“Simply Modeling” – BPM from Everybody Recommendations from the Viral Adoption of BPM at 1&1

Florian Imgrund, Christian Janiesch, Christoph Rosenkranz

Situation faced: 1&1 is a German Internet service provider that embraced business process management (BPM) in 2010 as a way to optimize its processes. The company expected BPM to increase corporate performance by realizing such customer-centric goals as high quality standards, reduced set-up times, shortened time-to-market cycles, and increased adaptability to changing customer requirements. 1&1 decided to use the Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) for its business process models, but the specification offers no pragmatic advice on how to introduce and adapt the modeling method in a company. 1&1 started with a conceptual process architecture—a lightweight process modeling infrastructure—and invested in a BPM initiative using a bottom-up approach. The resulting viral spread of BPM led to a “success disaster” with a high adoption rate and a high number of models but low model quality.

Action taken: 1&1 turned around the proliferating trend of low quality and barely usable process models by means of carefully targeted decisions. An initial analysis showed that the key factors in the disastrous situation were insufficient training and the lack of modeling conventions. While no changes were made to the process architecture, the company increased the integration of system architecture components, resulting in improved knowledge management as increasing amounts of information became retrievable through the enterprise information portal. Quality assurance was mandated through a few selected modeling conventions to guide and constrain but not restrict the modelers. Finally, the BPM initiative grew larger with more volunteer trainers and more differentiated courses that helped to ensure an appropriate level of process modeling competence for each employee’s tasks.

Results Achieved: Because of its lightweight implementation, BPM at 1&1 can enable continuous process adjustments triggered by any employee at any time and on every level, so it can achieve short time-to-market for core business products and services, as well as rapid changes in business processes. Business knowledge and expertise is extracted from all of the company’s corporate levels and is merged and presented in the process models. The company currently uses as its production environment the Signavio Process Editor, which relies on a repository of more than 12,000 process models and more than 1800 active process modelers.

Lessons learned: The BPMN specification provides no guidance on how to introduce and use BPMN in the individual corporate context. While it is often useful to follow a reference approach for the adaptation and use of a modeling method and the associated IT infrastructure, there is none available for BPMN. Based on the 1&1 case, we present recommendations that can be considered best practices for setting up and steering a large-scale BPM initiative based on process modeling that emphasize process modeling technology, user training, modeling regulations, employee management, and time management.

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