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The importance of change management when implementing BPM

Freek Hermkens, O&i

Implementing changes in organisations: it is often easier said than done. This also holds for organisations that implement Business Process Management (BPM). BPM leads to a process-oriented organization set-up and assumes that processes are well embedded in the organization. Well embedded implies: accepted by all people concerned, and anchored within the organization. However, this requires a significant change in the ways of working.

Especially when looking at former process innovation projects, one sees that this change part often didnít worked out well. The story is known: according to American research, 70 to 80% of the Business Process Reengineering (BPR) projects executed in the 1980s-1990s failed during the implementation phase. Initially, in these BPR projects the majority of the attention was given to the redesign aspect of the project, whilst forgetting or ignoring the social and organizational aspects of such a change process.

In my opinion implementing new concepts or approaches, such as the implementation of BPM, is a change process. It requires not only a transfer of knowledge, but also establishing a different behaviour. Thus, organizations should not only think about the technical aspects of implementations, such as the development of a new IT system to support the change, but also about whether people are still well placed in the organization, and whether they are sufficiently trained to handle the change. This requires considerable time and attention in a change process.

The implementation of BPM demand a whole new way of working in an organization, and also implies looking differently at your organization. This is something that many organizations underestimate. Old, existing ways of working and managing/directing people must be changed. This asks for a clear change at management level but it also requires change at lower organization levels. Examples of such changes may include:

  1. Management and supervision will have to change: management and supervision should be done over the entire process (horizontal) rather than on a hierarchical basis. Attention is to be given to the process instead of to keeping the department up and running
  2. The process manager gets a much more prominent role in the organization
  3. Cubicle thinking between departments will have to disappear
  4. Roles and responsibilities will have to be defined better and are likely to change significantly compared to the situation before implementing BPM
  5. Another type of management, with a different attitude towards the work floor and the execution in the organizationís operations.

This new way of working should be accepted, before working in a process-oriented manner can become successful.

In summary you can say:
When organizations decide to implement process improvements and/or BPM, they must not only pay attention to the new possibilities and the factors that stimulate successful implementation. They must also be aware of the restrictions. These restrictions or barriers are often bound to the organization culture, to the comfort one obtains from holding a certain position, and to power and status. Management must deal with these barriers and actively deal with the factors that stimulate implementation as well.


Freek Hermkens has several years of experience in optimizing processes, and is currently working as a consultant at O&i (www.oi.nl) in Utrecht.

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