Archive | May, 2007

The Art of Ware

I was just skimming a story from Guy Kawasaki’s blog about The Art of ‘Ware by Bruce Webster.  I was a little skeptic, but Guy always has great instincts.  I read a few of the chapters in the book and think you would enjoy it.  Especially if you work with or at a software company.

Here is some text from the home page about The Art of ‘Ware…

Back in the early 1990s, I [Bruce Webster] wrote and published The Art of ‘Ware (M&T Books, 1995), a reinterpretation of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, a 6th century BC treatise on conflict and warfare. My reinterpretation of Sun Tzu’s maxims applied to developing and marketing information technology products, most particularly software. Here’s an example:

  • Sun Tzu (Chapter 2, ‘Waging War’, 1910 Lionel Giles translation): Now, when your weapons are dulled, your ardor damped, your strength exhausted and your treasure spent, other chieftains will spring up to take advantage of your extremity. Then no man, however wise, will be able to avert the consequences that must ensue.
  • The Art of ‘Ware (Chapter 2, ‘Supporting Development’, 1995 edition): When your developers are burned out, your technology aging, your resources diminished, and your advantages gone, then others will take advantage of your weaknesses and cut into your market. Even expensive consultants and new CEOs won’t be able to turn things around.

Generation Y Summary…for BPM

“They’re ambitious, they’re demanding and they question everything, so if there isn’t a good reason for that long commute or late night, don’t expect them to do it. When it comes to loyalty, the companies they work for are last on their list – behind their families, their friends, their communities, their co-workers and, of course, themselves.”

This is from a Fortune article titled “Attracting the twentysomthing worker” by Nadira Hira from May 15, 2007.  Here are a few of the highlights from the article…then I will tie it back to BPM and why you care.

  • Someone born between 1977 and 1995
  • 79.8M of them (versus 78.5M Boomers)
  • “Most high-maintenance workforce in history” (see RainmakerThinking for more)
  • They go to the gym.
  • Over 1/3 have tatoos.
  • 30% have piercings (other than in their ears).
  • Accustomed to diversity.
  • Electronic.
  • Not just willing to work long hours for the sake of facetime.
  • Communicate different ways (e.g., text messaging).
  • Live at home after college.
  • Involve their parents in the decision of the job more.

So why do you care as you think about BPM?

  1. You have to hire them to work on your project.  Like Myers-Briggs, understanding personality, motivation, and interests helps you build a high-performance team.
  2. They will be part of your process so you need to think about how they experience the job and how they will interact with technology.  Your solution is for the future not necessarily for the past.
  3. This should make you think about generational differences – X, Y, Boomers.  All of this is important when you facilitate an event to flush out the process.
  4. They may someday be your boss.  (It is an interesting experience the first time you realize you are old enough to have a boss younger than you and more successful than you.)
  5. They will get BPMS and wonder why you use paper and don’t have integrated systems today.  They can help drive change.

The McKinsey Way

You can certainly never go wrong looking at McKinsey. Their consultants are usually very top notch and their process of thinking and root cause analysis is great. Although this post is more about how you analyze a problem (i.e., business process innovation), it also makes a point about how important process and methodology is. The only way of delivering consistent, high-quality advice worldwide is to have a process of training and consulting that leverages smart people and delivers them to clients.

(Never mind the fact that McKinsey once told me that they only interview people with a 4.0 or people with a 3.8 and above from a top 5 business school. I didn’t fit the bill, but I have several good friends who were there. I have lots of respect for them.)

The McKinsey Way is actually a book so you can see some insight into the company. I have read the book and recommend it. Rather than re-type all my notes, I found comments about the book at MeansBusiness and on blog called Brian Groth’s Life at Microsoft and looked at notes on MECE (mutually exclusive, collectively exhaustive) from a book review on The McKinsey Mind.

My old boss who worked for McKinsey was a genius at asking the probing questions. She knew how to get to root cause better than anyone I worked for. This is essential in diagnosing any problem not least of which are process problems. (Since I assume you only look at BPM to drive value where you have some type of problem.)

So MECE, as Brian states in his blog, it suggests you should do the following:

  1. Identify the problem using a mutually exclusive, collectively exhaustive framework and then map the problem out using some type of logic tree (see example).
  2. Create a hypothesis (or hypotheses) about the solution…this drives your analysis.
  3. Analyze the data…remember that the only thing that is right is data (assuming some data integrity).
  4. Repeat steps 3 & 4 until you find a fact-based solution that makes sense.

