states “Business process management (BPM)
is a management
discipline that focuses on improving corporate performance by managing
optimising a company's business processes”.
Process” is arguably THE buzz word of the Business
Information Systems world today. Every
major ERP product provides comprehensive support for Business Process
comprehensive workflow management and related capabilities.
this focus on Business Process, the vogue for at least the
last ten years is associated with rocketing system implementation costs
escalating levels of project catastrophe and write off, see my Failure
seems that the industry does NOT stop to examine the
correlation, let alone draw the uncomfortable conclusion that
this correlation calls for. That
Business Process Management or Mapping as an INPUT to any business
ERP project, is, for the most part irrelevant,
distracting and DANGEROUS!
a license to print money and blame the client for the outcome!
example – Bridgetone Tires are currently engaged in litigation
against IBM for damages resulting from a botched integrated business
supply, development and implementation based on SAP technology. See "IBM Rips Into Bridgestone
Over $600 Million
name of the project? OTC – “Order to Cash” – a classic example of
the meaningless gobbledygook that BPM proponents use to describe
project activities. Once
the implications the very use of the name “Order to Cash” is a pointer
to a project
with massive time overruns and high probability of damaging business
exactly what happened at Bridgestone.
2009, with a number of highly successful implementations under my
belt – see the ASCO
Case Studies, as evidenced by joint conference presentations
the highest form of testimonial possible, I found myself confronted by
who claimed that I did NOT know what I was doing because I did NOT “DO”
business process as an initial step in implementing an ERP.
advised me that they would need to replace me with a consultant
“who understands ERP”, which translated meant “a consultant who does
process”. I did NOT
know how to respond, YES,
I did NOT do Business Process as an
input, I never had and it had never been an issue.
I had always specified business process or
workflow as an OUTPUT that followed naturally from the precision
which I undertake with every business systems and ERP project that I
I walked away from the
abovementioned client and started to investigate and consider business
and BPM generally. Five years later that client is
in the process of replacing their ERP, major inditement of
years that followed I have investigated and diagnosed (see “Pulse
Measurement”) a number of disastrous Business Process centric
ERP and other
business systems projects with massive time and cost overruns, stalled
and damaged client business being the regular experience. In that time I have NOT
encountered a single
high value outcome or, for that matter, a single outcome that has met
mediocrity? YES! Success
by my standards? NO most certainly
not! -- see my article “What
does a HIGH VALUE Business Information System Solution look like?”
of a successful business
information systems project
define success for an ERP or other business systems project in
goes in flawlessly without drama and works
effectively immediately. Staff
experienced with the use of the installation before commissioning see
comments on the Business
on my website – note
that specification of the workflow / business processes is an integral
new system enables the business to run more smoothly and efficiently
The new system strongly supports competitive
strategic decision making and effectiveness such that a few
commissioning the client company is measurably more competitive and
and is growing significantly faster than it was BEFORE the new system.
other words, a quick call OFF the record, to the CEO results in a
strong expression of satisfaction and perhaps some superlatives.
off the record?
many executives and managers LIE on the record and claim that
their system is just fine because they do NOT want the shareholders to
what a mess it is and how much money they have wasted for little or no
return. I know of
one multi-national with a big brand
implementation on which they have spent over £50 million that is so
that almost nothing is being done in it and yet executives have been
believe it is working fine despite the army of contractors and staff
things running outside of the ERP – the brand of ERP is not material,
implemented in the same way would deliver the same result.
over rated and overstated
years ago I presented a paper titled “BPM
over rated and overstated” at the BPM Summit 2013 in which I
severely – NO ONE objected and a few people agreed! – an interesting
ensuing two years I have seen further failures, including
studying the Court
papers of the Bridgestone – IBM case.
And I have finally concluded that in the context of
implementation, BPM, process mapping and process language are irrelevant, distracting and dangerous!
because most parts of most organizations do NOT follow any
relevant or meaningful workflow (the accurate meaning of process). We have functional units
that perform tasks
to agreed standards, policies and in some cases procedures but
generally NOT in
terms of any discernible “flow” or process.
ARE cases where workflow IS important and in those cases it
should be optimized (or dictated by senior management), but most of the
rely on the
intuitive initiative of well
trained and responsible personnel to perform tasks in response to
life throws at them from minute to minute.
I refer here to management and administrative functions
repetitive operational functions where there clearly IS a process and
that process should clearly be optimized using Industrial Engineering
methods. On a
number of projects I have
initiated engagement of Industrial Engineers to optimize repetitive
(processes) so I DO understand the value of process in its proper
perform these tasks staff work on computer screens that are
logically organized with packages of related information and collated
menus or desktop icons that allow the staff member to gain quick access
to make use of in the moment.
study – Workflow solution
where BPM / flow charting was a waste of time
time ago I was involved as strategic advisor on a project to
implement a workflow management solution.
consultants commenced by drawing flow charts and doing business
process mapping stuff – seemed reasonable at the time, after all we
implementing a workflow solution and I assumed they knew what they were
once it got down to actually configuring the workflow software
the fancy drawings that had taken months to perfect had to be all but
discarded and the work redone because the REAL workflow was MUCH more
varied and finicky than the two dimensional diagrams could cope with. The much more flexible and
software was able to cope with this complexity, the text book process
powerful lesson that conventional workflow diagramming techniques
with flow charts, etc, as typically used, are NOT sufficiently precise
to in actual fact do anything but produce conceptual sketches of
things work round here! EVEN
in the case
of a process project!
my engineering perspective, a total waste of time – a conclusion
supported by a number of failed
projects I have investigated.
