Stop Wasting Time and Money on Process Modeling!

You’re leading a digital transformation project…or business process transformation project.  You’ve done SME interviews, customer journey mapping,  UX and UI design, management reviews, and process redesign workshops…In the end, all of this work will be wasted if it can’t be turned into working software and systems.  This is the main principle of Agile – working software over BRUF (Big Requirements Up Front).

So, how do you turn UX/UI design and user requirements into working systems and software?  It’s one thing to have user stories and conversations, but words can only communicate so much.  You need a common visual language shared between business and IT.  Like the Tower of Babel, we can’t build something great if we’re not speaking the same language.  BPMN is the common language of business and IT.  It is the standard language supported by all major business process workflow software vendors – IBM, SAP, Pega Systems, Oracle, Appian, …Good BPMN turns all the design and customer journey mapping work into a lasting asset shared across business and IT.

How do you get started with BPMN?  Learn the language and use the right tool.  You don’t have time to lose…you only get one chance to run a successful transformation project.




Why Your Next Process Improvement Project Will Fail

Companies know they need to break down silos and increase cross-functional collaboration to succeed in fast-changing global markets. Organizations that fail to manage operations end to end will continuously lose ground to competitors who have optimized their end to end operations. Typically, solutions like Business Process Management (BPM), Lean, Six Sigma, ITIL, Business Process Re-engineering, etc., are applied…and they fail (1).

While well meaning, operational excellence and business process improvement initiatives fail for two key reasons:

  • Focus too narrowly within functions
  • Don’t break down ownership of processes and information that are zealously guarded by business units

Here’s how you can achieve success in your next process improvement project and smash through the silos that prevent breakthrough performance improvements.

First, an end to end operating model needs to be adopted. Marginal improvements of business processes within functional units won’t achieve the goals companies are looking to achieve.

An end to end operating model rests on foundation of 3 underlying principles:

  1. Strategic – Target breakthrough performance that single functions could not achieve, and make cross-functional units accountable for this performance
  2. Tactical – Define all the end to end processes; radically simplify the entire operating model; an enterprise process model (or value streams map) should fit on one page
  3. Culture – Ensure organizational and cultural change is focused on collaboration; reward and promote leaders who work collaboratively across functions to improve business processes



The Employee Handbook Most Employees Wish They Had

The Valve Handbook for New Employees has become legendary, for good reason. If you’re not familiar with Valve Software, they make some of the best reviewed and most sold video games in history. Half-Life, Counter-Strike and the game platform Steam are a few of their best known titles.

Valve’s management methodology represents the post-industrial method of management. Pioneered by companies like W.L Gore & Associates, Semco and Google, post-industrial management has several characteristics that differentiate it from industrial-age organizations:

  • Flat structure – no, or few, levels of hierarchy & no job titles
  • Self-organizing teams
  • Transparency – performance, pay, projects,…

Can a company in a different industry – banking, insurance, manufacturing – adopt a management model like Valve’s? Can an organization with a traditional management structure change? Can government work like this?

I believe the answer is Yes. Semco is a manufacturer; Morning Star is in tomato processing; Zappos is retail. More and more examples of successful companies using post-industrial management models are reported in the business press every year. The fact is, companies still using an industrial-age management model will find themselves constantly losing ground to competitors with the courage to innovate their management structure.

What Is BPM – 3 Steps To Get Started with Business Process Management

What is BPM? According to Gartner, BPM is critical to business transformation success. McKinsey Major software vendors – IBM, SAP, Oracle, et al – are promoting BPM (Business Process Management) as the solution for making organizations more agile to respond to any business challenge. Of course, according to these vendors, to do BPM you must have their entire suite of BPM software. These software suites typically include:

– Graphical process modeling tool

– BRMS (Business Rules Management System) – a repository for storing, managing and testing an organization’s decisions and rules (IBM refers to their suite of tools in this area as Organizational Decision Management (ODM))

– BPMS (Business Process Management System) – a workflow engine for executing and simulating automated business processes

The leading BPM software vendors are IBM, Pega Systems and Software AG. To promote their BPM offerings, these vendors have published e-books like “BPM for Dummies” and “BPM Basics for Dummies”. I’m no dummy, but these books, with their references to a wide variety of confusing acronyms and over-lapping technology, do not clarify BPM for the layman. Instead, they offer a utopian vision of orchestrating reusable business services and processes using SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) and their BPM suites, to execute these services and processes. However, the reality is most enterprise applications installed in organizations don’t fit nicely into a SOA model. A BPM program needs to address this reality by unifying process modeling, orchestration and performance monitoring across heterogeneous IT infrastructure, including custom/legacy software, process workflow suites, and new SOA-style services.

