Hypothesis: BPM Really Needs EA (start with the customer)

Courtesy of Steve Melville, EA Connections Manager…

At first blush, this statement might seem absurd. Many of you may already be reflecting on BPM projects where you managed to achieve perfectly fine results without the help of Enterprise Architecture (if an EA group even existed in those organizations).

Ah… the early days of BPM introduction, when low hanging fruit seems ripe for the picking! Hopefully, those successes led to other BPM projects. Wonderful! Sooner or later,

though, questions start to arise. How do all these business processes relate to one another? Where, exactly, do these processes start and stop? Where is the best data source for the information this process requires? How can I “unbundle” this hard-coded business logic that’s buried deep in an application, so that I can re-order or insert activities into my business process? How many different BPMS tools do we really need? How can we ensure the processes are available 24×7? Welcome to the domains of Business

Architecture, Information Architecture, Application Architecture and Technology Architecture — i.e., welcome to EA!

If you continue this Inside-Out journey you run into questions like… Do we really need this or that process? What are all these processes really for? And (with some help from the BP Group) you eventually arrive at the answer… the Customer! Welcome to Outside-In!

So… while I believe there are many facets to the connection between BPM and EA, I’d like to start with the Customer and, specifically, Customer Expectation Management (CEM). If you haven’t read Schurter and Towers delightful book on this subject, get it (http://amzn.to/9eaGi6). I liked the book so much when I first read it, that I put together a 1- page CEM Quick Reference Guide for my own use. I am happy to share it with EA Connections members.

Here’s a highly condensed thread within CEM:

Your value proposition sets expectations with potential customers. The more compelling your value proposition, the larger the pool of potentially interested customers and the fewer competitors that can match it. So, the goal is to create product and service offerings that set expectations that more customers find compelling and few competitors can match. In so doing, you have re-set the bar for customer expectations within your market and created the foundation for your organization’s success.

But here’s the catch… you have to deliver against those expectations. One failure and you begin to lose your customer’s trust. You lower their expectations with your actions, regardless of your lofty initial promises of value. And, with the explosion of social networking, blogs, 24 hour news channels, online reviews, etc., any failure to deliver against expectations, gets broadcast pretty quickly. Ask BP or Toyota what happens when you fail to meet customer expectations of safety.

So… to match the high expectations of your value proposition, the delivery processes of your organization need to consistently meet those expectations. And it is in the design and deployment of those delivery processes that the critical dependency on EA surfaces. For, in the 21st Century, such processes are heavily dependent on technology:

eCommerce and online support sites, mobile applications, ERP systems, RDBMS, SOA, SANs, etc. And not just some delivery processes, Outside-In companies recognize that the entire enterprise needs to be focused on delivering successful customer outcomes.

So the challenge becomes to align all of the process, application, information and technology resources across the entire enterprise to deliver successful customer outcomes in order to support higher and higher customer expectations. And alignment is the sweet spot of enterprise architecture. EA is the right fit because both its sweep (across the entireenterprise) and its scope (processes, information, application, and the technology that supports them) match the demands of the Operational Framework Layer of the Outside-In enterprise.

Your thoughts?