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Agile for BPM

When the focus of a Business Process Management (BPM) initiative is to use technology to make process improvements in value chain activities (revenue generating) or management/administrative processes (cost reducing), there are a set of core practices that will help to ensure that expected results are realized.  They are:

  • Linking the technology solution to an organizational improvement vision
  • A clear understanding of the process to be improved
  • Use of agile implementation techniques that encourage greater user involvement
  • Hands on user involvement

Practice 1 – Link Solution to Vision
An ECM vision statement reflects the direction the organization is going with its use of ECM.  This vision statement will typically be rooted in a value based analysis which highlight the areas of greatest organizational benefit.  Any business process improvement initiative must start by looking at the organizational vision to validate that the work being done supports the organization’s vision and roadmap for ECM.  (see ECM Strategic Planning)

Practice 2 -Analysis of Process
BPM is used to define, improve, and automate business processes whether they are core processes that support value chain activities (revenue generating) or management/administrative processes (cost reducing).  In the course of this activity the following must be considered:

  • How a set of related work activities systematically link across time and locations
  • Events that result from or cause work activities
  • Relationship between role and user experience
  • The inputs and outputs that occur in the course of a process’s work activities
  • Collaboration requirements as represented by the various types of ad hoc and structured communications that must occur to support the process and the work activities

Practice 3 – Agile-based deployment
Since time to value is impacted by implementation cost, acceleration techniques improve payback.  Bringing users and process experts earlier into the development lifecycle can bridge the comprehension and communication gap between those with the process knowledge and the technical experts building the solution.  Within an Agile approach a working structure can be created where process experts and process owners work together with Workflow designers and developers.  By leveraging an implementation approach in this way, those destined to use the system can begin to embody the solution earlier in the process, understand it sooner, and provide better feedback while development is in process.

Practice 4 – Embodiment
Often, how work is done and activities performed can be difficult to describe.  Within organizations, special language is often used to describe work activities.  Many times, process actors may not be able to easily describe what they do because it is something they have learned through observation of others or from what they have learned on the job.  Often, much of what is known about a process exists as tacit rather than explicit knowledge that may not be easily described or documented.
To gain full understanding of how a system is used to perform work activities the system must be used by process actors in a manner that comes closest to how they work.  Early use of a system while it is in development provides for more and earlier feedback about the solution being developed.

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