Posted by: Derek Weeks on: March 5, 2012
How BPM Can Increase Your Overall SharePoint Maturity
Over 43% of organizations deploying SharePoint are looking to purchase workflow or business process management (BPM) add-on applications for the platform, according to the 2011 “How Are Businesses Using SharePoint” survey. Like many businesses deploying SharePoint, usage within the organization expands dramatically as users find it a useful place to store, share and collaborate on content and information. As the base of users expands rapidly across an organization, the amount of content within SharePoint begins to balloon. As the comfort level with SharePoint increases users tend to store more critical documents like invoices, claims, employment applications, loan documents, and contracts. Users then want to utilize SharePoint to distribute, review, amend and approve this critical content. The more critical the content, the more people across the organization want to interact with it to get their work done.
This past week in San Francisco, I was invited to present a paper with Sadie Van Buren on how organizations can improve their SharePoint business process maturity. The business process maturity level definitions were established by Sadie in a collaborative effort with many people across the SharePoint community over the past couple of years. In addition to her business process maturity definitions, the SharePoint maturity model also provides level 100 through 500 definitions for publication, collaboration, business intelligence, search, integration and more. You can find a copy of her maturity model here.
During our session, we discussed SharePoint process maturity at five levels, beginning with basic workflows (e.g., submit a time off request) leading all the way up to advance concepts, including dynamic process execution, process intelligence dashboards, on-the-fly process changes and real-time collaboration between process experts.
At the lower levels of SharePoint process maturity, users take advantage of workflows to approve an expense report or a vacation time off request. In these instances, users have little to no visibility of the workflow’s execution status. Daily or monthly reports are not generated on process execution history, few people collaborated through the execution of the process, and the process itself rarely changed.
The interesting thing about our discussion was that as process maturity increased in SharePoint, other maturity levels increased. Process maturity was the tide that lifted all ships in the SharePoint ecosystem.
At higher levels of maturity process examples are less tactical and more strategic to the business. For example, take a business that is using SharePoint as an application platform to host operations like loan processing, accounts payable or new account on-boarding. For these organizations, visibility to process execution is critical for knowledge workers, management and business analysts. Process changes are initiated by both SharePoint developers who are making changes to the process application or by managers who are changing work assignments based on business intelligence metrics displayed within their view to the application.
Additionally, as process maturity levels increase, roles (e.g., case workers, reviewers, researches, approvers and supervisors) interacting with the process are more specialized. We also see collaboration tools within those applications being used across those roles to speed decision making. Sadie and I discussed that as SharePoint process maturity increases, so do the maturity levels for collaboration, business intelligence, search and integration.
So, you might ask yourself – why is this important to the SharePoint and business process community? For years now the SharePoint community at large has been concerned with its accelerated use and expanded presence in the enterprise. As SharePoint’s popularity has grown, the cost to support it has also grown – not only in terms of license cost, but in IT personnel required to support and maintain it, training required, hardware to run it, etc. As the cost of the environment continues to expand, CIOs and other business leaders are asking how they can get a better return on those investments. As the cost increases, people are looking beyond the technology strategy and are beginning to question the business strategy behind SharePoint. The same 2011 survey mentioned above showed that beyond user adoption and training, the lack of or limited business strategy surrounding SharePoint was their second biggest challenge with the platform.
If your organization is seeking more value from SharePoint and looking to resolve your business strategy for the platform, I strongly suggest that you consider the adoption of workflow and businesses process as a key part of their overall program.
Interested in learning more about SharePoint and process maturity, please visit our SlideShare site to get a copy of the presentation, “Improving Your SharePoint Process Maturity” that Sadie and I delivered.
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