To enable this unification there are 3 steps to get started with BPM (and they don’t have anything to do with expensive enterprise BPM software suites):

1. Standardize the language you will use for process modeling across the organization. BPMN 2.0 is the working language of BPM, and is the logical choice for modeling all processes in business and IT, ranging from cloud-based collaborative modeling to business suite (e.g. CRM, ERP, etc.) solution modeling. The best way to get started with this step is to choose a process modeling tool that supports BPMN and can check models for compliance to the BPMN 2.0 standard. Ideally, the tool centralizes all process diagrams in a single repository so:

– Process models can be linked as necessary and re-used

– Process documentation can be generated easily from the process models and shared with all stakeholders

– The models and documentation can be governed and controlled

2. Develop an enterprise process model – An Enterprise Process Model (EPM) is a high-level depiction of the end-to-end work of an enterprise. This may seem like a daunting task, but typically most organizations have enterprise and BPM architects who have defined at a high-level what the organization does for cross-company benchmarking. Align yourself with Enterprise Architecture (EA) to find out what business process framework your company is using. Business process frameworks, such as SCOR, ITIL, or eTOM list the major processes and activities for a particular industry. APQC is an organization that publishes cross-industry processes and activities if you need help defining your EPM. Corporate Executive Board (CEB), and other research organizations, also publish industry EPMs. Regardless of how you come up with it, it’s important to define your EPM, at least at a high-level, and have your BPM and Enterprise Architects/IT agree on it. Ideally, your process modeling tool should have the ability to store your Enterprise Process Model in visual form (e.g. value streams) so your high-level EPM can be linked to more detailed process diagrams and activities.

3. Select a BPM or business process improvement project to get started – Business needs must be clarified, resourced and sponsored to make the project a success. Choose the right process based on the drivers in your organization to gain the necessary executive sponsorship, and select the right resources for your project team. Once you have the process design team in place, agree on process scope, when it starts and ends, what an instance of the process represents (e.g. Order-to-Cash), and possible end states. Create a high level map with ideally 10 or fewer activities, and then more detailed sub-process diagrams with swim lanes using BPMN standard. You need all these critical elements to get off to a good start.

In the past, a BPM architect or process modeler had two choices to get started with these 3 steps:

– Use a combination of tools that have little integration with each other, such as Visio (or another modeling tool like iGrafx, BizAgi, et al), MS Word for documentation, Excel for RACI matrix and business rules, etc…

– Use a proprietary modeling tool inside a very expensive, and very complex, enterprise BPM software suite, such as IBM, SAP or Pega.

Now there is a third option for small, medium and large enterprises getting started with BPM. Signavio is a SaaS based next generation enterprise business process management tool that allows you to accomplish all 3 activities listed above to get started with your BPM program or project. Signavio has many significant advantages over stand-alone process modelers (Visio, BizAgi, etc), and process modelers built into BPM suites. They include:

– Fully compliant with BPMN 2.0 standard with ability to check models for compliance with standard, and implement modeling conventions and standards across your organization

– Ability to link process diagrams to other processes, and your high-level enterprise process framework

– Centralized governance of all process diagrams and documentation

– Ability to share and collaborate on process diagrams with all stakeholders

– Ability to define any number of attributes for process activities, such as execution time, wait time, etc. Excellent for organization with Lean or Six Sigma initiatives looking to measure and improve processes.

I highly recommend checking out Signavio by signing up for a demo/free 30-day trial. Whether you’re new to BPM or have a BPM program under-way, Signavio is definitely worth considering for your process modeling needs. Contact for more details!

Aligning Business and IT – The Pixar Movie

Once upon a time business and IT had trouble communicating. For years, business and IT tried to communicate using a variety of methods, languages, tools and artefacts. But the business was continually frustrated when IT did not understand their needs, could not meet their deadlines, and delivered systems not meeting the requirements of business. Yet the cost of IT continued to grow. To make matters worse, IT uses words and models business can’t understand. On the other side, IT is frustrated because the business can’t communicate their needs to the level of detail required by IT to code these requirements into their systems. One day business and IT professionals came together to develop two innovative and contemporary ways to communicate with clarity and completeness: Business Process Management (BPM), and its associated business process modelling standard, BPMN 2.0, and The Decision Model (TDM). BPM, a disciplined approach to identify, design, and model enterprise business processes, and The Decision Model, a technology independent way to express business rules, provide business and IT with a way to model business processes that are:

· Complete
· Clear
· Shareable between business and IT
· Consistent

Organizations adopting the use of BPM, BPMN 2.0 and TDM, realize two major benefits of business and IT being aligned: systems are developed better, faster and cheaper, and business processes are more customer focused, efficient and effective. Until finally, business and IT wondered how they ever got along without BPM and The Decision Model.

Should it be such a pain for business and IT to communicate? At Service Zen we don’t think so and we have the tools and methodologies to align business and IT.

How do you think business and IT can communicate better?

*Note: Thanks to Daniel Pink for letting me know about how every Pixar movie is made.