Firstly apologies to Shakespeare. “But, for my own part, it was Greek to me.” Julius Caesar Act 2 Scene 2.
I recently had the pleasure of meeting and talking to the CIO of a multi-national company about his future needs. He was sure that he had no need for business process management (BPM) because if he did he would use the ERP workflow!
That has had me thinking about this disconnect. His business problems he described were classically addressed by BPM. In the meeting I just let it slide that BPM is workflow by another name and we talked business issues. His need was for a solution that monitored multiple systems and triggered actions, what we call an orchestration engine. The resultant actions take many forms. It was an impressive discussion and this company’s reputation for excellence was supported by the CIO’s articulation of his future needs. It was definitely a company that I could work for.
So why is BPM often misunderstood by seemingly experienced and resourced IT departments? The nub I keep coming back to is to ponder the influence of technology analysts at the technology research companies that tend to sprout these TLAs (or three letter acronyms) that lead you to wonder about the water in those companies. When looking at their crystal balls and extrapolating the strategic directions to their customers, the analysts feel compelled to ‘name’ the new technology directions. Hence workflow that included inflight analytics, orchestration engine, document management, case management, process flow analytics to offer suggestions for ‘best next action’ and did not work alone in a data silo eg ERP and such, now had a name: BPM.
This is awesome for the technology analysts with their crystal balls looking for over the horizon trends. This gives the trend a unique description they can then write about, deliver research papers at seminars and conferences. But what about old fashioned business done well? What if we do not give that a fancy TLA, but just describe it tightly and accurately?
I have always been impressed by the power of words when used clearly, accurately and with stated intent. I am not about to stand up and sprout a soliloquy or a Shakespearean sonnet to make my point but rather use Microsoft as an example. (They do not a sonnet make.)
When you make a presentation please use PowerPoint. Make the point.
When you write a document please use Word. Write words.
When you prepare a spreadsheet you use excel (sic). Use cells for calculations.
So my examples hit the end of the road when the email system was called Outlook. Better names could be File 13, Interrupter 1, DayFiller to name a few. The point I make is powerful meaning starts from a clear label, not a made up name that requires a long explanation. Hence my rant on the lack of meaning in the word BPM.
So back to the meeting. The inquiry was about the potential relevance of XMPro. In a previous blog I segregated my response to ‘what it is’, ‘what it does’ and ‘what it means’. In the meeting we discussed the needs to be addressed: mobility, interventions, inflight analytics, activity monitoring and business intelligence feeds. That is about the ‘what it does’ part of the equation.
At the end of the meeting I answered the ‘what it is’. XMPro is an intelligent business operations suite. Simple. What are your needs and let’s talk if we do in fact have a platform that may offer solutions. I have also avoided the IT habit of including words such as powerful, flexible, market leading and other such meaningless words. Get the power point! I have a very strong feeling that the meeting made sense as I did not confuse the discourse with gobbledygook like ‘BPM’. I know BPM was not the label that could have been used to describe the potential solution.
“Suit the action to the word, the word to the action.” Hamlet Act 3 Scene 2
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