I started to write my PhD thesis on Business Process Management (BPM) capability factors a year ago. First thing I came across was that there are loads of different methods and terms like Process Excellence, Performance Improvement, Six Sigma, Business Process Reengineering, Lean, Business Process Engineering, Customer Expectation Management and Business Process Management in the process improvement domain. And all of them claim to be the best one!
I can believe that out there are many process professionals who switch back and forth between different methods fearing that we are simply involved in a consulting activity that will have a new name in few years, and feeling confident that we are well on the way to being a profession with a recognized core body of knowledge and best practices.
It seems that at the moment Business Process Management (BPM) is most likely to evolve as a sustainable concept that embraces all of the earlier methods, that is supported by an established body of knowledge and best practices that is recognized and embraced by organizations worldwide. Frankly speaking most of the BPM methods do not differ that much and that is the reason why we begin to see new terms like “Lean Six Sigma”, “Lean and Kanban”, “Six Sigma on Steroids”, etc. All those are joining the different parts together to make one method. Business Process Management has never been any one single term, it’s been always little ambivalent. It contains bits and pieces from many of other methods, thus it is a great candidate for a common term.
It is difficult for consultants to market and sell a comprehensive BPM solution because we are often dealing with organizations that seek to play one BPM approach against another. Customers are confused how is your BPM approach different from Lean or Six Sigma, and why should they use BPM at all. It is many times difficult to explain that BPM is a more comprehensive approach to process improvement than any single method and it is focused on integrating, aligning, managing and measuring all of an organization’s business processes and that Business Process Management includes the application of all the other available methods, where, when and how they are appropriate. BPM is an approach that is inclusive, not exclusive, of other approaches. So, it is not BPM against Six Sigma, Lean or any other but it is BPM with all the previously mentioned methods. Any good process consultant can use those parts of any method that will serve their customer best. Thus, my advice is not to take a consultant that is selling you any locked down approach, unless you are sure that it will fit your needs.
While writing my PhD thesis and taking courses on BPM in different universities, I have noticed that the trend that speaks mostly on Business Process Management’s behalf is the emergence of academic programs that are focused on understanding and teaching of BPM. Academic programs, when done properly, provide an objective and neutral source of information about process change. They provide research that invalidate some the claims of certain approaches being better than others, and validates those approaches that are proven to be effective when properly applied to specific situations. The BPM capability factors that I am doing research on seem to be valid over different methods also, process improvement being the most center thing.
The answer to the central question in this article in my humble opinion is that: “Yes, joining all the best BPM methods together is possible”. That model is still to be done, but clearly so many methods overlap each other that people are already creating hybrids of them. The best consultants know this and are able to help organizations in any way they can, most appropriately to the situation.