Dialogues: A Conversation With Sandy Kemsley

Written by Sandy Kemsley.

Sandy Kemsley is an independent analyst and systems architect, specializing in business process management, Enterprise 2.0, enterprise architecture and business intelligence. In addition to her technical background, she has worked on the business operations end of projects, and been involved from business requirements and analysis through technology design and deployment.  During her career of more than 20 years, Sandy started and ran successful product and service companies. Since 2001, Sandy has returned to private consulting practice as a BPM architect, performing engagements for financial services and insurance organizations across North America, and as an analyst working with BPM vendors.  Sandy also creates and delivers BPM and related training courses.  You can read more of Sandy’s writings at http://www.column2.com/  and at http://twitter.com/skemsley on Twitter.

G360:     You recently co-authored a series of articles with Global 360’s Steve Russell about Getting Started with BPM.  What sort of feedback are you getting from your readers?
SK:         In spite of all that we’ve heard about BPM in the recent past, there is still a pressing need for BPM education, and this series of articles seems to be hitting some of those targets. Obviously, short articles like this can’t tell it all, but the reader feedback is telling me that people are definitely learning something from them. The key to BPM education is, in my opinion, the free and open availability of information, which is why I write a blog about BPM and participate in open projects such as the Process Knowledge Initiative to further develop these sources of information.

G360:    You write that BPM isn’t a new concept, but it continues to evolve rapidly and deliver new benefits.  What benefit do you see emerging from the rise of social BPM?
SK:          Social BPM has a variety of definitions these days – it’s still settling down as a defined term – but I see social BPM as the addition of social software features into a BPM system. This doesn’t mean that we’re all going to do our BPM using Facebook, but rather that we use similar sorts of collaborative functionality within a BPMS in order to design and execute processes. The big focus of collaborative BPM has been on the design side, where multiple people participate in the design of a new process, but I feel that the most exciting part of social BPM is for the process end-users, who can now collaborate on a task within BPM in order to do their work better.

G360:    What about case management?  Do you see that impacting the ability to improve process participant productivity, especially with unstructured work?
SK:          Case management is key to productivity for certain types of workers, specifically those knowledge workers who deal with unstructured processes where they don’t know what actions are going to be done until they see the results of the previous actions. This is a huge improvement over the manual case management methods that we see today – for example, where a claims adjuster uses a paper file to manage a claim, and their “claims management” system is little more than a reminder list – and can provide a great deal of governance and visibility into these processes as well as aiding the end users.

G360:    What is the “Goldilocks principle”?

SK:          The Goldilocks principle is the name I give to selecting the right first process for a BPM implementation: not too big to be manageable, not too small to be relevant, but just right.

G360:    What is the most important piece of advice you would give someone who is currently involved in the front lines of a BPM process improvement project?

SK:          If we’re talking about a process improvement project that involves the implementation of a BPMS, then my advice is to always choose to get something simple into production sooner, rather than going for a long implementation cycle. I’m a huge fan of Agile development methodologies, and reducing customization to a bare minimum: if you can give the users the bare system out of the box and make them productive, then do it. Once they see all the things that they can do with the system, the requirements will change significantly, making any customization that you’ve done worthless.

G360:    For an organization going through significant changes that wants to carry out effective process discovery, what do you recommend?
SK:          Collaborative process discovery is important here, because you need to really understand how these changes are going to impact all the stakeholders, not just have the process analysts make their best guess at it. Collaborative process design tools can be a big help here, although any method of quickly sharing information on the processes (such as a standard wiki) can be used effectively.

G360:    How do you help ensure end user adoption?
SK:          We looked at this in article #3, where I highlighted the importance of good user experience design, and the change management required to make this work. You can’t expect users to embrace new technology if the user experience doesn’t meet their needs, but these days you also need to provide some amount of user customization so that they can set up their own workspace the way that they like it. From a change management standpoint, training and mentoring is critical, and you need to ensure that incentives are in place to help enforce use of the new methods and systems.

G360:    In your article series you and Steve share how to choose a core first process to improve. What would you share about your approach to continuous process improvement?
SK:         If you define continuous process improvement as expanding that initial BPM project out to other processes in the organization, there are a number of things that can make this work better. I covered some of these in the last article of the series, but I also recommend looking at ways to extend the processes from that first project to other areas of the organization in order to create end-to-end processes. That eliminates the handoffs between manual processes and BPM, and allows an entire process to be benchmarked for benefits.

G360:    What is your favorite lesson learned about process change?
SK:         My favorite lesson is that process change never stops: business processes keep evolving, and if you don’t create systems that can adapt to their rate of adoption, users will find the most inventive ways to work around the BPM system in order to do what they need to do.

G360:    What’s coming up next for your “Getting Started’ series … and for you?  
SK:          The last of the series is on measuring the success of your BPM projects, then expanding that success to a wide-spread BPM adoption across your organization. We designed the series so that each article built on the lessons of the previous ones, and by the end we’re able to show how to initiate a full BPM program rollout. As for me, I’m continuing to work on thought leadership projects such as this, as well as helping end-customer organizations with their BPM implementations. I’m also involved as a volunteer in the Process Knowledge Initiative that I mentioned earlier, helping to develop an open body of process-related knowledge. I’ll be speaking at a few conferences this year, including the research-focused BPM 2011 in France, IRM’s BPM-Enterprise Architecture conference in the UK, and Building Business Capability in the US.

 You can read Sandy and Steve’s Getting Started articles out at bpm.com  at http://www.bpm.com/getting-started-with-bpm-introduction.html and watch for the eBook version that will be published soon!