So, in my last blog I introduced the 3 areas of change that are coming our way. A management mind shift towards process orientation introduces BPM Methodologies and Governance Principles into our world. With the business looking for better control over their processes and increased flexibility from supporting departments (such as IT) to support the agile, differentiating processes that are in center of attention these days, the heat is on. Not in a few years, but right now!
I hope that makes you think. Or at least that it makes you wonder how it will affect you.
For the past decade or so, the focus of IT has been on the company’s core processes. 2nd generation software focusing on stability and reliability for supporting the optimization of the core processes. ERP in optima forma. But times are changing and ERP and the optimized core processes are no longer the guarantee for success. Differentiation is found in agile, highly flexible and ad-hoc processes which are extending these core processes. These processes cross the boundaries of departments, applications, skills, even companies. They extend the familiar core processes and focus on new user groups. Business users, knowledge workers, sporadic ERP users (look at all the Self Service scenarios that are booming) and all the other non-typical, non-expert IT users from the boardroom to the truck driver and the maintenance engineer.
These users are lining up for IT support with the new technologies available. This provides the opportunity to extend the type and number of process steps supported by IT. It also provides the opportunity to improve the grip the business holds on their end-to-end processes by monitoring and analyzing their entire processes. And that is exactly what the business (and the market) wants!
Architecture Frameworks, BPM Methodologies and Governance Principles are settling in to support this request for process orientation. Architecture defines our playing field, BPM Methodology provides us with the game plan and the Governance Principles set the rules of the game. All it takes now is the players and an enthusiastic crowd to get the game going!
Getting all these elements to work together in a good fashion does require a strong focus. It is something that cannot be done over night. It is not a project with a start and an end date. Most elementary activities to get things going are not even IT related! During the classroom trainings for the BPM curriculum it becomes evident that one of the hardest tasks ahead, will be to break through the IT oriented way of thinking.
For IT departments to become process oriented they have to let go of the application or functionality focused way of thinking. Defining projects around new technology, new functionality or new applications and enforcing it upon the business users is not the way. IT has to get out of the driver’s seat and let the business reclaim control over their processes and the way they want these processes to be supported by IT solutions.
For us, the IT minded people, it will be a dramatic change in the way we think. Of course, we still need all our skills and expertise to help the business. Of course we still require in-depth technical and functional knowledge of our IT solutions. But how we will adapt to the new process oriented era that will require improved Business-IT alignment, stronger communication efforts, closer collaboration with business users and involvement in end-to-end business process design and improvement? From several discussions within the SAP community, I know a lot people are resistant to the new roles defined by SAP regarding BPM and SOA governance, implementation and operation. From the day to day practice I can tell you: get used to them. Maybe the names will change, but the roles will definitely find their way in projects within the next few years or months. Yes, several roles will be executed by the same person using ‘old’ expertise and knowledge. Just remember that we will have to reinvent ourselves when re-aligning out IT initiatives to the business processes. The time to change the way we think is now!
During several projects in the past few years, I found that adoption of BPM and guidance of SOA initiatives is mainly restricted by the IT centric approach of IT departments and SAP Competence Centers. To enable IT consultants (both internal and external) to shift their focus from functionality to processes is the main challenge ahead!
Already people are discussing the IT department of the future. Some even proclaim it will seize to exist when SaaS, SOA and BPM have landed. Maybe it want go that far, but at least it should make you wonder what lies ahead. Can we make that shift from application oriented, IT-driven initiatives towards process oriented, business driven IT support?
The playing field for IT professionals is rapidly changing. The business is reclaiming ownership of what is rightfully theirs: the end-to-end business processes that transcend the automated and IT supported process steps by far. In order to support them, we have to redefine our game plan and the rules we play by. Architecture Frameworks, BPM Methodologies, SOA Orientation and Governance Principles are all there to support the needed transition towards a Process centric IT. The tools are there to support the design, implementation, execution, monitoring and analysis of the end-to-end processes. Now it is up to the IT professionals to introduce them in their day to day business, to apply them in a proper fashion and to make this transition work.
What this means I will discuss in the next part of this series: change the way we work.