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*Note: Marilyn met Dale Van Sluyman, a Business Process Architect with Kimberly Clark, a few years back at a Gartner Summit.  Resident BPX, Days in the Life of a Business Process Expert, interviewed Dale on the topic of BPX suitable tools and the resulting conversation is transcribed here by Helen.

Helen:  Hi Dale!  Thanks for the opportunity to chat with you about your role in your organization as a BPX.   I’m curious to know what tools you use in your day-to-day life that would be valuable to the BPX. 

Dale:  Thanks Helen. We use several tools, starting with Solution Manager, CCMS, and several custom written applications using SAP .NET, direct tools inside SAP, right down to Visio. We are looking at other Enterprise Tools to manage this moving forward.

I collaborate with other companies to baseline our efforts, and work directly with SAP to try to influence their developments to incorporate improved processes in their products.

Helen:  Wow!  So, in my role as a BPX at my varied customers, I typically use the basic tools everyone else does:  Visio diagrams, Excel spreadsheets, process methodologies specific to the problem I’m trying to solve, industry best practice documentation, SAP’s Solution Manager and, of course, I also peruse the BPX Community Network for ideas on solving challenges in the client environment. 

But I’m curious:  in your sizeable organization, you must have some tools used in your work environment that help you do your job.  What would that toolset include?

Dale:  Currently, the custom applications we built, Solution Manager/CCMS and Visio are our biggest avenue for managing our business processes.

Helen:  What are the most commonly used tools in that toolset then?  Where do you get the “biggest bang for your buck”?

Dale:  Solution Manager/CCMS and custom applications are our biggest avenue.  We have done RBEPlus reverse business process engineering, and found good results from the analysis forthcoming. Having all standard and non-standard business processes loaded into Solution Manager for analysis was beneficial.

Helen:  What would you recommend to another BPX as a way of getting comfortable with an Enterprise tool? 

Dale:  I would recommend a central tool that can bring the model down to execution seamlessly. This type of tool is not available today, and vendors are working hard to get there. At minimum, ensure your modeling is done centrally, and traverses all areas within the organization. The biggest thing is visibility into the end-to-end process. Each group (in several companies, groups are called Silo’s) should see how their part of the complete process starts and ends, and all the associated touchpoints. The greatest benefit of BPM/BPX is bringing visibility across Silo’s to the organization. It has to start with the organization, but ensuring an adequate enterprise-wide tool is critical.

Helen:  What’s your greatest area of pain in your business that needs the most rigorous toolset?  For instance, do you have complex processes that are difficult to articulate and/or define which become very clear with modeling tools?

Dale:  That shows up across the Silo’s. The visibility of their touchpoints from where other processes begin for them, and where they end and touch other steps or processes is important. I would say a lot of our application have this complexity. Modeling/Mapping sessions with the various Silo’s in the organization help complete the individual areas complexity, allowing management to view the overall process holistically. This enables them to have a complete picture and to make a more well-informed decision on moving forward.

Helen:  Shall we chat about the advantages and disadvantages of modeling tools?  What would you say is most restrictive?  What would you say the “biggest win” is from these types of tools?

Dale:  Modeling/Mapping tools are great. The issue is in the execution. When you can get to stage where you click a button, and it generates the code/forms/etc to manage the process, and especially monitor it, to ensure you are following through on a complete cycle of Continuous Process Improvement…. Then you have a complete solution.

In this day and age, collaboration (knowledge worker) becomes more critical in the business process, rather than the mechanics of implementing the process, that collaboration/interaction/management of human interaction systems becomes the forefront of today’s BPM/BPX work. Leveraging key aspects of collaborative work, be it in Research, Sales, Marketing, Manufacturing a product, producing a service, etc. It is critical that these tools incorporate and capture the human interaction done daily.

Beyond that, analyze what does and does not work in these processes, and improve upon them. Systems like HIMS and others are becoming the more critical component in what you model/map today.

Helen:  Let’s talk for a moment about implementation.  If I want to advise my customers on adopting a modeling tool, what would you say as a practitioner the key points would be for consideration?  And, I’m talking about cultural adoption, too – what has to be in place in an organization in order to successful use a formal modeling tool?

Dale:  I’ll state the classic answer, upper management buy-in and endorsement. Organizationally, everyone needs to use the same tool. It will depend on what capabilities each company has, and their business needs that drive them to a specific tool… But without everyone buying into the same tool, and really using it (not allowing people to use small/personal systems on their own), then you have an effective use of the right tool.

Gartner has a great matrix from their BPM conferences that articulate a method for selecting the correct tool for your given organization, based on business drivers/needs. I would recommend people review that before selecting a tool.

Use a tool that is SAP friendly and integrated, but take the whole enterprise into account when you decide on your tool.

Helen:  I thank you, Dale, for your insight and sharing your experiences with me.  Hopefully others will find your experience as valuable as I have!

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