Recently, multiple customers came to me to validate the same basic idea, independently developed, and wonderfully simple. What they had in mind was just a picture, but it was a brilliant one that brought together what are commonly (but incorrectly) thought of as separate disciplines, specifically, Business Process Management, Skills Management, Project Management, Compliance Management, Metrics/KPI Management and Document Management. Those are many M’s in one place, and could easily be six different vendors solving their problems.

Market myopia

Bringing all of these M’s together was the fact that they ‘revolved’ around a single entity at the center of the picture…the individual who needs various data to get real work done. Each enterprise had previously struggled to adopt enterprise architecture tools to meet their business process goals and failed.

Lots of money was spent chasing large promises by vendors keen to get in the door and eek out a win somehow. Their stories were so similar it caused me to pause and consider how myopic the BPM world is when it comes to what benefits to expect from architecture and architecture-based tools.

My customers, having learned their lesson, they were no longer looking for an architecture as a starting point, but were instead looking for a specific outcome that an architecture could support. I couldn’t agree with their new approach more, as too often, getting the correct architecture is seen as the solution to a problem.

In fact, an architecture represents a structure that is the framework or ‘container’ inside which problems are solved. These structures don’t solve problems, they allow us to make sense of what would otherwise be hard to grasp and organize. They make the complex more manageable.

Architecture taken too far, in fact, stifles creativity and keep us from solving our biggest challenges. In just the right measure, it allows a flexible environment for collaboration and creativity.

As Max Pucher puts it, “Once you look at people it is not standardization and reuse that is delivering benefits, but people and knowledge, variety and diversity, which an architecture must support and enhance and not suppress.” All business needs to take place within a defined set of structures as a defense against chaos, and this is where architecture comes in. It is the set of capabilities that surround the process and other data needed by business. A great architecture allows processes to change frequently and doesn’t stand in the way.

The user-centric future

The need for business to change rapidly to meet new markets and pressures means that user-centric thought like the simple model above will become the norm in the near future.

A truly empowered end user has at their fingertips all of the key information necessary not just to perform work, but to be liberated to innovate and go above and beyond expectations. A liberated workforce has thrown off the shackles of inefficiency and drudgery.

No matter how much we automate, architect and model, greatness is found in what people actually do within every successful enterprise.

User-centric process as the platform

Once the system is in place, the acceleration truly begins. I’ve only talked about the internal benefits of being user-centric, but imagine the benefits when every touch your organization has with its customers is driven from the exact same user-centric platform, but from a role-specific viewpoint. The only thing standing in the way of the concept below is our mindset about process.