Saturday, September 06, 2008

Borders of BPM - Process management

There is a saying (hope I translate it right): Where people draw borderlines, there will be border-conflicts. In this post, I want to address a definition issue around BPM, based on observations in some recent client work. It deals with (in my view) the difference between business process management and process management. Two areas where the borderline seems blurred. In some discussions I had, due to this blurred borderline, confusion started to grow.

Let's try to find the difference and border conflicts between these area's.

Process management: the area of activity to plan the execution of a process and to steer the execution of a process (through interventions on specific "instances"), to make sure the objectives are met and that process performance is conforming to certain requirements.
(We could also call this: Operations or Operational management).

The managed object here is the performance of the process. The activity is done within the boundaries of the current process, e.g. the process in itself is not changed. Steering will be interventions on people, and work in progress. E.g. analyse a specific client-issue, re-assign work, re-prioritize, fix issues, etc.

Business process management: the area of activity to manage processes as an asset, and manage the life cycle of these processes, aimed at structuredly improving the processes (in a continous cycle).

Here the managed object is the structure/design of the process (perhaps even the existance of the process!)- e.g. in the BPM area of activity, processes are changed, to adapt to sharpened performance goals and/or to structural changing circuimstances (as opposed to reacting to an specific exception - which would be process management).

Activities here range from setting up target improvement goals, analysing/designing processes that can meet these goals, implementating these (changed) processes and checking the structured performance of these processes, to analyse and check if further improvement steps are needed. Here, we act on different levels - we select processes, plan/prioritize processes to analyse/improve, and on a detailed level work with a specifiek process design and adapt it (change activities, business rules for decisions and assignments, etc).

Is process management BPM? Is BPM process management? Difficult, because recursion effects occur: if we implement a process in a company, where this process goal is to increase the performance of other processes, and we are managing this process, uhm, .....

But I do know that if a company has implemented a process, and from that moment on is managing the performance of the process (and not changing anything in the structure), it would be weird to say that they are doing full-swing BPM.... Because a lifecycle perspective and governance is missing.

For me one part of BPM will be to design and implement a process. Part of the process is of course also the processpart that will manage that process (who wants to implement a process without any goverance/control structure?). This means that implementing the process will also create the process management of that process.

Confused? Here is a diagram that tries to show my point: a Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle is implemented and performed (e.g. process management) when (as part of the BPM cycle) the process has been deployed and is being executed for a certain period of time.

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