BPM (Business Process Management) or BPM (Business Politics Management)

I think the BPM (or Business Process management) has been around long enough, and used widely enough  to claim that it has made a real difference in the managing of well defined, predictable, routine processes. Now that that the issues with routine process management are pretty well understood, the next big thing in BPM is the management of unstructured, unpredictable processes. The problem is that the approach to those types of processes is very different than the approach needed for structured processes. Knowledge workers, and the work they do is not a subset (or extension) of the type of structured processes handled by BPM – but rather something quite different. Keith Swenson took a stab at using a different name “Adaptive Case Management” to signify that these processes are different – but I am not sure that was radical enough to get people to switch the way they think about unstructured business processes.

I suggest that we should have a separate branch of BPM that is Business Politics Management – it is the cousin of regular BPM, but for knowledge worker tasks. These tasks are very heavily dependent on collaboration, meetings, discussions, negotiation – and yes politics (in the sense that all interactions between humans involves politics). I think using the word “politics” would cause enough of an uproar that we could actually start understanding how the two BPMs actually are different.

So how are they different? Even if you look at the adoption process of “Business Process Management” – almost every consultant would explain that you really need to get all the parties involved (especially management) on the same page, and you need to select the right process. Now if traditional BPM was really good at managing unstructured processes – it would make sense for the first BPM process to be implemented would be the process of getting management on board with BPM and selecting the process (I know that is sort of a recursive statement, but still true).

But realistically that is a job more suited to Business Politics Management, since it requires the kind of knowledge work that involves collaboration, meetings, discussion and negotiations – and yes, politics.

So no matter what your business process – BPM is for you (just make sure you chose the right BPM).


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