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Mitigating Increased Operational Risks Of BPM

Successful management of business initiatives demands far more discipline, rigour, and awareness now than it has at any other point in the recent past.

The adoption of model driven platforms provided by many BPMS vendors has recently accelerated the pace of innovation enabling the rapid evolution of existing capabilities and services and increasing the pace of introduction for new products. Businesses are increasingly adopting these technologies to drive the rapid iterative change that enables such acceleration or their organizations begin to lag behind their competition.

This acceleration does not apply only to the benefits, but also to the risks inherent in introducing change to successful products and the launch of new initiatives. Organizations with generalized business plans, broadly defined strategies, or vague delivery management processes are seeing that the accelerated impact of even minor issues in these areas can cause significant business disruption as the instance count of execution gaps increase. Add to this the risks in moving to new technologies caused by learning gaps and it becomes clear that the business focus on risk reduction must come to the fore as the capability to drive rapid change is strengthened.

Considering and Defining Success Factors

While every business initiative generally starts with a clear statement of the business objectives, the definition of success varies based on the degree of clarity provided. Many programs begin with clear success criteria – expected defect densities are defined, target performance improvements are specified for each process, measurement mechanisms are identified to be built and validated within the project scope, human interactions have targeted percentage reductions, etc… . Still, many projects and programs yet struggle to elaborate on how to measure success – even after the solution is delivered and the project team is disbanded.

Let’s consider client satisfaction as a success factor. How do we measure the satisfaction of a client? Can we define the metrics that impact client satisfaction in some meaningful and measurable way?

Consider that acceleration of delivery of key function points will also accelerate delivery of issues absent quality improvements in the delivery process. We might want to consider a key success factor in maintaining customer satisfaction and stakeholder confidence for any BPM implementation that drives accelerated benefit to certainly be driving quality improvements commensurate with – or superior to – current quality levels.

This can be achieved with focus and concentrated research to identify the key quality indicators for the organization and correlate them to tools provided by the BPMS vendors. Consider the following focus areas:

  • Regression testing of complex systems tends to often miss key functional areas which are identified only after initial production roll-out of process changes.
  • Reuse of assets is often an objective, but measurement of reuse tends to be very coarse and often fails to address reuse at a low enough level to drive significant improvements in managing cost, delivery time-lines, and operational risk.
  • Increasing frequency of solution roll-out has a multiplicative effect on execution of regression testing scenarios – focus must be applied to improve regression testing efficiency to reduce impact on roll-out time-lines and minimize annualized quality assurance cost increases.

It seems on review that these points are quite obviously important, yet many project charters do not include them as success factors. Quite simply, it is expected that project management and delivery teams identify and address these points at a tactical level – however lack of definition of these factors in an RFP for services vendors will often drive these points out of scope.

An Example

The strategic decisions around BPMS selection may introduce functional limitations and drive up execution costs, introducing a certain measure of impracticality in addressing the above points during project or program delivery. While many BPMS platforms provide tools to assist in driving needed improvements in quality and process efficiency, the adoption of these tools and integration of them into management processes can be impractical if they are grossly different than approved internal delivery processes. This can introduce significant lag in adopting product supported best practices to accelerate innovation and evolution of processes within the enterprise.

With key drivers for adoption including gain of competitive advantage, growth in market penetration, and introduction of new products and capabilities for clients – the decreased focus on delivery process is hardly surprising.

While these drivers are generally much easier to achieve via leverage of a BPMS, we still seem to be surprised when we see 5 times as many issues crop up when rolling out 5 times as many improvements as would normally be completed in the same span of time. While quality is not in decline in such circumstances, the perception held by senior stakeholders and clients on first blush is that the team / organization implementing these initiatives is delivering at 20% of their established quality levels. This inaccurate perception can easily derail these BPM initiatives despite their promise and ability to improve the bottom and top lines.

So let’s address two points impacting quality as an example for defining adequate success criteria:

  1. The program should accelerate delivery of function points to the enterprise by a factor of five without increase of the absolute number of defects in each release. Defect densities per function point must be reduced by 80 percent or more to meet this objective.
    1. The program may allocate additional budget to increase testing capacity. The budget increase will likely be more than a multiplier of 5 as it is a fairly well known fact that the cost of identifying a defect increases as fewer defects remain to be identified in a solution.
    2. Selection of the BPMS may consider the presence of tools that can map model changes to test case execution and manage test automation along these lines. Such tools may include automated changes to the test cases themselves to consider logical changes in process execution based on defined data constraints in the model.
    3. Developers must identify processes and test cases at increased risk of unintended consequences that require regression testing on each release when changing common capabilities.
  2. A high degree of reuse is required across the system – the pipeline of changes to be implemented should follow a model of reducing cost per unit of scope as the solution matures
    1. Reduce the need to copy processes to effect a modification for similar business scenarios through consideration of a rules based BPMS or a BPMS with a mechanism to drive and manage inheritance between process models. Ensure the BPMS provides the capability to measure the degree of reuse, inheritance, and overrides for specialized capabilities.
    2. Ensure new capabilities define expected areas of variability for future related or extended capabilities. Define processes at multiple levels of abstraction to provide clear visibility to common future behavior up front.

The above objectives and approaches represent some very real considerations for enterprises adopting BPM to drive change within their organization. These objective have a very direct impact on tool selection and adoption of delivery methodology – selection of a tool / platform absent consideration of success critieria can have a multiplicative effect on cost, effort, and delays due to inappropriate support from a tools perspective.

The takeaway here is fundamental – rapid change introduces risk that can be managed with the right tools, but the risks must be understood and the mitigation strategies defined early enough to impact decisions around tool selection.

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