Process Platforms and Collagen Scaffolds

_66965345_asdWorking this week with the incoming exec team at a recent acquisition on a soup-to-nuts transformation programme to re-focus and   re-structure a financial services business.

Reading on the train beforehand – sounds odd but stick with me – this week’s news on artificial kidney transplants, there’s an interesting parallel.

How do grow a transplant kidney in the lab? You take an old kidney and strip it of its cells, leaving just the honeycomb-like collagen scaffold. You then build the new kidney onto the collagen scaffold using cells taken from the patient.

Which is kind of like building a new, healthier business model by stripping a business back to its essentials and then building a new, more profitable and ambitious business.

The collagen scaffold for the enterprise is the process management platform. The end-to-end business processes that it describes and integrates are the honeycomb-like scaffold upon which, layer upon layer, the business is built, and transformed.

Attempting in the past to find a metaphor to explain what we mean by a process management platform, I’ve suggested parallels with the double helix, with a TV news scheduling system, even with an orchestral score. But the collagen scaffold may be the best analogy yet. Arguably, it fits within the spirit of Gartner’s evolving definition of BPM as well.

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Future BPM – The Enterprise Platform

iStock_000023250571SmallI’ve argued previously that sustainable success in complex global enterprises depends upon effective collaboration, and that process is the language that best enables it. I’ve also argued that BPMN is out of the running as a universal business language, and proposed three questions we should ask in assessing alternatives.

The right language is vitally necessary but it’s not sufficient. Traditionally, we say it needs to be supported by a tool. I want to make the case here that the real value comes when it is supported a process management platform.

Tool, platform – what’s the difference?

Here’s ten ways we can know an enterprise process management platform when we see one:

  1. It is the single source of truth. It goes beyond defining what we do and how we do it. It defines as well roles, responsibilities and accountability.
  2. It integrates processes with documents, systems, metrics and training to deliver content that is personalised, intuitive and valuable to every desktop and mobile device.
  3. It makes it easy for users to feed back improvement ideas to process owners and stakeholders, to get engaged in continuous improvement.
  4. It recognizes the need for variants and seamlessly manages them behind the scenes. It allows global processes to be designed and managed in English (for instance) but displayed to the user in their chosen language. It manages the ongoing optimization of the variants to a global process necessary to meet local requirements.
  5. It is the framework for performance management. It integrates processes with metrics and analytics. It overlays processes with metadata, hidden to most users, with analytical features and reporting that allow process stakeholders and Op Ex and Lean Sigma teams to collaborate on change. It underpins every CxO dashboard.
  6. It is the framework for change management. Recognizing that almost every proposed change has ripples, with implications for other groups across and outside of the enterprise, all business change is managed through it.
  7. It bridges the IT:Business divide. It engages business and IT in a rich ongoing dialogue.
  8. It is the enterprise QMS. It enables risks, controls and compliance to be embedded and managed within the end-to-end operational processes.
  9. It provides all this within one unified governance framework that is robust enough to meet every compliance requirement yet also automated and intuitive enough to be easy to use.
  10. It is a chameleon. It can be stand-alone, or it can invisibly and intelligently integrate with other collaboration and social platforms, and any other systems, as required.

An enterprise BPM platform of this kind provides direct line of sight between strategy and reality. It links the operating model directly with the operational processes. It reduces the risk in every business transformation, from acquisition integration to major IT programmes. It embeds a culture of continuous innovation and sustainable improvement. And the Chief Risk Officer sleeps easier at night.

The stakes are high. This is an enormously valuable prize. There’s a race on to deliver it. Exciting times.

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© Text Michael Gammage 2013