There’s a common misconception at executive level that is really holding back progress in BPM and process excellence: the idea that all process modelling tools are equal.

The latest culprit is Paul Harmon in his article on BPTrends this week What Can Enterprise Process Work Accomplish?

Paul writes some thoughtful stuff, and his style always reminds me of the brilliant Garrison Keillor, and I agree with 95% of what he writes in this latest piece – but it has a fatal flaw.

He outlines the essentials of a Business Process Architecture – that it should be comprehensive, integrated from top to bottom, linked with real-time metrics, and that it needs the whole-hearted involvement of the business – “lightweight Business Process Architecture contained within an IT-developed Enterprise Architecture could not possibly serve the purpose”.  Completely agree.

He believes that every organization needs an effective Business Process Architecture because “the survival of large organizations depends, increasingly, on their ability to understand themselves and to execute effective changes in response to a rapidly changing environment”. Completely agree.

He says that “to develop a Business Process Architecture for a mid-to-large sized organization is no mean feat” and that “this is not something you want to attempt with Visio… you need a good process modelling tool with a good process repository to manage this effort”.  Completely agree.

But he goes on: “So, you need process modelling software, and any one of the many process modellling tools will serve”.

To be fair, Paul Harmon is not alone in making comments of this sort. My experience is that it’s a common perception at exec level, even among some CIOs.

But the idea that all process modelling tools are equal is not just wrong – it’s a huge barrier to BPM success.

It’s plainly wrong because there is a very wide spectrum of process modelling tools, with a range of methodologies and process languages. It’s about as true as saying all cars are equal. Or that hammers and screwdrivers and spirit levels are all equal tools.

More importantly, it’s also the key to why BPM success has been so elusive, why process maturity, CMMI Level 5 and cultures of continuous excellence are still so far out of reach for most organizations.

Let me stake a claim and invite the brickbats.

No organization can efficiently and sustainably build a Business Process Architecture that underpins continuous excellence, without a process modelling tool that has four properties:

  • It uses the language of the business
  • It is owned by the business, within a governance framework that enables collaboration on change by all process stakeholders
  • It is deployed to process consumers across the organization as a personalised intelligent operations manual – ‘the way we work’ – with features that encourage engagement in continuous improvement
  • The Business Operational view of process is synchronised with the complementary but different Enterprise Architecture view of the organization’s processes.

These have surely got to be essentials for a tool that can efficiently and sustainably underpin the ideal Business Process Architecture that Paul is describing? This is where the market is heading, and where any savvy organization will be looking for its solution.