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Last week in my third episode on Business Transformation I lingered on about how taking a BPM approach can facilitate and even accelerate your business transformation program, including the underlying sub-projects. Important to remember is that the most difficult factor in any transformation program is getting the people that do the actual work to adopt any kind of change. Again, this is where a BPM approach can help.

The philosophy behind BPM is that it evolves around the concept of the process, but that is, in this particular case, not the critical capability. What truly helps a transformational program is the capability of BPM to structure the way of working and break it down into piecemeal parts that the execution personnel can digest easily. Besides this, it also empowers the organization to quickly identify gaps between the current way of working and the desired way of working (or designed way of working if you will). However, given the fact that any transformation program has very far-reaching effects on the entire organization, it is paramount that the BPM approach is supported and pro-actively preached from the very top of the organization.

This is, without a doubt, one of the main root causes why strategy execution programs and other type of business transformation programs so very often fail. They are invented with the help of very expensive management consultants (nothing wrong with that, don’t get me wrong, they do have a rich experience on company level usually) and then simply forced down the chain of command until the work floor (and yes, I know this is a very generic statement, but unfortunately it is closer to the truth than I would like). In this approach, two things typically go wrong: (1) the people on the work floor were not involved in the new way of working and therefore have a hard time digesting the change (or even resisting it) and (2) senior and executive management have a hard time displaying the desired behavior, giving the wrong signal to the organizational layers that they manage. Leading by example, remains a difficult point.

Let’s start with point number 2. Within our customer base (which is quite significant I would say with over 10K customers) we have identified that our most successful customers have two things in common:

  1. There is one group of diverse people (in terms of capabilities) that reports to C- or C-1 level, and
  2. There is one underpinning management system containing all strategies, operating models, processes, systems, roles, risks including the way that they are connected to each other.

Especially point 1 is critical. The challenge with transformation programs is that is effectively will try to take down local organizational kingdoms and of course, the rulers of these kingdoms will try whatever they can to prevent this from happening (nothing special, unfortunate human behavior). They will not shy to work over members of the Managing Board to overrule intended changes coming their way. At the moment that the MB does not keep it’s back straight and allows this local king to get away with it, your transformation program basically has lost its purpose. You need firm support to get this kingdom owner back in line and literally with the program. This is one of the reasons why it is imperative to have a transformation group (of which BPM should be part) report into the very top levels of the organization.

The one underpinning system I mentioned above has everything to with the challenge of persuading people on all levels to make changes that are aligned with the direction that the organization wants to go. Imagine a sizeable organization with locations on all continents, a zillion different small systems (and maybe a large ERP or two) and tons of local regulations to comply to. How on earth are you going to keep a grip on all of that if you’ve not documented what it is you need to do, in such a way that it is connected, because everything IS connected, whether you like it or not. The picture below just tries to illustrate just that (and I was not even talking about all the additional technologies that can help you facilitate the transformation (think about process & task mining). 

Performing a seemingly simple upgrade to an IT system (which in many cases are just business systems by the way) may cause business processes to all of sudden stop working or start acting strange. The next thing you know, you are searching for the root cause and the simple upgrade is typically not on the list of obvious root causes so a lot of time is potentially wasted on finding the problem, let alone correcting it. It would have been much more effective and efficient to have been able to perform an impact analysis that took into account that this IT system was supporting a couple of different processes. And this is just one small example, the fact that nowadays everything within an organization is digitally connected makes transformation programs even more challenging.

So, wrapping up this month’s blog topic on Business Transformation, my opinion is that digital transformation does not exist on it’s own and is always part of a larger business transformation, that you need a transformation group that uses a BPM approach to the transformation and that involvement of the execution layers in the organization (and enabling them via specific, relevant and up to date information) is absolutely key in increasing your chances on a successful transformation. It’s not rocket science, it’s just complex and a lot of work.

As of next week I will dive more into the wonderful world of process modeling, the underrated foundation of any BPM approach. So, don’t be afraid, I won’t be too technical (because I am not a technician), I’ll try to bring it back to normal proportions.

Until then,

Ciao, Caspar

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