The BPTrends Associates Methodology

Here is a quick overview of how BPTrends Associates conceptualizes the business process space. We begin by dividing the types of activities that business and IT people deal with when they do process work into six broad categories.

Projects vs. Operational Work

Horizontally, we divide the space between efforts that are projects – efforts that involve goals and are completed within a fixed amount of time – and those that are operational in nature and occur on a continuous or day-by-day basis.

BPTA redesign courses focus on training people to participate in business process redesign projects. BPTA does not provide training for day-to-day managers or employees, as such, although some redesigns make changes to processes that are intended to make day-to-day execution of the redesigned process more effective or efficient.

BPTrends-Associates-Methodology_fig1
Figure 1. BPTrends methodology concerns.

Levels of Analysis

Vertically, we discriminate between efforts that are undertaken to manage processes throughout the entire enterprise, efforts focused on changing specific business processes, and those undertaken by IT, HR or logistics to create resources that can be used in implementing a process design.

At the enterprise level, BPTA helps organizations with projects to create process architectures or process measurement or governance systems. We also offer advice and training on how to manage enterprise processes on an ongoing basis. As a generalization, only the more mature organizations do serious process architecture work and set up BPM centers of excellence. Many other less mature organizations are content to focus on simply fixing broken processes at the process level.

At the process level, we help organizations with projects undertaken to redesign specific processes and we also offer advice and training for process managers who are managing processes on a on-going basis.

BPTrends Associates focuses on the top two levels. We do not offer training or advice on the resource level (IT or HR).

The Use of Lean and Six Sigma

As far as BPTrends Associates is concerned, Lean and Six Sigma are collections of techniques. We teach about them in our classes, along with many other types of techniques. (For example, we teach process designers to define business rules to define where and how decisions will be made during specific activities.) Lean and Six Sigma are used extensively during process redesign projects, and they are often used by organizations, on an ongoing basis as part of the continuous improvement activity that managers and employee teams undertake on specific processes on a day-by-day basis. We have placed a green dot on both process redesign and management to show where we teach and use Lean or Six Sigma techniques.

We teach different audiences when we teach about process redesign. We prefer to work with teams that include both the business executives responsible for the process in question and with IT and HR people who will be responsible for developing the resources needed to implement a redesigned process.

Specifying IT Requirements

We tend to work at a high level, and a typical redesign project usually calls for changes in activities and flows, changes in management, changes in employee activities, and changes or the development of new software. We teach teams how to develop “use cases” (within the context of a BPMN To-Be redesign diagram). These use cases specify where software (screens) will be used during the execution of a process and define what information the process user will need to input or obtain to perform a specific activity. (See Figure 2) We do not go further than this – leaving it to an IT development team to specify how the functionality will be provided. Nor do we discuss software engineering methodologies or database designs. (In conjunction with use cases we sometimes discuss the data required by a given process, or events that update databases.)

Process redesign teams can specify different types of software support. They might, for example, specify that an activity should allow employees to store information about new clients, or to retrieve information about a company's credit. We define these situations, as steps in the process, but leave it to IT to define what kind of application will be created or modified to allow the users to make the needed inputs or retrievals. Once IT and HR have developed the needed resources, we expect the business process redesign team to integrate the resources with other changes to be made and help roll out the redesigned process.

Subsequently, we expect the business process manager, who manages the process on a day-by-day basis to negotiate a “contract” with IT to specify the support that IT should provide to assure the business process can perform as desired.

BPTrends-Associates-Methodology_fig2
Figure 2. Use Cases defined for an activity.

BPMS Development

One type of redesign that a process redesign team might propose is a Business Process Management Systems (BPMS). In essence, the team would be suggesting that a BPMS application be built to support the day-by-day management of the redesigned process. BPMS applications can vary quite a bit. The BPMS application might simply provide the process manager with a more-or-less real-time dashboard to show how instances are flowing through the process. Or it might capture measures and suggest how well the process is meeting its goals. Or the BPMS application might provide a dashboard for both the immediate process manager and for other senior managers. And, of course, the dashboard might provide the process manager with the option of changing one or another aspect of the process itself – who documents are routed to, or what interest rate is applied.

For our perspective, the business process redesign team is concerned with every aspect of the process redesign. They may, in the course of a redesign, decide to ask for changes in software resources (applications) used by the process. Similarly, they may decide to ask for new process management tools – like a BPMS application that the manager can use, henceforth, to better monitor and control the ongoing process. If the process redesign team decides to do that, they define it, very broadly, as part of the process redesign. Then their request is sent to IT, which actually creates the BPMS application and later helps to maintain it when it is used by the day-to-day process manager.

A BPMS application requires a process model. The BPTrends methodology teaches a business team to do a comprehensive process model in the course of analyzing and then redesigning a business process. At the end of Phase III (Redesign) of a BPTrends redesign effort, there is a To-Be process that a BPMS team can take as a model to implement. Depending on the scope of the redesign effort, the BPMS team may get a very concrete process model, or they may get a high-level redesign that shows which specific subprocesses or activities are to be automated by IT. Almost any process redesign generated by a BPTrends project will be comprehensive enough that a BPMS tool will need to support both human activities and automated activities to be able to support the entire redesigned process model. We have placed a light yellow circle on Figure 3 to suggest where there are activities that would typically be included in a BPMS effort.

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Figure 3. The yellow area is where BPMS concerns manifest themselves.

The BPTrends approach to process redesign is much more comprehensive than BPMS. We teach students how to think about business processes, how to redesign them to solve various kinds of problems, or to improve their efficiency or effectiveness. We often spend more time trying to model customer processes than the business processes they interface with, to assure that the organization is really helping the customer with his or her problems. From our perspective, BPMS is only one thing an organization might do to improve the efficiency or the effectiveness of a major business process.

Once a BPMS application is developed, of course, it will change the way a process redesign team would approach future redesign efforts, but as there are few BPMS applications in place today, we have not experienced this problem.

During the redesign phase of a BPTrends course, we discuss the kinds of costs and benefits an organization might expect from creating a BPMS application and provide advice as to when it is most appropriate and what its priority might be, but we do not go into this in any real depth.

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