Business Process and IT Systems – A New World Order

In my last blog From Chaos to Compliance, I explained how an organisation with vision and leadership can put business processes at the heart of the system for management using Barium Live! to stabilise the way of working and increase the chance of a successful improvement initiative. However as I mention in my blog Business Process Management in the 21st Century, this is treading directly into the territory that was the domain of the IT systems department.

Business+ITI think I ought to explain why this is and how the worlds of business process improvement and IT system professionals can be brought together by using Barium Live!.

“Getting by” using a different language
In many medium to large organisations it is the data management systems of a business that drive the behaviour of the employee on their PC or laptop, requiring them to input data and save. For example, the stationary order would not arrive unless the correct procurement form was completed. Sitting behind these systems is usually a fairly rigid work flow that can’t be changed without further time or money being expended with the system provider. Most businesses end up adapting their way of working to suit these work flows rather than spend time and money trying to change the system. This is the domain of the IT systems department.

In the same organisations are the business improvement professionals who are promoting the use of documented and visible processes to design and continually improve work flow to add value to their customers and stakeholders. Up until now the visual process maps of an organisation usually exist a few clicks away on an employee’s PC or laptop. However, the employee does not follow a visual process map to get their stationary delivered, they follow the business rules built in to the hard wired data management system. The visual process maps designed by the business therefore tend to become second class citizens behind the work flow in data management systems. However this is written in a language that business process owners and business improvement professionals don’t understand.

Both the IT systems department and the business improvement professionals are trying their best to run and improve the business but the trouble is that neither are speaking the same language. Although not ideal, this is all very well where internal, standard, non-customer facing processes are concerned. We see organisations select a data management system to drive their internal financial processes and generally the business will have to conform to that way of working regardless of what they might like to do differently and what they would or have mapped out. They get by.

What customers want
However if they took the same approach to the processes that they use to deliver services and products to their customers then organisations would soon start to struggle. Their increasingly sophisticated customers want their processes to be designed to deliver their requirements and they want to see that if those requirements change, then organisations are flexible and agile enough to change whilst maintaining the provision of the high quality product or service that their customers procured in the first place.

However, the continually improving processes designed by the process owners are not the same as the rigid work flow that the system that runs the business supports. If they want to continue to be competitive, organisations can no longer afford to take the same approach as they do with their internal processes. They must find a common language which defines how their business is run and the worlds of business improvement and the IT systems department must come together to deliver the requirements of the customer.

The common language – BPMN on Barium Live!
The common language they should start using is Business Process Modelling Notation (BPMN) and then the two worlds can be brought together in a unique way using Barium Live!. The Barium Live! Map to App functionality provides the process owners the tools to map out the processes that are needed to deliver the requirements of the customer using BPMN and then, without the use of any code, turn them into applications which can be run on the employee’s PC or laptop or mobile device.

If we now have a way of bringing these visible and documented processes to the forefront at the heart of a system of management and putting the mechanism for continual improvement of such systems in the hands of the process owners and business improvement professionals then they are very much treading in the domain of the IT systems department.

However what we have produced is a process model that both process owners and the IT systems department can understand. The role of the process owner now becomes the maintenance and improvement of these processes to meet customer and stakeholder requirements, and the role of the IT systems department becomes the integration of these process models with the data management systems and the automation of the process model using business components as required by the business.

Application Programming Interface
Barium Live! allows custom integration with existing data management systems via an Application Programming Interface. Developers can access the API to get information from and set information to activities in process models and applications that process owners create.

Instead of the process owners developing their processes separately and then trying to negotiate with the system designers to develop or change the work flow in their data management systems to suit using only the language that they know, the processes mapped in BPMN in Barium Live! are the starting point from which integration takes place.

Business+ITBusiness and IT working together
Theprocess model using BPMN in Barium Live! and the code free functionality therefore eliminates the divide between the world of the process owner and user and the IT department. Discussions on how to improve the business are focussed around the visible process model using a language that both the business and the IT professionals can understand. The process owners change the work flow of the model and the IT systems department integrates and automates.

Andy Salmon
Technical Director, WSP UK

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