How to build a BPM capability in your organisation

Why a waterfall development approach worked best for Deloitte

Business Process Management (BPM) products have been around for many years, but in recent times, they have become more sophisticated and there’s been a marked increase in uptake by corporates and government departments.

Two years ago, Deloitte in Australia invested in the Appian BPM software suite after examining seven products. Here’s a summary of the steps we took to successfully deploy this application suite.

We initially established a BPM Centre of Excellence (CoE) using best practices provided by the vendor and some of its existing customers.

Having never used sophisticated enterprise workflow software, we wanted to build a sustainable, flexible operating model to help us review and prioritise development requests, and then deliver them using these best practices.

We took the time to meet with another organisation that had been using the software for more than five years, listening carefully to its advice and guidance.

We also started searching for people with experience with Appian. I firmly believe that to successfully implement new technology into your organisation, one of the key ingredients to put into the mix is experienced people.

Even if you use a vendor to assist with the implementation, there is no substitute for a specialist or architect who has been through the process before – someone who has learned what works and what doesn’t.

As demand for and adoption of new platforms increases, so does the likelihood that some kind of technology sprawl occurs. Before long, your “perfectly” implemented system starts to grow in ways you would prefer it didn’t.

For example, your organisation may not be adhering to code re-use or taxonomy standards, which increases support costs and makes future upgrades more painful and costly.

This is where a good architect (with management support) earns his or her keep and can ensure less experienced staff consistently deliver quality deliverables in line with the standards, processes and architectures that are important to your business.

The early stages of development

Once our initial team was in place, our methodology agreed, and our governance and operations models were up and running, we began building our first processes in Appian.

It soon became apparent that business demand was exceeding our ability to deliver. A major project was kicking off with complex workflow requirements and application integration was required to both internal applications and external sources such as Dunn & Bradstreet.

Needless to say, the project absorbed our most experienced people, meaning the quick wins we’d hoped to achieve didn’t materialise.

Other BPM development projects we were running also had significant workflow requirements and required deep integration with other systems and subsequent reporting needs emerged.

When we looked at the options to grow our capability, we realised that we could use Deloitte’s investment in Hyderabad, India.

Our Extended Delivery Centre there employs many IT professionals who deliver services to Deloitte in other countries including Canada, the US and the UK.

Hiring and building the small team in India has been very rewarding and resulted in us adding additional experienced people to work with the Sydney-based IT team of business analysts, project managers, developers and the CoE manager.

Our BPM CoE initially called for an Agile approach to projects with a service request being broken down into work packages, which include user stories to assist with solution development.

Each software release contained several prioritised work packages, which would subsequently be released to production.

Agile wasn’t working

What we experienced next was, in hindsight, not surprising. It became increasingly clear that the Agile delivery methodology wasn’t working as well as we’d planned.

Various “in-flight” projects experienced delays, which resulted in dissatisfied users. This is never a good place to be.

As part of the process to get everything back on track, we spent time talking with teams in India and Australia.

Closer analysis told us that some projects had a high number of change requests, some of which actually had conflicting or unclear requirements, and this made it very difficult for our Indian team to make steady progress.

They couldn’t simply walk over to a business analyst and ask for clarification – a challenge that was made more difficult because of limited time zone overlap between Sydney and Hyderabad.

So, while we are using Agile successfully on other projects, it became clear that we’d have to modify our approach for the offshore team.

We wanted to lock down requirements and minimise uncertainty to ensure delivery was possible within agreed timeframes as well as ensure our designs incorporated as many requirements as possible upfront to minimise the need to re-work.

For now, we have moved to a waterfall approach to development, which is working well, and we are trying to focus on smaller initiatives to get more throughput, adoption and benefits across the firm.

Like any significant new technology being introduced into an organisation, challenges like those we’ve experienced can and do arise. They are often magnified when the technology itself means change and stakeholders get to grips with the implications of that change.

As we fine tune our BPM capability we are continuing to monitor the successes and setbacks.

These are providing us with an insightful and useful feedback loop which will be used to modify our approach for future Appian process builds. It is likely that we will again make changes to the way things are done as our teams mature.

This is a small snapshot largely focusing on our development approach which has moved from Agile to Waterfall over the last six months.

Other key aspects to introducing our BPM capability into Deloitte Australia have been the development of a BPM Maturity Model, integration with the firm’s IT and governance processes and defining BPM Guiding Principles.

Building an offshore presence for our IT team for the first time and integrating it with our onshore teams has also been vital.

Raymond Danton is director, applications services at Deloitte Australia.