operational process
- And let's not forget, these managers are expensive, so let's make their process as efficient as possible as well :-)

So, are you designing operational processes with control in mind?
Motto: if the manager wants BPM, then his process will be BPM-ed too!

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