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SapphireNow Day 1: BPM Communities of Pod People Straying Off the Happy Path in an Agile, Sporty way

So I’m a little late posting my first official day’s report for SapphireNow.  My days have been amazingly packed collecting stories, but with no time to complete them.  No specific thread jumped out at me for what I’m sharing here, so here are some random musings about the BPM-related sessions and conversations I had Monday.


  • Building a BPM Community of Practice 
  • Pod People Conversation:  Missing data quality in new core business processes
  • Pod People Conversation:  Customize or upgrade to speed financial closing processes?
  • Straying off the Business Process “Happy Path”
  • New ASAP Converges Into Sporty Agile BPM-like Approach 

Building a BPM Community of Practice

In his session “How to Enable BPM as an Enterprise-wide Discipline:  Lessons Learned”, Rao Subba expertly explained how enterprise architects can foster a discipline of BPM.  His suggestions followed the standard advice I hear from other experts on this subject.  There were a couple of things he said that I particularly liked, however.

1.        Without explicitly stating it, Rao essentially said to start growing your BPM competency working with the people in your company that probably already have some of the required skillset, and are closest to the required outlook:  those folks who acts as business-IT liason.  Essentially, these people are your Business Process Experts (BPX), and can most easily make the transformation to becoming BPM practicioners.


2.       Build a community of practice.  Rao couldn’t be more right about this.  Build an informal network of interested BPM folks in your company.  As they become interested and educated, help them collaborate and communicate.  The core of this community will revolve around the BPXers you engaged above, but can extend out to BPM developers, functional consultants who can be process experts, and business owners who become excited about the prospect of engaging more effectively with IT.

Rao also gave some practical suggestions of resources: – run by IDS Scheer

Leverage APQC (American Productivity and Quality Center) to get information about industry best practices. He points out that these best practices do not map so well to the solution maps provided by SAP

Read the book Cultivating Communities of Practice for advice on how to foster a community of BPM competency within your company.

Rao makes the statement that you need to find business stakeholders or sponsors for every BPM project.  While he’s right, I personally would make this statement stronger.  I assert that every business problem you consider addressing with BPM needs to have a clear business owner stating a clear business goal before going any further.  If the business problem (process) involves multiple stakeholders – this is one of your problems.  Organizationally, this needs to be corrected so that there is a single process business owner – or it will be very difficult for the business to fully achieve its goals and will retard the ability of IT to provide rapid ROI.

Related to this, Rao makes the point that the most important activity in a BPM project is the process modeling – as-is and to-be.  Of course these activities are important, but they aren’t the MOST important.  At the risk of repeating myself, the most important part of the project is to have clearly articulated business goals and then a mapping of these goals to measurable metrics (or at least observable qualities).  Only then will you have a clearly defined business case, and the clarity of vision that aligns business & IT.

All in all, great session, and I look forward to hearing more from Rao in the future.

“Pod People” – Business Process Orchestration Demo Pod

I then had “Pod People” duty at the Business Process Orchestration demo pod located in the Line of Business – CIO campus.  It was lunch time so I got to have a couple of longer conversations with SAP customers rather than a crowd with a generalized demo. 

Pod People Conversation:  Missing data quality in new core business processes

One customer talked about their SAP ERP rollout but wasn’t considering master data management / governance (oh oh!) until later (after they’ve developed an master data quality problem).  The partners I speak with these days doing ERP roll-outs or global consolidations are proactively working on master data governance strategies simultaneously.  I’m sure some will argue that this would be a best practice.  Of course, these same partners are also implementing governance processes for master data using BPM.  While I’d still label BPM for master data governance as “forward thinking”, I don’t think it will be too long before this will become an accepted best practice.

Pod People Conversation:  Customize or upgrade to speed financial closing processes?

A second customer approached me about the feasibility of using BPM for managing financial close processes.  I’ve seen this scenario suggested and considered by customers and a partner before, but have yet to see it implemented using BPM.  This customer is running on an R/3 system – I forget which specific version.  Her upgrade plans are not within the next year or two.  I suggested she first take a look at the SAP Financial Closing cockpit to see if that might meet her needs.  I had assumed that you’d need to be up to at least SAP ERP 6 to take advantage of this component, but I cannot verify this on either BPX,, or docs easily found by a Google Search.  Anyone care to correct me here?  I advised her that if the upgrade were required, and if she wasn’t ready to make that leap, then – perhaps – BPM could be used to customize such a process.

Straying off the Business Process “Happy Path”

I reallyenjoyed listening to the speakers on the panel “End-to-End Business Process Orchestration: Hype or Silver Bullett”:  Suja Chandrasekaran, CTO of PepsiCo; Jeanne Ross with MIT; Carsten Linz, SOA Adoption at SAP. Alan Capes, Director of IT Strategic Planning for Canadian National Railways.


All the speakers were great.  My personal interest was learning more about what Pepsico was doing in terms of BPM and SAP, so this what I will comment on.

Suja Chandrasekaran, CTO, PepsiCo did a nice job really articulating the benefits of a BPM approach to companies. 

She provided a unique explanation about how BPM is handy for handling exceptions to core processes.  As Suja puts it, “The ‘Happy Path’ is the well tested path.” – such as the core process provided by SAP BusinessSuite. 

Extending on Suja’s comment above, you have to consider how well your company handles cases where a request or task falls out of the “happy path” and into manual exception handling.  Dealing with these kinds of exceptions, sources of inconsistent interaction with customers and suppliers, are very costly in terms of manual labor, and can seriously damage customer relationships.  If you can manage exceptions better, this could provide opportunities to save otherwise lost revenue or lower costs.

Pepsico is using SAP NetWeaver BPM to implement a “customer lifecycle management” process.  This is a master data governance process that includes automation calls to SAP BusinessObjects Data Services to provide data cleansing, de-duplication, standardization, and harmonization.   The BPM project also includes a specific adaption to fit in special requirements for managing customer data for their Fritolay division, which has its own system and additional customer master data requirements specific to Fritolay’s business model.  Pepsico currently has 200 users on the project, and hopes to scale it larger. 

Although I did not specifically hear whether this project is currently live yet or not, blogger Merv Adrian (@Merv) tweets that they are not.

New ASAP Converges Into Sporty Agile BPM-like Approach

Finally I waltzed into Ann Rosenberg’s ASUG session covering enterprise modeling from concept to blueprint where she rolled out in detail information about the new ASAP 7 methodology that was recently launched, and is available through the BPX, the Service Market Place, and SAP Solution Manager.

I was amused by her colorful description of the older versions of ASAP (“Old and dusty”) whereas the new one is sleek and agile.  I suppose you can even draw a parallel to older versions of SAP applications – lack of agility, long delivery times.  The new version is modular in nature, allowing you to add specific solution implementation best practices and industry flavors, and even will include some forthcoming add-ons for methods such as agile custom development – not unlike SAP Business Suite 7 and SAP NetWeaver BPM.  There are some 60 add-ons being developed.  All this wisdom is available free.

One last thing is very notable about the new ASAP.  It includes a strong component of business value management and realization.  So, your as-is blueprinting phase starts out with a clear value realization forecast.  This new ASAP is definitely closer to a BPM methodology.

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