Back-Office Transformation: BPM As Rubik’s Cube

There’s a quiet revolution underway in redefining Business Process Management (BPM) away from its narrow focus on automation. As a contribution to that debate: maybe BPM is like a Rubik’s cube?

Take back-office transformation, as it’s such a hot topic right now. Successful transformation is like solving a Rubik’s cube. Everything is interconnected: to solve the puzzle, you have to think in three dimensions.

Most people see the enterprise from their own silo. They are an HR change manager, or they implement SAP, or they do Lean, or they manage Shared Services. In reality of course it’s all intricately connected. Any successful transformation program depends upon careful orchestration across the enterprise.

Solving the puzzle efficiently is critical. It is logically possible to solve a cube just by chance – but it’s hardly efficient. I could challenge a Speedcube champion and we’d both get to the solution eventually. But it would take minutes for the champion, and many days of effort for me.

It’s far more difficult for an enterprise of course. There is no longer one single mind solving the cube. There are many minds, on different tracks, with different capacities and with multiple agendas. And the puzzle has to be solved in real time and for multiple solutions.

Sticking with the metaphor, we might define sustainable operational excellence as the capability of an enterprise to solve the cube efficiently and repeatably.

How does any organization achieve this capability? The obvious things – vision, executive leadership, clear governance and so on. But fundamentally it needs a framework for the puzzle solvers. BPM is that framework for the puzzle solvers – the Rubik’s cube itself.

The BPM Rubik’s cube is enterprise-wide, and designed to enable collaboration. Its language is the end-to-end processes of the business, in a format that all the stakeholders understand. It provides visibility, it synchronises business and IT perspectives, it manages governance, it supports end users as the executors of process, and it enables continuous improvement.

BPM is then the framework within which the various actors across the enterprise can solve the optimization puzzle efficiently and repeatedly.

It’s possible of course to solve a Rubik’s cube blindfolded. It just takes a lot longer. So the real question is: How does any organization achieve this capability efficiently?

P.S. Researching this, I was relieved to read in Wikipedia that the sport’s governing body, the World Cube Association, has endorsed ‘Team Blindfold’ and ‘One-Handed’ competitions – but has rejected a proposal for a competition ‘to solve the Cube underwater in a single breath’…

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Mike Gammage is VP and Principal Consultant at Nimbus Partners. Mike has worked in performance improvement consulting, and more recently the BPM space, for more than two decades. He is particularly interested in the overlap between two very dynamic worlds: BPM and perfomance improvement (the drive across all industries to standardise, improve and automate) and sourcing and the virtualisation of the enterprise (the drive to create more flexible and lower-cost service solutions through outsourcing, offshoring and shared services). In either case, Mike believes the enterprise needs a single source of truth about its end-to-end business processes, as well as a framework for the design and implementation of change. It also needs to connect the end-user and all other stakeholders to ensure the adoption of change. These are the keys to sustainable transformation and continuous improvement.