The ability to change is key for corporate culture
The digital revolution changes the business environment dramatically and at unprecedented speed. Entire industries are turned upside-down with digital business models, such as publishing, lodging and transportation. However, as Jack Welch notes, “If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.”
Being ready for digital means being able to design and implement a new business process in a few weeks, which is not an issue for a small and nimble startup. But how can an established enterprise go through a digital transformation successfully?
Part of the answer is making digital both customer-facing and a back-end process. Otherwise, the enterprise just won’t fit into the digital ecosystem, because people don’t talk to robots. Business process management suites (BPMS) are the right platform for the task.
But is it enough to automate the core business processes?
Automation isn’t equal to agility. It may foster the speed of change, but process automation may also become a trap that freezes process improvement unless the proper BPM methodology is adopted.
Besides, process improvements are always implemented via projects. Small incremental process changes may require minimal project-management capabilities, but transformations are large-scale changes by definition, so they require solid project-management techniques, tools and skills.
Another way to get things done is via case management. This approach lies somewhere between projects and processes: more structured than the former but less than the latter. Case tasks are defined on the fly by a human performer, which is less efficient than automatic tasks assignment by a process engine. But on the other hand, it’s more flexible. Most importantly, process management requires significant analysis, design, implementation and testing efforts before the first process instance can be launched. Case management doesn’t imply this burden; with proper tools at hand, one can do a job literally in a day.
Are processes, projects and cases really that different?
Processes, projects and cases overlap. As an illustration, a process management body of knowledge talks more about standard processes that constitute the project work than about projects per se. Yet historically they were treated as separate management disciplines, with separate schools, certifications and supporting tools. Today, the border between project and process work blurs.
For example, a multinational pharmaceutical company used to treat new drug development as a project. Each project would last nearly three years, with about 600 projects run concurrently. A dozen managers at the project-management office heavily used mainly Microsoft Project to control them.