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Linking research & learning technologies through standards » Nick Nicholas

Ἡλληνιστεύκοντος
(Greek Linguistics)

2006-10-26

Review: O'Connell, Pyke & Whitehead. Mastering your Organization's Processes.

In re: http://www.cambridge.org/0521839750

This book was looking at Business Process Management (with Capital Letters, since it's a distinct methodology), from a managerial rather than an IT perspective. Though it very occasionally got bogged down in detail of tactical approaches, overall it was a delight to read: judiciously cynical of everyone (especially IT, but also management fads and office politics), with dollops of Very British Wit, a dash of donnish humour, and quite practical about the constraints under which you could end up deploying Business Process Mgt.

It turns out I was mistaken about what this was about: the Management of Business Processes presupposes their analysis, but there wasn't much about the analysis in there --- appropriately so: 1, analysis is what IT does, not management, and 2, with BPM software, you end up doing a lot of the orchestrating of workflow and process components from your desktop yourself. One of the sidepoints for me of the book was making me realise the power of integration --- having absolutely eveything supporting your business processes talking to each other, and being able to reconfigure your processes in a hurry. This was really more big picture stuff than immediately useful, but it gives handy context --- including some quite useful lists of what to look for in management solutions, and it can inform the questions of how you interrogate an organisation's culture.

Did I mention how delightfully cynical it was? Actually, it reminded me of why I hated the 2nd edition of the Camel Book, and liked the 3rd. The 2nd was Larry Wall being wacky and petulant ("Perl is the way is it coz I said so, and aren't I cute"), and I couldn't stand reading it. The 3rd edition brought in a coauthor who actually ended up apologising for Perl's idiosyncracies through the book --- "this looks bizarre, but there is a reason why you might choose to do things that way". That was the edition I was able to read, and it was for a similar reason that I liked this one: I wasn't preached at or evangelised to, but addressed with some respect as a reader mature enough to make my own decisions. And the authors did the right thing by repeating themselves every few chapters and recapping: they are writing for people with short attention spans (they apologise at the start of the book for inadvertently insulting people's intelligence), and that honestly makes for a much more readable book in all. OK, ok, that's my humanities bias again.

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