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IT – Best friend to Business in BPM? December 21, 2009

Posted by Sanooj Kutty in Business Process Management, Enterprise Content Management, Others.
Tags: , , , , , ,

Plenty have been written on the legendary battle between Business and IT. Over time different roles including Business Analysts and Application Consultants have been introduced to narrow the gap. Models like UML, BPMN, EPC, etc. have also been developed to further narrow this. Yet, have we really forged a peace treaty? I doubt it!

Why else do we find ECM and BPM projects go haywire? In fact, these solutions have probably further divided a relationship that can surely compare with some of the very popular theological and political wars and pseudo-wars that engulf the world today.

It has been unanimously known and acknowledged that communication confusions have been the key reason for this blow-hot-blow-cold war. I see it different. I believe it is not communication, but more cultural and social. Just as an Indian and an American may be capable of speaking english, yet, they may not necessarily communicate in the right manner because of colloquial nuances and cultural and social differences.

In BPM projects, IT can become the best friend or the worst enemy for Business Units. I recommend managing your relationship with IT as stated below to get them to deliver your requirements.

Know what you Need and Specify what you Want.

Business Unit: “I want Food.”
IT: “Here’s your Cheese burger”.
Business Unit: “But, I wanted Lasagne.”
IT: “You should have mentioned it earlier”
Business Unit: “You didn’t tell me. How do I know what you can cook? You are supposed to consult us.”

And so it goes on. A bit of a Chicken-and-Egg story here. But, lets be clear and honest. If you want something in particular, you have to be specific about it. Business Units need guiding and consulting for sure, but, you must
also know exactly what you want and have in mind. Systems are not build or modified on wishes. As they say, ” If wishes were horses…”

Sometimes, we do this! Sometimes, we do that!

Every process has a procedure to execute as guided by the policy. What may be missing, is a clear Policy and Procedure document. What is most likely to be missing, is Exception handling in the P & P. No BPM system comes pre-packaged with your business rules and decisions. While BPM systems are malleable and ductile, they are not self-modifying. You need to flatten them or lengthen them explicitly. IT may be used to define and modify your “process map”, but you have to be the ones laying down the laws.

But, thats Finance’s responsibility, not ours! Ask them!

Quite normal for one Business Unit to be ignorant of another’s tasks. This is easily accepted as each BU is only expected to be masters at their core competence. Yet, when it comes to IT, expectations tend to sky rocket. They must be masters at the nitty gritties of all BUs. IT is also a Unit within Business like Sales or Finance. Isn’t it unfair for them to be MBA qualified? Support and hand hold them through your business requirements and they will breeze you through the technology.

Knowledge is a Handshake.

While IT is definitely a more technical department, they must have basic business comprehension qualities. Yet, surprisingly, BUs are not expected to have any basic IT knowledge. Green IT initiatives and paper cost savings are leading organizations to BPM and ECM. It now becomes more necessary for BUs to understand the basics of how technology works and its limitations. Knowledge is a handshake and both BUs and IT need to share this. A case for Knowledge Management?


1. Gary C - December 21, 2009

Sannoj – Good little post. I particularly like your analogy of ‘Indian vs American’ usage of the language – very appropriate.

My challenge to you would be to that one of the main issues is that BPM is still seen in many companies as being an IT project when, in fact, it is actually a business project which uses IT resources. This is a problem which is compounded by the fact that many companies think that ‘Implementing BPM’ is actually installing a software package to document or manage your processes.

How can we solve this issue? Is it a mindset change that is needed? If so, how can we enforce this mindset?

Good post, Sanooj. Thanks

Sanooj Kutty - December 21, 2009

I do agree with the Business project versus IT project mixup that could occur. Although, I believe businesses are quite aware of this. A Data Center project is easily IT, while even a stand alone Accounting software becomes Business. What happens is Business takes a lead in choosing the system and then becomes a passenger expecting IT to drive during implementation. It is mindset dependent, but also has a lot to do with the breakneck speed in which technology develops that the average Business user can’t keep up. Too many cooks spoil the broth and so can too many systems spoil the process.