From the book, some of the other key points are:

  1. “The most brilliant solution, backed up by libraries of data and promising billions in extra profits, is useless if your client or business can’t implement it.”
  2. “Most business problems resemble each other more than they differ.”
  3. “If you get your facts together and do you analyses, the solution will come to you.”
  4. “If you keep your eyes peeled for examples of 80/20 in your business, you will come up with ways to improve it.”
  5. “Know your solution so thoroughly that you can explain it clearly and precisely to your client in 30 seconds.”
  6. “It’s much better to get to first base consistently than to try to hit a home run and strike out 9 times out of 10.”
  7. “Just as you shouldn’t accept I have no idea from others, so you shouldn’t accept it from yourself, or expect others to accept it from you. This is the flip side of I don’t know.”
  8. “When you’re picking people’s brains, ask questions and then let them do the talking. Keep the interview on track by breaking in when necessary.”

5 Patterns of Extraordinary Careers

At Express Scripts, all of us on the leadership team (top 1.5%) were given the book The 5 Patterns of Extraordinary Careers.  It was a good book with several relevant tips especially for someone in the BPM space that is likely playing the role of change agent or somone whose career might include an objective of becoming the Chief Process Officer or Chief Innovation Officer.

From the website, I have pulled in the 5 Patterns.  They also have an online quiz which gives you feedback on whether you are on your way to an extraordinary career.

1. Understand the Value of You
People with extraordinary careers understand how value is created in the workplace, and translate that knowledge into action, building their personal value over each phase of their careers.

2. Practice Benevolent Leadership
People with extraordinary careers do not claw their way to the top, they are carried there.

3. Overcome the Permission Paradox
People with extraordinary careers overcome one of the great Catch-22s of business: you can’t get the job without experience and you can’t get the experience without the job.

4. Differentiate Using the 20/80 Principle of Performance
People with extraordinary careers do their defined jobs exceptionally well but don’t stop there. They storm past pre-determined objectives to create breakthrough ideas and deliver unexpected impact.

5. Find the Right Fit (Strengths, Passions & People)
People with extraordinary careers make decisions with the long-term in mind.  They willfully migrate towards positions that fit their natural strengths and passions and where they can work with people they like and respect.

Best Advice

I am not really sure of the best advice I have ever received.  Most of the things that jump to mind as good advice are: 

  • Be yourself.  
  • Everyone has something to add – treat them with respect. 
  • Travel the world. 
  • Keep a journal of what you learn each day.   
  • No one remembers you for how hard you work…your family is your memory.
  • Just act…don’t overanalyze.
  • Nothing will be perfect.

Here is advice from some well known names from a Fortune article titled “The Best Advice I Ever Got” (March 21, 2005 – page 90).

  • Warren Buffett “You’re right not because others agree with you, but because your facts are right.”
  • Richard Branson “Make a fool of yourself.  Otherwise you won’t survive.”
  • Howard Schultz “Recognize the skills and traits you don’t possess, and hire people who have them.”
  • A.G. Lafley “Have the courage to stick with a tough job.”
  • Sumner Redstone “Follow your own instincts, not those of people who see the world differently.”
  • Meg Whitman “Be nice, do your best – and most important, keep it in perspective.”
  • Jack Welch “Be yourself.”
  • Sallie Krawcheck “Don’t listen to the naysayers.”
  • Vivek Paul “Don’t limit yourself by past expectations.”
  • Dick Parsons “When you negotiate, leave a little something on the table.”
  • Andy Grove “When ‘everyone knows’ something to be true, nobody knows nothin’.”
  • Anne Mulcahy “Remember the parable of the cow in the ditch.” [First, get the cow out of the ditch.  Second, find out how the cow got in the ditch.  Third, make sure you do whatever it takes so the cow doesn’t go into the ditch again.]
  • Brian Grazer “All you really own are ideas and the confidence to write them down.”
  • Rick Warren “Regularly sit at the feet of Peter Drucker.”  [You need mentors.]
  • Jim Collins “The real discipline comes in saying no to the wrong opportunities.”
  • Peter Drucker “Get good – or get out.”
  • Ted Turner “Start young.”
  • David Neeleman “Balance your work with your family.”
  • Mickey Drexler “Bail out a business that isn’t growing.”
  • Brian Roberts “Let others take the credit.”
  • Marc Benioff “Incorporate philanthropy into your corporate structure.”
  • Hector Ruiz “Surround yourself with people of integrity, and get out of their way.”
  • Donny Deutsch “If you love something, the money will come.”
  • Klaus Kleinfeld “Keenly visualize the future.”
  • Ann Fudge “Don’t chart your career path too soon.”
  • Herb Kelleher “Respect people for who they are, not for what their titles are.”
  • Clayton Christensen “You can learn from anyone.”
  • Ted Koppel “Do what you love.”

