BPM Visibility Paves the Road to Operational Excellence

by Sylvain Astier
Product Manager, BPM
Axway

While going through my stuff, I found a copy of “The Scorecard Methodology,” an old HBR article (circa 1992) by Kaplan and Norton in which they emphasize performance measures in key areas of every organization.

A BPMS is simultaneously the rearview mirror allowing you to understand what happened, the windshield through which you view what is about to happen, and the steering wheel empowering you to modify and adapt your course of action.

A BPMS is simultaneously the rearview mirror allowing you to understand what happened, the windshield through which you view what is about to happen, and the steering wheel empowering you to modify and adapt your course of action.

It got me thinking about visibility. A strategy-focused organization can use the balanced scorecard approach to track how well it performs in regard to its different goals and objectives. The general idea is that organizations get what they measure. For instance, focusing on short-term financial performance most likely would lead to a disaster—what you might call the Lehman Brothers effect.

This strategy determines what an organization must achieve and how it must achieve it. If you don’t know where your organization’s at, you won’t know how to take it anywhere, and though this has been known since ancient times when warfare theories focused on a thorough understanding of topography and logistics, it seems that modern organizations have only begun to understand the importance of mapping their own courses of action. With a proper map of its processes, an organization can better align its operational reality toward its strategic goals. In this regard, Business Process Management Systems (BPMSs) are extremely powerful, as they allow process automation and offer visibility on how an organization performs in its overall value creation network.

In fact, BPMSs can also provide visibility without automating anything, simply by consolidating flows of events. For instance, probes can be used to fetch information from legacy applications and generate events, which are consolidated by a BPMS providing visibility on parts of process instances about which one has very little information. Another important usage of non-automated processes is the control of events coming from business partners, ensuring that every collaboration’s participant provides the appropriate information at the right time (and in the right format) as defined per the service level agreement.

BPMSs make many aspects visible, most notably these two: the proper state of process instances and the different variables associated with each step, such as its cost or completion time. Hence, BPMSs can help predict the future state of an organization based on its current situation. For instance, BPMSs can help identify a potential bottleneck before it arises, and can easily correct it through something called “dynamic resource re-affectation.” BPMSs can also provide real-time visibility on specific customer cases and answer important questions (e.g., “Where is my order?”), ease human work and interactions, and identify who is responsible for what and who did what. A BPMS is simultaneously the rearview mirror allowing you to understand what happened, the windshield through which you view what is about to happen, and the steering wheel empowering you to modify and adapt your course of action.

This brings me back to Kaplan and Norton’s point: you get what you measure. BPMSs are fantastic tools, but if you focus on the wrong objectives, BPMSs will help you reach those wrong objectives in an efficient manner! However, at the same time, as BPMSs provide real-time visibility, you might easily re-assess these wrong objectives, adapt your organization’s behavior accordingly, and realize a broad spectrum of opportunities that had been unthinkable until now.

(Photo by stevelyon: http://www.flickr.com/photos/chicanerii/ / CC BY-SA 2.0)

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