2. Jaisundar - December 21, 2009

Oh, yes, dont we all know that divide! Interestingly, I have often found myself using this divide to impress upon customers the importance of the balance in view of business and IT – and how BPM done right can actually bridge that gap. And a BPMS suite with the right modeling tool that is easily understood and used by Business and handed off to IT becomes the crucial bridge.

What Gary talks about is a classical problem too – if you run the BPM program like just another IT project, the project itself may be successful but the benefits may not justify real potential. I think it becomes the responsibility of the external implementation team to impress upon customers the likely caveats, set the right PM and governance approach with appropriate measures and check points.

So long as right expectations are set and everyone is delivering from their strengths (biz/IT) and those are pre-defined contributions, things should go along ok.

Sanooj Kutty - December 21, 2009

Interesting approach to using the divide to help bridge the gap. Although, I prefer a slightly more bonding approach by playing the role of the bonding agent. As an internal consultant (not all need be external), I allow business the full flexibility to narrate or write their process and requirements the way they want. The only condition that it be structured. This allows them to express in a less enforced but structured manner without inhibitions. I have also seen Business start using flowcharts to express themselves. I then take over and convert these into models like BPMN, EPC, etc and hand it over to IT. At times, I use multiple symplified excel sheets and request it to be filled one by one subtly guiding them to provide their requirements. I have seen improvements and reduction in communication chaos. Time will tell if this is really effective. The approach is still in beta stage. Once proven effective, will shed more light through this blog.

3. John Jansen - December 21, 2009

Hello Sanooj,

You can discuss a lot on this 🙂 I think on the conversation above: if you have dinner at MacDO you know exactly what you get. If you dine in a Michelin star restaurant you want the chef to suprise you. So my opinion is that you first need to qualify if you just want food to keep you going which is probably what make a comparison with BPM real or looking voor exotic ingredients in a one time gastronomic meal. This is just a matter of choosing and communicating I think. So keep the food simple thats what we can learn from it. Complex food is nice as an exeption. Though you need exeption to vary. Otherwise you get fed up with eating every day the same stuff. Choose, demand and ask to deliver.

Sanooj Kutty - December 21, 2009

If only processes were as simple as choosing between a MacD and a Michelin star restaurant. You do have a point there, though. I remember once seeing a gentleman raise hell at a self-service restaurant that no body came to take his order. He came from a place where the busy urban self-service joints didn’t exist. The fact I am trying to say is Business at times are not aware that Mac D means standing in a queue, placing your order from a standard menu, paying up and waiting by the side to collect your meal. A totally different process to the Michelin star! Hence, if Businesses are ignorant to what the chosen or existing technology provides, they end up raising hell wanting to be surprised with ‘exceptionally surprising’ chef specials at a self-service fast food joint!

John Jansen - December 22, 2009

point taken, what i ment to say is not to opt for either one, i mean MacDo can be nice if you are hungy, but to make your choices on the level you need. And the mistake we often make in BPM landscape is to overcomplicate things. Which does not mean Business doest not need flexibility and agilility and that customers need to find it normal to be part of a queue.

4. Ramzi Rahal - December 22, 2009

Very interristing perspective by Sannoj and good comments from the others.
For me it is all about business and process maturity. I strongly believe in evolving maturity.
Every businness is different even within the same vertical.
That what makes everyone special.
In simple words, business needs to have a startng point and follow an iterative dynamic in developing their proceeses
and in every iteration they should demand the relevant IT fucntionality. IT job is to supply the best out of the box solution.
It is then business to decide what parts of the process to be automated and what not.
The food of MacD, burger k, Wendy… etc. taste plastic or rubber, what makes one successful then the other
iS the process maturity and the level automation in order to create more dollar value.
The cashier still keys in the order but he always shouts ‘… Cheese burger no mayo , no cheese)….

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