The need for Boutique BPM Consulting

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As the BPMS Software Vendors are maturing their software products, and BPM is now apparently going to be the must have item on every CIO’s shopping list, there will be a growing need for BPM consulting skills. I thought I would reflect on the reasons why independent specialist BPM consulting is required to support this market.

BPMS implementations are different to other software products typically offered by the software vendors. In particular they are sold to the business and not IT. They offer the silver bullet of lower cost of change and increased operational efficiency. A successful implementation needs to not only deliver a functional outcome, but also a capability for ongoing improvements. This typically requires a smaller, but longer engagement with focus on cultural alignment, process improvement methodologies, and delivering incremental changes.

What makes a successful BPM project?

I am a passionate believer in BPM being an approach and not a technology implementation. In my opinion the most important aspects of a successful BPM project / program are:

  • Business engagement and leadership
  • Understanding of the cultural change and alignment required.
  • Strong methodologies that support incremental delivery, continual improvement, are receptive to frequent feedback, and embrace change.
  • A clear view of what success looks like.

This drives the need for specialist BPM organisations who are passionate about BPM, and can blend the cultural, business, and IT skills to deliver on the promise that the customer bought into.

So what differentiates the Boutique BPM Consultancy?

Understanding how to incrementally improve processes to deliver real business value whilst retaining the low cost of change and ensuring stability to the ongoing business operations is a delicate balance. Realising the benefits of implementing a continuous improvement model may require the establishment of a BPM COE and will leverage BPM / Lean / Six Sigma approaches to identify and prioritisie opportunities, and to measure and bank the benefits. This requires a blending of process improvement and IT skills that is unique. The level of business engagement and ownership required is also unique.

The characteristics of a BPM consulting organisation are:

  • Passionate belief in BPM – not just thinking about BPMS as a different tool for IT solution delivery. The key to success is belief, buy-in, leadership and ownership by the business, which won’t happen without some cultural changes. Skills in the product are not as important as understanding how to deliver BPM – it is the right combination of process improvement and solution delivery methodologies supported by the right tools.
  • The right methodology. And yes, this is again about BPM vs BPMS. Incremental delivery and Continual Improvement should be core principles. It is  important to build and sustain the momentum and belief by delivering real and measurable business benefits (regardless how small) on a regular basis. It requires understanding and focus on desired business objectives and KIP’s.  But it is also about understanding best practices in solution delivery. A BPMS implementation is delivering an IT solution, and over time the shared components, service integration, and sub-processes can easily lead to a tangled web of dependencies that are difficult to change – the next legacy system.
  • They want to have a smaller but ongoing relationship. This is more aligned to a model of continual improvement, and is unlike most software vendors professional service engagements.

It is the discovery sessions, having the rights SME’s, frequent increments, and frequent playbacks that are key success factors. This requires co-location, establishing a close trust relationship, and a team that works together and embraces change.

BPM organisations invest in this. They invest in the methodologies, tools and techniques that can be the difference between success and failure. The blend of agile / lean software development practices, process improvement methodologies, and deep understanding of BPM and BPMS can’t be matched by a large software organisation with offshore (or flown in) skills. It equally is unlikely to be matched by general consulting organisations, who don’t have the blend of focus, investment, and skills.

One thought on “The need for Boutique BPM Consulting

    Benn Masters said:
    September 21, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    I think the key challenge facing organizations in 2010 is how to extract value from a BPMS implementation by implementing other BPM competencies. Sounds like the wrong way around, and it is, the reality is that most large organizations out there will by now have some sort of workflow or BPMS implementation or at a minimum some sort of technology that is orchestrating parts of a business process. To that end, as a BPM consultancy, we need to ensure we accommodate the various stages that organizations are at with BPM. Some business will be largely IT driven and looking for business users or SME’s to get more heavily involved in process design; others that will have a process team of sorts but may be struggling with change and agility.
    Our service offering needs to demonstrate how we can assist organisations that find themselves in these situations, while at the same time being able to paint the big picture or ideal/fully mature state.
    This leads me to what is in my mind the next logical step in the debate: what does a BPM consultancy look like?
    My view is that we should be presenting our offering as a framework that is both technology agnostic and methodology agnostic, in that it isn’t tied to any particular process improvement methodology such as lean six-sigma, or a particular BPMS technology such as Savvion. The justification for this that organisations are likely to have pre-existing technologies and process improvement methodologies and rather than switch technologies or methodologies that are probably looking for ways to maximise their previous investments. There will be some that are looking to switch and some that need to switch but again if our framework is technology and methodology agnostic we can show them why and how that can switch if they need to.
    However, while the framework should seek to be fairly abstract and accommodate the needs of various organisations I do think it can present a single set of outcomes or success criteria that should be aspired to regardless of the path taken. This is probably best measured by something like the maturity profiler.
    So what’s in the framework?
    It’s probably too early in our own BPM journey to define exactly what this framework looks like. As a guide, there should be coverage across the three core areas of people, process and technology.
    You could use the traditional BPM lifecycle as the basis for the framework i.e. Design, Modelling, Execution, Monitoring, Optimisation but personally I think these are to technology focused and don’t sufficiently support our mantra that BPM is broader than just technology.
    I read an article online (see that discusses how you measure an organisation’s BPM competencies, and the areas presented may provide a good starting point for discussion. They are as follows:
    1. Strategic alignment
    2. Culture and leadership
    3. People
    4. Governance
    5. Methods
    6. Information technology
    Perhaps we could look at what we could offer in each of these areas. For example, in terms of governance we could demonstrate how a BPM Centre of Excellence (CoE) could be used as a mechanism to implement strong process governance in an organization and the value of going down that path. In terms of methods, we could demonstrate how various methodologies such as continuous improvement or lean six-sigma would provide a structured approach to process improvement.
    In summary, I think it’s important that our service offering is flexible, not just for our clients benefit but for our benefit as well, as it’s very likely to evolve over time. I also think it important that we aren’t just selling another process or methodology instead we are offering our expertise across all BPM competencies or disciples supplemented by some product offerings such as such as a BPM maturity profiler or BPM solution accelerator.

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