I conclude that traditional business process mapping in whatever
shape or form it takes is IRRELEVANT!
because management consultants spends days and days in
intense workshops producing diagrams that are difficult to understand
they are so abstract and inexact and try and capture real time
rule based, complex,
variable, discretionary and varies from person to person, situation to
situation and day to day.
Charts, Swim-lanes, Maps, etc – you name it the industry offers
it – problem is that much of the time the consultant does NOT really
the technique and is so caught up in their creative frenzy and drawing
totally lose sight of the REAL goals
the project! And
totally fail to
understand the essence
of the business and the business requirement.
because they are so busy drawing, be it on a white board, brown
paper or computer screen, they waste huge amounts of client staff time
the vast majority of the REAL information that they should be
harvesting – see
my article “Effective
Discovery is Essential” for an approach that actually works.
most extreme case I have ever investigated was an ERP
implementation which, after 2 years and over a million pounds
numerous large files of meticulous flow charts, swim-lanes, etc. The project had also
produced a number of
tearful and frustrated client staff who had been marginalized because
long hours of dedicated work away from the workplace such that their
positions had been filled by others.
project had one of the most toxic project environments I have ever
in tears, others
refusing to speak to me except off the record.
implementer blamed the client but inaccurately described the
client’s actual requirement and was developing a solution which was
the mark relative to the requirement that the client CEO clearly
me within ten minutes of my first meeting with her!
client CEO and management were intensely frustrated that their
reasonably simple requirement for a small piece of clever web-based
NO closer to being met than when the implementers were appointed two
earlier. The BRUTAL
truth was that
NOTHING that had been done in any way moved the client an inch closer
meeting their requirement.
implementer? – the IT arm of one of the Big 4 Accounting firms –
trusted advisors whose incompetence, indifference and process obsession
I concluded that the business process activity on this project
had totally DISTRACTED all involved from the REAL objective of the
wasted huge amounts of time and money and seriously jeopardized honest
the consultants incompetent and process obsessed or greedy and
using process to milk the client?
is a conversation for another day!
above example massively compromised needed client competitiveness,
cost the client major expenditure and removed the best personnel from
workplace for a large portion of two years.
The project never went live so client losses were
example evidences what happens when a system badly designed
and executed on
the basis of Business Process goes live, see the reference in the Failure
stacked in parking
lots, a huge warehouse rented to store stock.
Orders unfulfilled and frustrated customers going
desperately needed supplies. Remember
that it is the nature of things that once you lose a customer through
of problem the customer virtually NEVER comes back – so the IT failure
in long term sustained loss of revenue and damage to profitability and
Catalogue for further examples of the things that are
the links for more examples and more
examples and more examples …
process is NOT the only culprit, it is but ONE component of
consistently ineffective and unreliable methods and incompetent
associated with a massive lack of accountability and questionable
is a huge need for statutory regulation of the industry and
licensing of practitioners.
I conclude that business process mapping and other business process
related obsession is DANGEROUS!
hesitated to stick my neck out for over eleven years I have
concluded that to all intents and purposes business process related
on business information system projects, an area in which I can justly
expertise, is irrelevant, distracting and dangerous and should be
to do INSTEAD of Business Process” discusses the approach
that I advocate
to achieving high value practical system outcomes.
RIGHT Information to the RIGHT Person at the RIGHT Time Enabling THRIVE
Decisions – THE Fundamental Requirement" and "Answers
to the Questions YOU have NOT yet thought to ask – NOW! -- from your
Information Systems" provide further detailed discussion of
way to implement business systems and ERP.
considering the above articles please keep in mind that it is
humanly impossible on ANY project in ANY business to do Precision
AND Business Process MAPPING concurrently.
Either Precision Configuration leads and Workflow is an
output of a
well-structured engineering project done my way or BPM leads and
Configuration gets ignored (the industry norm).
Both need the same people in the same room at the same
time for the same
length of time so it is one OR the other.
also my article on "The
Critical Human Foundation" for a further discussion of some
reasons why BPM is so totally inappropriate as a discovery,
design method. Also
read the Bridgestone
articles for more comment on process obsession.
Dr James Robertson -- My Passion for Executive Information Excellence"
for an overview of my credentials and interests. For more detail about
credentials see the "About"
page on the website.
you be battling with a business process orientated project that
is NOT performing and needing to understand where you are and how the
can be turned around, or be planning a new system implementation,
me or call me to discuss how I can be of assistance.
Dr James A Robertson PrEng
Website : http://www.James-A-Robertson-and-Associates.eu
LinkedIn : http://uk.linkedin.com/in/DrJamesARobertsonERPDoctor