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Business Process Modeling and True Innovation

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The best business consultants try not to use too many acronyms, but these days it’s tough to avoid BPM (aka “business process modeling”.) A columnist for ZDNet, however, points out that true innovation comes not from technology—but from mindset.

The full article by Joe McKendrick is worth a read, but take a look at this one quote

What stops current organizations from being agile? No, not software but small-minded resistance to true innovation in IT. [Buzzwords like] SOA are being used to sell huge software stacks and agile BPM promises ‘puppet-on-a-string employees’. Agility will only come from executives being willing to innovate technology and empower their employees by doing away with rigid business processes…

Business Improvement with a Mainframe Computer

Courtesy Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

There’s quite a bit going on in those few sentences, so let’s break it down a bit:

  • “Agile” is a word that many companies and business improvement consultants are using to try and describe effective organizations. But really, this term is meant to show how many companies lack agility. Many organizations (large and small) are so fraught with bureaucracy, internal politics and negative company culture that they can’t move quickly to address customer needs or market changes.
  • “SOA” is an acronym for “service-oriented architecture.” This is really a philosophy more than a product, but as McKendrick indicates, it’s being used to sell software. That’s probably not good business consulting.
  • “Puppet-on-a-string employees” is a wrong-headed promise that consultants and vendors have been making since the first automated systems came into business. The hope is that well-designed business process can free employees from making decisions and reduce errors. But of course, the key reason to have employees is so that they can make human decisions and treat customers humanely.
  • Empowering employees is the core of any company that wants to be agile and successful. Instead of just giving employees tasks to do, we need to offer them the authority to make decisions and the responsibility to see them through to the end.

Good business consultants know that process modeling is not just deciding what has to be done, but engaging stakeholders in designing and owning every business process. Think carefully about your own strategy for agility. Avoid the “small-minded resistance” to true innovation that comes from blindly buying products. Consider reaching out to business consultants like the team at AccelaWork.

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Robby Slaughter
Robby Slaughter is a workflow and productivity expert. He is a nationally known speaker on topics related to personal productivity, corporate efficiency and employee engagement. Robby is the founder of AccelaWork, a company which provides speakers and consultants to a wide variety of organizations, including Fortune 500 companies, regional non-profits, small businesses and individual entrepreneurs. Robby has written numerous articles for national magazines and has over one hundred published pieces. He is also the author of several books, including Failure: The Secret to Success. He has also been interviewed by international news outlets including the Wall Street Journal. Robby’s newest book is The Battle For Your Email Inbox.
Robby Slaughter


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