Business process is all too often a back-office or IT-driven function, as BPM is seen as an expert’s system in the hands of a few experts. Lots of diagrams, plenty of content, but not updated, not ‘owned’, not change-managed and not in the hands of the people who need it.

Documents, links and other content isn’t integrated and given its own ownership and life cycle. While the analysts and academics play catch-up, there are some great (and accelerating) exceptions where the ability to actually deploy the critical content becomes a turning point for a company that takes a true business process focus.

My global oil producer customer that operates North Sea oil platforms has deployed process at the most-pointy end of the business…the platform itself. In just one example off the coast of Norway, 120 people work in three shifts, 100 miles from any support. They do this work while floating on the unpredictable North Sea, summer and winter, in the worst storms that nature throws at them.

Countering Father Time, Mother Nature

With all of the environmental disadvantages, they have one enormous weapon on their side…a fully deployed business process management system that allows every single person to know exactly what needs to be done from a personal perspective.

Working two weeks on the platform, four weeks off, the biggest challenge is knowing when you arrive back at the platform you’ll have an easy way to pick up where you left off…even where the last crew left off. And knowing that what you see is the absolute single source of truth, regardless of what happened while you were away, regardless of the strength of your memory.

It means their home-away-from-home remote drilling platform can be consistently maintained, operational plans can be developed, materials can be managed, and SAP can be used to its fullest extent. The operational benefits include much higher employee productivity, safer working conditions, fewer errors and downtime and therefore much lower cost to the company. They have a consistency that most companies hope for.

The new way

They are at the operational cutting edge of something that is becoming the new way of thinking about business process management…deployed, human-centric systems. We’ve automated so much of work that the value of automating the communication and management of human activity is now the greatest challenge and is beginning to bring the newest round of benefits.

These concepts are in the marketplace and show up at Gartner and Forrester (though the analyst conversation lags the parts of the market, like my example, above) and that means they’ll be an expectation in mainstream corporate culture very soon. Companies that adopt this new way will be more competitive and better places to work. The rest will quickly become ‘old school’. Where will you be?