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Café Innovation – The Business Process Enterprise

In an earlier post (Café Innovation – Going beyond IT-Business alignment and integration), I had raised the need for organizations to go beyond IT-Business alignment and IT-Business integration, and aim to focus on assimilation of IT expertise within the business, and the assimilation of business process knowledge within IT. The main thrust of this argument was to stress that organizations need to move their workforces toward adopting a process view of the solutions they must deploy to solve business problems.

It is becoming increasingly clear that this could be quite a challenge for organizations since most of them are organized around a functional division of labor. Over the years, most of these functional areas have become functional silos. For example, the needs of the Finance folks are pitted against those of the Human Resources folks. Customer needs are often sacrificed in the internal conflicts between those that are in a Customer Relationship Management arena with those that are involved in Sales and Operations planning. So on the one hand we have the IT-Business divide and on the other we have the functional silos. If process excellence is to be achieved, something quite different needs to be in place.

This is where the Business Process Enterprise (BPEn) comes in. In the most recent issue of the SAP NetWeaver Magazine (Summer 2008), I introduce this in an article titled: SOA Success: Is Your Organization a Business Process Enterprise?, and online at: This is not exactly a radical idea, but one whose time has come because “until an organization can truly function as a Business Process Enterprise, it will not be able to fully exploit its enterprise SOA capabilities.”

I invite you to read the above-referenced article, and join the discussion here.

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  • The transformation towards process oriented operations and towards a process oriented company will make the difference – regardless SOA. But SOA gives additional reasons to start the transition now and to overcome the boarders that established between business and IT and furthermore between the functional silos.

    The need and the benefits are clear for me. But it is difficult to achieve. And besides other hurdles this mainly has to do with changes of the power structures within a company. The functional areas have to reduce their influence and the X-functional process responsibles must gain influence. Therefore you need a clear board mandate to be successful.

    • Thilo,
      Do you have any further thoughts on how best to get “a clear board mandate?” I agree with this point for it squares up almost perfectly with my position that the bottom-up approach (characterized by individuals and BPXers showing initiative and drive) can only succeed if there is a significant top-down thrust. The board mandate you refer to should be backed up by clear accountability and the will to see the transition through.

      — Puneet

      • Puneet,

        to get a clear mandate might be easier in companies that do not have to publish their figures quarterly. In Germany “BOSCH” is a good example for this.

        For stock companies I would assume that the board itself often needs some presure or a mandate if the investors to care about BPM as a long term  approach to transform the company. In the end, the investors have to realize that BPM is the best way to achieve “Big Wins”.

        Exactly this has happened at SAP. Hasso Plattner announced in april that a new board area will be installed that cares about X-board efficiency of end-to-end business processes.

        But as long as we don’t have Hassos in every company you often have to sell a mix of “quick” and “big” wins to get some kind of (limited) mandate from the board. But there might also be some company leaders that are already convinced about the benefits. Thats paradise for people like us…

        • Thilo,
          You’ve hit the nail on the head! Top leadership sponsorship with active accountability is a very big prerequisite for success with the BPEn approach. More on this in my next article and a future post.

          I thank you for illustrating the point with SAP’s own example and the involvement of someone of Hasso Plattner’s stature. While some of our energies have been focused on individual efforts and collaboration via communities, we have to bring these senior leaders along, and from your example it would appear that SAP and Hasso Plattner are showing the way.