Creative Rigor and Planned Spontaneity

I had been debating starting a second (or technically third) blog.  As you may already know, BPM Enterprise is another site which I originally posted blogs on, but now they have been kind enough to simply repost my blogs.  This gets me access to about 5,000 people which is great.

The newest blog was going to be more around leadership and business in general.  For years, I have used two expressions to synthesize my approach to business.

  1. Creative Rigor – This is my blend of right and left brain thinking.  I was classically trained as an architect (buildings not systems).  My biggest takeaways from architecture were (a) how to listen and capture requirements and (b) the fact that there is no right answer only an optimal answer.  When I blend this with my pre-disposition to math and my MBA training, I find that I approach problem solving very different than others.
  2. Planned Spontaneity – This is my approach to consulting.  You have to be 2-3 steps ahead of your client and able to whiteboard out something real-time.  Ideally, you have already thought through the idea beforehand to understand the pros and cons.  Not easy, but it works great when you are ready.

So, I am going to start adding some of my musings and thought around business here.  I hope to someday publish them in a book, but that may be a ways off unless I can use this medium to capture and begin synthesizing the concepts.

Marketing Process

Interestingly, yesterday, I heard from five different companies about using BPM for marketing. So, I have spent the day (and will continue to spend time) flushing out the marketing processes and the value proposition associated with improving marketing processes and managing them using BPM.

For example:
* Reducing the cycle time of product development
* Easing version control of public relations
* Minimizing pricing errors
* Using data triggers to initiate processes (e.g., competitive intelligence initiates change to promotional materials)

Pricing struck me as a good one since yesterday my wife was looking at a golf club (Taylor Made R7 driver). At the store we buy from, it was $300. Online and in the paper at the store down the street, it was $190. Our golf pro called the Taylor Made rep and found out that the other store had jumped the gun. The discount wasn’t supposed to begin until this weekend.

Now, both the store and Taylor Made are going to sacrifice several days of higher prices all because the pricing coordination didn’t happen right. Coordination of releasing information across channels and partners is a big deal but something that a basic rules engine could manage.

I put together a high lever pricing process (see below) that I am going to work up into a demo. Overall, I am going to try to put together the story for automating the entire marketing value chain. I think it has a great story leveraging DFSS (Design for Six Sigma) and Stage-Gate and a few other best practices that are out there. More to come…


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9 Biggest Myths of the Workplace (non-BPM)

One of my favorite bloggers (and authors and speakers) is Guy Kawasaki.  He does a great job and his latest blog is no different.  This is totally off topic for BPM, but I think it is always a topic that many of us think about – the workplace.

He highlights The Nine Biggest Myths of the Workplace based on the work of Penelope Trunk.  It talks about things like the glass ceiling being dead…and not because it’s shattered but because no one cares for whats on the other side.  It talks about backstabbing not being what gets you ahead (although we all know that person for which it seems to).  It says the average person has 8 jobs before they are 30 (amazing).  I think you will like it.

Healthcare Appeal Process

Healthcare is such an easy target for BPM opportunities.  I am living one right now.

In December, we had to refill a prescription for my son.  It happened to be 2 days before Christmas.  Since I had switched insurance carriers, Aetna now required a PA (Prior Authorization) for the drug (although my son had been on it for a year).  By the time, I got the message and tried to call the physician, he (a specialist) was gone until the new year.

I had to fill the prescription and pay cash since I needed my son to stay on the drug.  So, in January, I downloaded the appeal form; completed it; had the pharmacist complete it; and mailed it in.  In March, I heard back from Aetna that it was rejected.  Fortunately, after working in the industry, I know that you can appeal it multiple times, and I understand the coding and reject process.  After talking with a call center agent, I had them change some of the notes on the claim to reflect the situation with my physician and appealed it a second time.

