“Frameworks”, the most confusing term in BPM


Ah, frameworks…perhaps the most confusing term in BPM. Maybe it is more than one person can tackle in a reasonably short blog. I’ll try.

A framework everyone can understand

A framework is simply a skeletal structure upon which you build more specific things. Like a house when the wood framework is there but no drywall, electricity, or plumbing. The rooms, their sizes and arrangement are clear, but not what tile and paint will be used. It is a reference point the architect and contractors can use, a common language, and a scope.

An expert in the business process context, APQC’s John Tesmer defines a framework as, “A set of building blocks on which organizations can build value streams or cross-functional processes. A framework provides an objective place to gain internal support and to communicate business activities…a Rosetta Stone.” One of my kids did a project on the Rosetta Stone and I know it was used to translate ancient symbols into something everyone can understand. I get it.

Frameworks in motion

In the real world of BPM, people are managing multiple frameworks to satisfy many goals. There are compliance frameworks like ISO, supply chain frameworks like the SCOR Model, technology frameworks like ITIL, and many more. There is a framework to meet every need to start somewhere, communicate ideas easily and have reasonable boundaries. If you sort out where human activities touch one or many frameworks, you can manage the communication necessary to make sure it all hangs together.

Process utopia? No. Very real. At a very large aerospace firm, a process framework allows incredibly complex aircraft to be built locally while the global supply chain organization is certain that their rules, checkpoints and measurements are part of each and every fuselage, every panel and every rivet that is touched. Powerful stuff.

Measure it

Organizations having this ability can also measure the success of their executive initiatives. Frameworks allow discreet activities deep down in the organization to be part of broad-based dashboards for how the business is working. Frameworks allow the grouping of human activity into a hierarchy of measurable categories. They allow one company to compare themselves to another, or to compare internally.

There’s so much more to this topic…watch this blog for the upcoming release of the APQC Frameworks Study, which is a treasure chest of information on how companies are using established AND custom frameworks, often in combination, to get real work done.

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Chris Taylor joined Nimbus in 2009 as VP Consulting Americas, and leads a team of business process improvement consultants who serve major corporations across the world. Chris’s clients include Nestlé, Cisco, Northrop Grumman, ThyssenKrupp and many others, who use Business Process Management (BPM) tools and techniques to drive process standardisation, improvement, quality and compliance initiatives. His insight to what makes BPM a sustainable success for so many client organisations makes him a valuable industry commentator. Before joining Nimbus, Chris held senior consulting and leadership roles focused on business transformation with ILOG (now IBM), Perot Systems and Accenture. In his early career, Chris managed aircrew and flight operations while flying for the US Navy. He is an avid skier, hiker and sailor and spends most of his off time exploring the mountains and coasts near his home in Southern California and the rest of the world.