Business process management is a work in progress

Savas Ozatalay is proud of his little pedometer. Everyone who attended the recent ProcessWorld 2006 event in Miami got one in the bag they received at registration, but the small blue devices were his idea.

“You may go walking for fitness, to improve your health, but it only becomes meaningful once you have an ability to measure what you’re doing,” said Ozatalay, dean of the School of Business at Widener University in Wilmington, Del. ProcessWorld, hosted by IDS Scheer, has highlighted the value of putting hard numbers to various activities, usually through simulation and modelling. Once you have the numbers, you have a better idea of whether a process can be changed, and the extent to which technology can help you. Ozatalay was on stage to announce the launch of Widener’s Master’s in Business Process Management, which, along with other programs, is designed to arm the workforce with the kind of managers needed to lead these sorts of projects.

Although schools such as Widener already offer a Master’s in Information Systems with a processing innovation component, Ozatalay said that program is aimed more at “CIOs to be.” The Master’s in BPM, on the other hand, is aimed at someone else, though it’s hard to say whom, exactly. In fact, ProcessWorld distinguished itself by presenting an unusual blend of IT department staff with change management consultants, efficiency experts and other exiles from the business side who suddenly found themselves talking about technology. In one session I attended, the efficiency experts presenting on stage said they shouldn’t be in their organization’s IT department, but that’s where they are. Another seemed more comfortable in her role, but emphasized that she had more of a business analyst background than a programming background.

“When you look at the kind of skill sets you’ll need in business process management . . . where do you find those people?” asked Merrill Lynch chief technology architect Andrew Brown in his keynote speech.

Organizations that have made progress in BPM suggest IT staff be left out of the project until the numbers, scope and vision have been established. There was an implication that IT staff always say existing technology won’t allow the necessary changes. That may be why some companies refer to BPM projects as “strategic initiatives” that are led by those who have little to do with technology – and who plan on bypassing IT when they assign the long-term management of whatever new processes are established.

The kind of talent BPM projects need may emerge from an unexpected place. Though ProcessWorld was small, I saw more than the usual number of women in attendance. Perhaps instead of trying to get women into IT, we should be encouraging both genders to pursue a career that matches process innovation with the right hardware and software.

Shane Schick is the editor of
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