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How to manage business process changes

If anything can put the brakes on the best-laid plans of business process automaters, it's that people and processes change. But it's not an intractable problem. Organizations do successfully manage people and process changes en route to large-scale enterprise transformations.

For starters, says Dr. Tushar Hazra, a senior consultant with Cutter Consortium, communication and coordination are crucial. Consider one way in which organizations commonly attempt to manage people and process change--entrusting it to oversight or governance boards. This is fine as far as it goes, Hazra says, but in a lot of cases, governance boards only make a token show of identifying and interviewing business process stakeholders.

"What I usually propose that people do is try to make sure that the expectation is set right from the beginning that not all stakeholders are going to be able to be [present] at all times," Hazra explains. "The idea is to give [absent stakeholders] some sort of way--perhaps [by means of] a portal or dashboard--so that those who are not readily available can still have access to the information."

Communication and collaboration can only accomplish so much. Vince Re, chief architect with Computer Associates, advocates a slow-and-steady approach to business process automation, for example, by service-enabling processes where and when it makes the most sense to do so. This helps minimize the disruptive aspects of business process automation, he says, and--assuming that an org's iterative approach to service enablement is successful--can also help allay the concerns of key stakeholders.

Best-effort collaboration and iterative process automation don't by any means amount to a silver bullet. In any organization, a finite number of stakeholders are going to resist business process change. In the end, however, business process automation must also be driven by a strong top-down commitment, says Cutter's Hazra. No large company can afford to be a gulag, but neither can it (or should it) be a democracy.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a contributing editor for Enterprise Systems. He can be reached at stephen.swoyer@spinkle.net.

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