I’ve been in discussions with three clients in recent weeks – all Fortune 500 and all stuck in hostage situations.

In one case, business processes are buried in the code of in-house systems developed over many years by a bloated IT department.  Which leaves IT calling the shots on any and every change program, and leaves execs who are attempting to focus on business transformation and performance improvement almost like onlookers.

In another client, the IT department is mandating the use of BMPN as the framework for business transformation and performance improvement.

[re BPMN. Thanks to the reader who pointed out this gem of a post, where a BPMN enthusiast blogs with an example of how crystal clear BPMN is, and how the business is just making a big fuss – only to have a fellow zealot comment that:

"The story is good but your BPMN diagrams are not syntactically correct. The customer process is missing an end event in both cases. Catching message intermediate events must have an ingoing message flow. If you want to denote the type of information going from one task to another a document artefact associated with the sequence flow would be the correct way to draw this…"

You couldn't make it up. As a famous screenwriter for spy movies lamented this week about the story of the Russian spies in deep cover in suburban USA, using their secret messaging to Moscow to ask questions about their expenses, the problem for fiction writers is that it has to be plausible.]

In the third casethe IT department has forced the business to manage a global business transformation program using a BPA tool, on the grounds that it was ‘essential to SAP configuration’.

How do you know you’re in a hostage situation? Two tell-tale signs:

  • Stockholm Syndrome. Do you find yourself talking about BPMN and BPMS and SOA and Cloud?
  • there’s a gulf between Business and IT.

If you’re unlucky enough to be in a hostage situation: what can you do? You might look for a secret weapon, or a hidden trapdoor, or some other Deus ex machina.  Or you could start a conversation with your captors about BPM because it might be your single best bargaining chip.

BPM is really a framework for collaboration.  It creates visibility and allows clear business ownership of end-to-end processes. It correlates the business operations model with the underlying systems architecture. It provides a governance framework for all the stakeholders to jointly manage change.

BPM enables the Business hostage and the IT captor to begin an intelligent and ongoing discussion where business requirements and priorities drive transformation of the operations and the underlying systems landscape. It allows everyone to do what they do best.

A lot of IT captors have deep-seated grievances of course – they’ve never been understood, always been pigeon-holed as nerds, and so on – so even after they put down the BPA tool and allow the Business hostage to walk free, it will take time. But stick to talking BPM and this can still have a happy ending.