It is now May, and I got a letter telling me they haven’t finalized the review process but have received my appeal.  I should know something in 60 days.

This has to be easier.  All parties have to be frustrated.  The Aetna PBM has to spend expensive pharmacist time reviewing these multiple appeals; answering multiple calls by me; and sending me multiple letters.  My employer and Aetna will eventually have to pay a claim from 2006.  I am out the cash and spending valuable time trying to work the process.  And, none of us have much if any visibility into the number of appeals, the average cycle time, the status, and how to change this process.

BPM could help with this in many ways including simply streamlining the process.

eRx with BPM?

From a pharmacy perspective in healthcare, one of the more elusive solutions has been e-prescribing (or eRx).  There are numerous companies (e.g., Allscripts, Prematics, Purkinje, RxNT, Zixcorp, iScribe) that have solutions and many more that have died over the years.  When I was at Express Scripts, we funded RxHub which was an industry solution by the PBMs (Pharmacy Benefit Management companies) to facilitate eligibility checks and other electronic transactions.

The goal of e-prescribing is to eliminate safety errors associated with wrong prescriptions, drug-drug interactions, non-compliance, and many other issues.  Anyone who has ever seen a doctor’s hand written prescription can understand.  Here is an example from the Prematics site:Vertical_erx

Some of the managed care companies have spent millions rolling out these solutions.  In general, most of them are adopted as interesting tools and then disgarded by MDs at the first sign of trouble.  Honestly, there is very little in it for them unless they have a quality bonus.

Physicians are one step removed from the filling of the Rx.  They care about patient safety, but it is hard to change their working habits.

So, I wondered the other day whether BPM could solve the problem.  Doctors all use some type of system for managing their office.  This ranges from simple systems that just capture data to much more involved PPMS (Physician Practice Management Systems) or EMR (Electronic Medical Record) systems.

Could a BPMS use a process to:

  1. Push data from the physician’s desktop using messaging queues;
  2. Run the data through some eligibility and adjudication logic;
  3. Identify issues real-time; and
  4. Then either route it back to the MD for questions or send it to the patient’s pharmacy of choice.

An interesting spin on this would be to do an auction at the end where pharmacies could bid on the prescription (e.g., BidForRx).  Patients could create customized rules in the BPMS solution that processes the claims and managed the auction based on their interests.

Just a thought.  This seems to make adoption easier (no change in process); deployment cheaper (no ongoing support); integration cheaper and easier; and add additional value (patient involvement).

BPM + Outsourcing not = BPO

Howard Smith says it well in Business Process Management – The Third Wave “What BPM adds to BPO is the capability it gives to partners to retain control of business processes even if they reside partly or wholly with others.”

BPM gives companies a different option for outsourcing.  Traditional outsourcing was one of several flavors – task oriented, project oriented, or total process.  In general, the runaway successes have been around things like payroll processing which companies like ADP do very well and is not a core competency for many companies.  The other successes have been around IT development or call centers where offshore labor is much cheaper (something that is beginning to change).

As companies have outsourced parts of their IT function – development, QA – or some of the customer service functions – help desk, call center, the challenge has always been letting go while maintaining control.  I know right now that one of the biggest companies in the US is looking at bringing their call centers back onshore to better manage customer service.  I know another company that has outsourced all their billing and most of the customer touch points.  Their service is so bad and so different by geography that it is impossible to manage.

Using Business Process Management (BPM), companies can create an overriding process architecture which connects internal processes and external processes.  This allows a company to outsource tasks or multiple process steps or subprocesses while maintaining control.  Using their BPM technology, the company manages the process flow and the rules while having total process visibility using metrics.  This allows them the flexibility to change process as needed.  It allows them to manage workload.  It allows them to provide an exception process (which is where most things break down).  And, it allows the company outsourcing to keep the hard tasks or critical path items internally based on rules-based logic.

So is this really different.  I believe so.  In most outsourcing deals that I have done, we set expectations and outcome based performance metrics, but we did not control the process steps nor have detailed data on how the company performed each step.  Additionally, changing how they did something was difficult because they were lowering our costs by offering a standardized framework across several companies (or simply using lower cost labor).  Using BPM for outsourcing, makes the outsourcer more like an internal entity and having an SLA dashboard with system reported data that you can mine.  (In some cases, this may be the same as having your functional silos within your company only with process control and management data.)

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