What Process Excellence Looks Like In 2020

There are good reasons for believing that process excellence is moving increasingly centre stage, and that this will continue. What does this mean for the enterprise? What does process excellence look like in 2020?

As the old saw has it, it’s difficult to make predictions, and especially about the future. But here’s my take on what will be mainstream when Tokyo next hosts the Olympics.

Every enterprise will have what we might call a ‘cortex’. However it’s known – as the Business Management System or the Business Operating System or the Enterprise QMS, whatever – it will be universal in its scope. It will be how the organization understands itself, how it senses and responds, how it learns.

This cortex will describe every aspect of the enterprise at every level, whether it’s in-house or outsourced, and in a way that everyone can understand. It will be visual and intuitive, leveraging the language of process.

This won’t be just a basic lingua franca.  Right now, most transformation and improvement work relies upon the equivalent of semaphore. We’re moving towards a simplified pidgin. By 2020, we will have developed a rich universal language, still rooted in processes but capable of describing every aspect of the real-time organization in an accessible way that ensures appropriate participation in every aspect of organizational change.

The cortex will be underpinned by a process management platform, which will provide a collaborative framework for managing change and continuous improvement, as well as all the governance required for risk management and compliance.  The process management platform connects it all up; it’s the organization’s central nervous system.

Many of the operations of the enterprise will be automated, some delivered by robots or other autonomic systems within a ubiquitous internet of things. But even when automation becomes this extensive, there’s still a useful distinction between process management and automation. The process management platform will continue to sit above the automated world, providing the holistic perspectives that enable all the stakeholders involved to collaborate on designing and delivering change.

The cortex and its central nervous system, the process management platform, will be corporate consciousness. And process excellence will be the business of developing this consciousness and, in particular, developing organizational intelligence.

Mainstream process management platforms of 2020 will be distinguished in two ways:

(1) Engagement.  Since it all hinges on the enterprise embracing process, everything about process has to be so natural – personalised, intuitive, reliable, easy – that it’s always the lingua franca for training, collaboration and continuous improvement across the entire enterprise [even when the chips are down].

For the platform vendors, this is a huge challenge. It’s set to become a great deal harder as every activity of the enterprise becomes more social, more mobile, more fast-paced, more global, more multi-sourced, more automated and appy, more driven by real-time analytics and risk management.  Their quest for engagement will draw heavily on gamification [its serious side; not mash-ups of SOX and GTA5…].

(2) Governance. Mainstream process management platforms in 2020 won’t just crack complexity to ensure engagement. They will enable success in fast-moving operating environments which will typically be far more regulated, where compliance demands will be more extensive. It won’t be just regulatory pressure or product quality or the demands of rapid innovation either. Expectations in corporate social responsibility and sustainability are going to be far higher, and more extensive, and the costs of failure potentially catastrophic. The compliance overhead could be colossal so governance will need to be as light as possible, especially for the key stakeholders, without ever compromising compliance.

The process management platforms that are thriving in 2020 will have pulled off the trick of enabling agility while also ensuring compliance.

It’s a huge change, of course.  While platforms are essential, they are just enablers. Success in 2020 will require new levels of organizational maturity, above all, the capability to learn and adapt rapidly and intelligently. Many organizations won’t make it. We’re going to need new methodologies that draw upon the best of Lean, Six Sigma and other quality and process improvement approaches – and add in the insights of nudge theory and choice architectures.

It’s exciting. As I’ve said before, I think we’re in a pupa stage. We’re living in a rapidly transforming world, with huge changes to come. But we’re building a butterfly and it has a moral purpose. Here’s just three examples of how process excellence matters to humankind:

It’s key to avoiding our enormous waste of resources on failed transformation projects with near-zero benefits (highlighted most recently in this article in yesterday’s FT)

It’s the key to delivering what the West takes for granted to the majority of humanity who currently don’t have access to it – affordable heart surgery, for instance (the case for standardization and efficiency is superbly set out by cardiac surgeon Dr Devi Prasad Shetty here)

NGOs and Governments need efficiency and effectiveness just as much as, probably more than, global corporations (a great example, via PEX Network, is this World Vision case study).

Looking for one last time into my 2020 crystal ball, I think I can see…wait for it.. the closing ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics!  Goodness me! Great Britain has topped the medal table again.

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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11 Dec 2012 Process Management And Google Maps

© Text Michael Gammage 2013