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BPM battle: Agile vs waterfall

During process automation, organisations must consider agile and waterfall approaches to business process management (BPM).

So says John Hayden, a business and organisational change consultant, who points out that a waterfall approach to BPM is often criticised because the methods used are rigid and inflexible, and demeans key role players.

On the other hand, he notes, the agile approach causes feelings of unease in organisations as the dissemination of tasks exposes people due to the collaboration of departments.

The agile software and waterfall design methodologies can easily be understood using the following analogy, Hayden says.

“When building a house, you can view plans and choose everything right down to the last detail. The carpets, the taps all you desire and the house will be built and ready for you to live in – the issue you may face is that you may want to make changes and is there time to make these changes?

“The process of going through the details to get the end result is the core point of the waterfall approach. The waterfall approach has a high structure with minimal collaboration,” Hayden says.

Agile, in contrast, is a rough sketch of the home you want. “First you build the kitchen, then another area, and you decide what you like and where as you go along – the agile approach allows you to design as you build, enabling you to get your ideal home. Agile software has the same approach; smaller tasks that form part of a bigger picture,” Hayden explains.

However, he reveals that both waterfall and agile approaches reflect the chequered history of BPM, which must be remembered, as the tendency towards automation in organisations relies on people, and not solely on technology.

“People adhering to process mapping from technology may not be the easiest factor to control. Processes need to be lean, less ambitious and challenging,” says Hayden.

“Business analysts are needed to help organisations remove the clutter. Now is the time to pay for centralisation in operations, to apply lean thinking, and eliminate unnecessary controls and authorisations, as they hinder efficiency.”

According to Hayden, BPM projects typically involve system redesigns. “This includes the process, organisational redesign, as well as the implementation of scanning, document management and workflow technologies,” he says.

Hayden explains that these changes place stress on organisations, which, if not managed accurately, could be detrimental to an organisation's existence.

Hayden is a keynote speaker and chair at the ITWeb BPM Summit, which takes place on 17 and 18 April at The Forum, in Bryanston.

The event features international BPM experts, including Steve Towers, speaker, lead coach and co-founder of the BP Group; Dr Helena Barnard, associate professor at the Gordon Institute of Business Science; and Morne Rossouw, CTO, Software, at AG EMEA, among others.

The summit will address the role of business process re-engineering in BPM; the shortcomings of the waterfall approach, by looking at agile as an enabler of BPM; and the power that tapping into global innovation networks yield to innovate and manage skills challenges.

For more information and to book your seat, click here.


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