Recently, I read an article comparing Business Process Management (BPM) versus Data Management (DM). I am sure you have come across such articles, It made me question if ‘versus’ is the appropriate word. Business Process is an integral part of any Data Management engagement while data is addressed as only an after-thought in many Business Process Management engagements. I understand that these articles contrasting BPM and DM are more driven by vendor solutions rather than any enterprise realities. Let me first analyze how business processes fit into data management engagements and propose some ideas on how these two can coexist and work in hand in hand for more effective business process and data management initiatives.
Business Process Management (BPM) initiatives are often driven by a need to solve business problems and making processes more efficient by focusing on personnel-centric dependencies and heavily emphasizing change management. BPM initiatives are mostly driven from functional or business units, and are led by subject matter experts from business groups. Even though data may be an afterthought in BPM initiatives, it is imperative for management to realize that data is the primary asset that employees are dealing with as part of their business process. To assume that high quality and trustworthy data will be magically available without specific focus on data will result in frustration for the executives at a later point of time.
Data Management initiatives, on the other hand, are driven often with a focus on business intelligence or regulation/risk management. Given the heavy emphasis on data governance and data quality in any good data management initiative, it is foolish not to think about business processes and change management as part of these initiatives. It is quite impossible for Data Quality (DQ) assessments to focus only on DQ dimensions (such as accuracy, completeness etc.), and not at all on business processes for capturing and updating the data. Similarly, any Data Governance framework worth its name will undoubtedly address business processes to ensure that the framework can withstand the test of time.
Let us look at what might happen if we address BPM and Data Management as separate engagements in isolation of each other:
Business process efficiency with minimal focus on data quality – The success of a BPM initiative may be assessed primarily on reducing/consolidating number of processes, increasing their efficiency with no regard to resulting data quality. Can you imagine the impact to the actual business because of this outcome? Flawed decision-making based on imperfect data, but surely the processes are more efficient. Yeah, go report this to your executive management!
Governance – Who is on first? Process Governance or Data Governance? – It is quite difficult to imagine a data governance program without any focus on processes. If BPM and DM are treated as separate initiatives, the resulting process governance and data governance organizations will inherently compete for resources and executive attention, resulting in chaos and frustration throughout the organization.
Business Group conflicts – As a best practice, it is always advised to initiate a Data Management program with one domain and gradually extend to other domains. Depending on the focus of a domain of the data management initiative (i.e. customer, product, etc.), there will be an inherent conflict between the business groups and associated applications, such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM) or Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) if BPM and Data Management initiatives are treated in isolation.
So how do we stop dancing around BPM and DM initiatives and instead work in tandem so organizations get the best out of these important programs? Below are some ideas on aligning BPM and DM programs to maximize organizational impact. Following ideas can be implemented separately or together if possible.
Start with one executive sponsor – It is stated as a best practice to have a strong executive sponsor at the highest level possible to drive a successful BPM or DM initiative. So why have two strong executive sponsors driving BPM and DM initiatives separately? Start with one executive sponsor for BPM and DM programs. Impress upon the sponsor how business process initiatives result in higher data quality, and how a well-thought out data management program results in efficient business processes.
Combine both initiatives with a joint value proposition – At the outset, this might be an impossible task. Is it really? Given that a Data Management initiative will undoubtedly impact business processes, and a well thought out BPM initiative will surely address data quality, why not combine both? To make meaningful progress though, start with one business group or function. An enterprise wide BPM and DM initiative will face significant obstacles based on our experience in many engagements.
Process Governance or Data Governance? Why not one Governance Organization? – It is inevitable that business process professionals and data management professionals will stumble into each other when there are two governance organizations. Instead of waiting for this to happen, proactively think about one governance organization with representatives from business process and data management.
Technology alignment – It is true that existing vendor solutions treat BPM, Data Management, Data Quality, and Data Governance separately. More recently however, Data Management technologies are converging Data Quality, Master Data Management, and Data Governance into one solution. Why not comprehend business process as well? Yes, I hear the eternal argument of best of breed versus comprehensive solutions, but I am sure there is room for a technology solution that addresses business process management along with data management, as they are so intertwined anyway.
Change management to address both Business Process and Data Management – I am amazed at how many times a comprehensive change management program with high quality training for rank and file can result in very successful programs. Put together a change management program addressing both business process changes, as well as a focus on data quality initiatives to realize the benefits from both.
I passionately believe that business process management and data management are interconnected, and it is not possible to drive one without dealing with the other. Instead of organizations dealing with the after-effects from not-so-successful initiatives, it is best to confront the realities upfront and address them right from get go. I’d love to hear from you about your thoughts on this subject.