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Celebrate BPM As Business Technology

On the LinkedIn BP Group, in response to your host's item Selling BPM Reveals Essence Of BPM, one of the participants contributed an excellent response questioning the emphasis on the idea of technology when selling BPM.  This dialogue is a great opportunity to highlight the importance of seeing BPM as a business technology.

Let's start by looking at what Wikipedia (August 5th, 2011) says to introduce the concept of technology:

"Technology is the making, usage and knowledge of tools, techniques, crafts, systems or methods of organization in order to solve a problem or serve some purpose. The word technology comes from Greek τεχνολογία (technología); from τέχνη (téchnē), meaning "art, skill, craft", and -λογία (-logía), meaning "study of-".[1] The term can either be applied generally or to specific areas: examples include construction technology, medical technology, and information technology."

This Wikipedia definition is a nice; the implication of course is that an "abstraction layer" is also business technology. And even methodologies used by business analysts to model their business domains, are also business technology. The act of "modelling" is the use of a "technology of modelling" to do what the participant highlighted, which is to make the tacit more explicit.

Insofar as management is a science (as well as an art), management is the domain of rationality. And modelling or abstraction technology is one of the central ways in which management can turn vision into reality via a rational process.

Does this identification of business process modelling as business technology help sell technology? Does it help business analysts and business process owners achieve their goals faster and with better results?

I would say the answer is emphatically "yes". A successful BPM process is about progressively articulating a vision of a better organizational reality -- and BPM technology provides THE way of translating that vision into reality.

So, I agree, BPM is "an enabler of change", but I'd go further and say that without BPM technology there is no business process change. And that by identifying, learning and managing BPM business technology "as technology", one will be more successful.

Marshall McLuhan famously said about print and video technology that "the medium is the message". I can't judge whether Dr. McLuhan is correct in the field of communications theory, but his emphasis on technology as important is very interesting.

If print technology is an enabler of revolutionary social change, then likewise perhaps BPM business technology is an enabler of business change, even revolutionary change. Many have wondered why it has taken a decade to produce somewhat disappointing results around BPM technology adoption. I would say that one reason for this is the subject under discussion here, which is a reluctance to embrace BPM as a business technology.

What happens when we don't call out BPM as "business technology"?  (1) On one hand, senior business executives might treat BPM as a magical "black box" and on the other hand (2) IT specialists act as a priestly caste tending private knowledge gardens. And the "impedance mismatch" between the two, i.e. between business and IT, results in very low bandwidth communications and event worse results.

The participant in the LinkedIn forum identified the issue: "a common language" with "a new transparency and a spirit of collaboration", which is a wonderful way of describing a way forward. And your host suggested that common language is in fact "BPM business technology" and that transparency is achieved via the models which are the produced artifacts of the use of BPM business technology.

With BPM business technology at our side, we can make the claim that it is possible to "turn your business vision into productive reality". And that claim is not smoke and mirrors, but based on the existence and use of real and increasingly powerful BPM business technology. What a sales opportunity!