You cannot teach BPM, you have to experience it first to understand it

This one is a remnant from last year which occasionally crops up at the back of my mind every now and then when I receive the odd spam email offering me a fantastic opportunity to be BPM certified.

The crux of the argument is always down to the same thing: Business Process Management is more than simply continuous improvement and therefore selling certified courses that stop short at that point is not BPM in my mind, it’s just BPR. Six Sigma and Lean are not BPM, they are continuous improvement methodologies. As such they have an established methodology and framework to assess competency against. Google for Six Sigma training for example and you’ll find they’re all much of a muchness, based on the same material and assessed in the same way (apart from the dodgy Black-Belt-by-Multiple-Choice websites). Same goes for Lean. Google for BPM training and it’s an entirely different story because there is no such thing as an established methodology or practice.

The ABPMP is the closest thing we have as an educational model for practitioners through it’s BPM BOK and it needs supporting. However, consider this press statement:

“Many people confuse BPM with process improvement efforts such as Six Sigma,” comments Mark Treat, ABPMP’s Vice President of Education.  “BPM contains process improvement methodologies, but is much more.  As BPM practitioners we view Six Sigma, Lean, and other similar methodologies as individual tools in a larger tool box, each appropriate for some things, inappropriate for others.  BPM is a much broader, more comprehensive approach to process management.”  

The last sentence kind of undermines the whole paragraph. “BPM is a much broader, more comprehensive approach to process management” ? BPM IS Process Management. Thankfully as part of the certification process they have introduced an experiential element (4 years with documented evidence and references) and this is absolutely key in understanding BPM as a whole, not just the parts. BPM is different for every organisation that intends to embark on that journey, and as such that discovery cannot be taught outright it has to be lived through. And because it’s more than improvement the outcomes will be different too.

Oh sure, you can mumble on about BPM frameworks and such like but they’re perspectives and very much dependent on the industry, a BPM framework for Financial Services will mean nothing to a Manufacturer for example. Continuous improvement however is different because it’s goal-oriented and very definitive (definitive in the sense that it has a cycle, it might roll on and on but goal is the same). BPM is an ongoing adventure.

Personally I’d like to call on the practitioner community to start to embrace, recognise or at least support the ABPMP educational programme as something which puts a firm stake in the ground. Whether you feel you need it or not (depending on your own years of experience) it’s a step in the right direction for a foundation for others and spreading the word might get some standardisation in the messages we use every day.

BPM Education: there are too many quickie “BPM 101″ courses on offer selling different flavours of BPM which confuses the market, clients and practitioners and devalues certification routes in general. It was mentioned that the ABPMP should be adopted and accepted as a de facto standard, not only by practitioners but also endorsed by vendors so their clients know what educational model is supported by them too. I think this should go further, Lombardi University is an extremely comprehensive and mature educational model, there should be a formal mashup of both the ABPMP and LUni to provide a theory and practical based educational model but be as technology agnostic as possible for other vendors to endorse and support. This also leads onto how BPM needs a globally supported community that encompasses education, discussion and evolution. The BPM message is too distorted by geek speak that clients and newcomers find it hard to navigate and understand what we’re all about.

And it might also distinguish BPM finally from those who train only in simple improvement techniques under the BPM banner.

Footnote: I am not affiliated with the ABPMP, in fact I’m a lapsed member but it doesn’t stop me from forming an opinion 😉

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One response to “You cannot teach BPM, you have to experience it first to understand it

  1. I find myself in full agreement here. The proliferation of certifications is becoming a full blown cottage industry. I am a subscriber to the notion that if you have not done it (and usually messed up once) then certified or not you are not a practitioner. Just as I wouldn’t hire a Microsoft Certified individual that had never worked in a customer environment and repaired a laptop while being stared at by the annoyed/intrigued user, so I would be reluctant to hire a BPM certified individual to drive significant change in my organisation without evidence of previous war wounds.It is the mix of experience and education that is compelling, providing the hiring organisation with an individual who has lived it, understands how it should be done and can provide future directions/opportunities. ISACA.org does this with its certification for Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) and Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) for example; requiring an exam, 5 years experience verified by current/previous employer and ongoing evidence of continuing professional development. The danger of industry certifications however is as more and more people get certified so the reviews of applicant experience begin to “relax” in reality if not in policy. The play off in this case being “we need numbers to make the certification marketable” against “keeping the assessment bar at the right level to prove merit.”So a heady mix of experience and education is the optimum; certifications may help but only if they are understood by industry at large, are administered through a reputable organisation and maintain high standards; after all the value to an employer of certification is that someone has assessed competence, in effect outsourcing that part of the interview and reducing the risk of employing a fake.If ABPMP achieve this then fantastic.Footnote: I am a CISA with ISACA and believe their certification process to be both robust enough to assure quality and challenging for the individual to achieve and maintain (but then I would wouldn’t I?)

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