Wednesday 29 October 2008

The Keys to BPM Project Success

Today I read an article titled "The Keys to BPM Project Success", written by Derek Miers and published in Jan 2006 issue of BPTrends. This article describes a recipe for execution of a successful BPM project. In this blog, I am trying to capture the steps of the proposed BPM Project Delivery Framework. The article provides quite a few examples while describing these steps, which are worth reading once to get convinced for significance of each of the given steps.

Step 1 – Establish the Steering Group consisting of executive head of the affected business area, CIO or lead IT executive, BPM program manager (or head of BPM CoE, if exists) and senior LOB managers from the functions directly affected. Conduct the initial Steering Group Workshop to obtain formal commitment from the business, linkage between BPM program & strategy of the organization and tactical agreement on the choice of project & consensus on scope.

Step 2: Identify the suitable target process which has relatively low level of maturity, high impact and low complexity. A good rule of thumb is to ensure that the selected initial project can complete within 3-6 months.

Step 3: Develop the business case that can be tied back to the Key Business Objectives (KBOs) of the organization. Techniques such as Goal Question Metric (GQM) technique developed by Victor Basili and his colleagues can be used to ensure alignment.

Step 4: Gain executive sponsorship

Step 5: Form the BPM Project Team consisting of BPM Project Manager, Senior User from the affected area, one or more SMEs from the LOB area, Lead Business Analysts and IT Specialists.

Step 6: Understand the process by using techniques such as Role Activity Diagrams (RADs) and Object State Transition Network (OSTN) techniques in addition to flow diagram based approaches.

Step 7: Identify breakthrough opportunities such as potential for faster cycle times, enhanced customer service, channel integration, minimizing the number of times of handling the work items,role rationalization, management and monitoring of personnel performance and better exception management.

Step 8: Develop and prototype on the BPM suite

Step 9: Implement and align organizational change

Besides this recipe for sucess, the article also provides a 16-points list of pitfalls to avoid. In all, the article is a good read of anyone interested and/or involved in initial BPM projects in an organization.

Monday 27 October 2008

Colligo for SharePoint

Today while surfing the internet, I came across a Canada-based company called Colligo. Among its various products, one that caught my eyes is Colligo Reader. This product can be used to download the sharepoint site contents on the laptop, which can be read offline. It's a free download for personal (non-commercial) use. I have just installed it and downloaded a couple of internal sharepoint sites on my laptop using this product.

Before installing this product, I had an impression that I can now see the entire sharepoint site without being connected to the site over network. However, I then realized that I can only view the document libraries and lists offline using this software. While that has disappointed me a little, I have also figureed out that this itself has a lot of value for any user of sharepoint sites.

Obviously, the paid products from Colligo provide more powerful features such as two-way synchronization and I hope to at least try them out once I get comfortable with the use of Colligo Reader.

Developing Office Applications using SharePoint

Currently I am spending a good amount of time in learning and teaching how SharePoint can be used to develop office applications without coding. What are these office applications? One can define office applications as those applications that are owned by and used by the same department. I contrast them against enterprise applications, which are owned by one department but are used by multiple departments. Let me illustrate this classification with examples. Leave and Attendance System is owned by HR department but used by all of us. On other hand, recruitment application is owned by and used only by recruitment group.

Since Office applications are used by the same people who own them, they are typically easier to develop. Why so? A typical enterprise application becomes complex over a period of time, largely due to the growing exceptions that need to be incorporated and also due to the complex rules of authorization that get embedded in the applications. Since Office Applications are used by the same department, one can have minimal rules of authorization. Also the complex and one-time exceptions can be handled outside the system so that the system can be kept simple enough to maintain easily.

I know this line of thinking makes people uncomfortable. How can one have a system, which does not cover all kinds of exceptions that can arise? My argument is that by insisting on including all exceptions in the system, we end up having systems quite complicated and difficult to maintain over a period of time. For enterprise applications, this complexity is very much justified but not for office applications.

So what is the use of SharePoint in the development of office applications? Yes, one can develop office applications using Excel. Rather Excel has been popular among office workers, largely because office applications can be developed using Excel quite easily. What is missing though is the workflow feature in Excel. Also Excel files with large macros and data become difficult
to manage as they get stored on personal drives of office worker who develops them. Use of SharePoint provides same facility as that of Excel plus it provides workflow thereby giving complete solution framework for development of office applications that too without any coding!

Currently I am involved in development of an internal office application, which will be owned by and used by Training Department. I will continue to post learning from development of this
application on this blog site.