There is unending debate about what the term BPM means, and for good reason. Business and process are semi-redundant terms applied to nearly everything in the world of commerce, and slapping ‘management’ on the tail end is the perfect recipe for confusion. BPM could be represented visually something like the picture below.
In the real world, business process management is the intersection of many different disciplines and technologies. It can be considered the alignment of a workforce and an entire ‘stack’ of technologies that manage the complex interaction of people and machines that together make up the way work is done and value is created for a customer. Even as I write that sentence, I need to read it several times to understand it.
If we accept the complexity of BPM, it becomes understandable that the topic is confusing and has different meanings across the organization. There are people that work inside functional silos, support many areas but in very specific ways (like HR, IT), compliance-concerned folks, and people who see process through transactional systems. Unless your view of the organization is more comprehensive than most, your view of BPM is likely limited to the areas you actually touch and the problems that you need to solve. Like a blindfolded man feeling an elephant, your definition of BPM depends what part you get…
Definitions and metaphors are only useful if they help us to unravel the mystery of something or help us to grasp opportunities and mitigate risks. The metaphor of the blindfolded man and the elephant isn’t helpful unless it shines the light on a path to something better.
So here goes…the point of this metaphor is that it doesn’t matter how people involved in business process (which is everyone, by the way) see things, provided they’re all looking at the same elephant. What matters, then, is that you have an elephant keeper who has overall responsibility. If everyone around the elephant tended to just their part without understanding the needs of the beast, it would starve and die…with nicely polished nails and clean ears.
The elephant keeper needs to be an evangelist for taking care of elephants holistically and must help every blindfolded person to understand how their ‘part of the elephant’ fits together with everyone else’s.
Oh, snap…from a metaphor perspective, that just happened…