“BPM is about business transformation, not just automation,” says McGregor of the 8-Omega framework, which McGregor is a co-creator of. “The framework has actually been extended, and I use it as a framework for change. The framework is geared around eight stages: discovery, analysis, design, validation, implementation, control, manage and improve. So there's an implied cycle as to the stages that you take, that'll be used in the BPM training.” McGregor now works as an independent and since parting with the BPMG continues to work with 8-Omega framework, refining it and continuing to use it around the world as the basis for helping people transform their business. “Some of the origins are compared to other frameworks, and there are many, many frameworks out there which do good things,” he says, “but none seemed to encapsulate all the five key elements of business, the purpose, strategy, process, people and the systems.” By looking at all of the facets involved in business and at the same time by providing some motion, McGregor is able to move beyond having a framework in place and into actually knowing what to do with it.
“I also use the framework outside of the BPM training,” he is pleased to tell me. “If I'm working with people on a personal level in life and business coaching, the same holds true. The framework has shown the life cycles hold true for any kind of change, so it's quite flexible inasmuch as it plans everything from small businesses and small projects through to major transformation.” His extensive expertise in BPM has garnered McGregor some pretty impressive accolades too. McGregor spends much of his time writing, speaking, teaching, coaching, and trying to help people lead better lives. He freely admits this sounds “a little strange” for someone predominately working in the financial services industry. Still, McGregor coaches on a global scale and has been labelled as a ‘Master of Mindset’, a ‘Thought Leader’, and a ‘Guru’.
“I'm kind of proud to be tagged as a ‘Master of Mindset,’” says McGregor, “because to me, that's saying, if I can help do that and change the way they think, then that's a victory.” Recently, McGregor has spent a lot of time working and studying in India. “With the ‘guru’ labelling, one has to be honoured that others choose to use that label,” he says. In India, of course, the label of ‘guru’ has a very specific meaning; “It's not a label you give yourself,” he says, “it's a label that others give you who choose to follow the teaching and the lessons you offer.” Subsequently, McGregor is careful never to label himself in this way; fundamentally, it isn’t something you can just decide to call yourself but remains a label only others can give you. “If you're going to use this label correctly,” he explains, “then it's one that you should cherish and be very careful with. There’s a responsibility there.”
With compliments like this, it’s unsurprising to hear McGregor enthuse so much about his industry. Listening to him is pretty inspiring. “When I talk to people about business process and you ask them, ‘What's the biggest problem that you have?’ It's always resistance to change. You ask them, ‘What do you mean by resistance?’ and they say ‘People won't do as I tell them.’ That's not surprising. How often do you do as you're told?" The answer is none of us like to be told what to do, and McGregor comments that by believing in what we can do to help others, then the more we can actually achieve ourselves. “I've just got back from working with a company that does all their work in the insurance finance sector,” he tells me, “and there’s certainly a resurgence in BPM from an IT perspective.”
McGregor attributes the changing nature of business to the need for other solutions in the ways of customer intimacy. “Dealing with customers over the web, over the phone and still by post or in person, all those kinds of things, are having a fundamental difference in the way that companies do business.” As a result, BPM, whether viewed as philosophy, which is the way McGregor looks at it, or whether viewed from a technology perspective, enables companies to do things that weren’t possible a few years ago. Furthermore, the change in customer demand is a clear sticking point in the BPM market. “If they're not managing their business, then they can't respond to it,” says McGregor.
But can companies respond to be quicker to this change? And how? Does McGregor think BPM has a role to play in this pressure? Of course he does, after all, everything a business gets done is, in essence, a ‘process’. “If we want to have that agility,” says McGregor, “then we need to understand and run our business through processes; and management need to handle that.” The key to being successful in BPM is executive involvement, and McGregor thinks that achieving this involvement is the main challenge. “We might be getting the CIO buy-in from a technology perspective, but we're still not making it into the other seats around the boardroom,” he explains. “That's because there's certain things that they're chasing, be it regulation, be it governance, or be it all of those things; and we still need to make the story more relevant to those things that are high on their agenda.” The fact remains that without understanding this story, then executives can only look at the business as a whole as opposed to breaking it down into parts; “I think that would help companies respond more quickly to increasing competitive pressures on the way they operate and run their business,” explains McGregor.
With technology evermore at the forefront of how a business works, the semblance of a ‘relationship’ between customers and service providers is critical to business success. As business process management leads to significant changes in company culture, it surely becomes an essential part of business success to see a smooth implementation of BPM. A successful measurement and monitoring of BPM outcomes is just as essential. Anything that a company does impacts the very nature of how culture is involved and affected. “Now here's the challenge,” says McGregor. “For many people I see, they put in BPM's automation, don't touch the culture, and say, ‘BPM never really delivered on the promise that we thought it was going to.’” McGregor enthuses that only by looking at the cultural aspects and changing the culture, can companies put in the appropriate technology and systems to support the business; “It comes back to the management side. It's a management problem. I could come in and tell a company a much better way to do claims, for example. But who says it’s better?” In this instance, the key lies in talking to the claims people. McGregor says that by asking the individuals what the challenges are, what the business problems are, and how the problems can be solved, a massive culture change can be achieved. “If you have your problem and we help you solve your problem, can you then resist the changes that go with it?” asks McGregor. “No, because we're only enabling what you said you wanted. That’s how we start to shift culture.”
“Obviously we've got to measure and monitor and we've got multiple ways of measuring at the highest level,” says McGregor. The fundamental challenge for many organizations is getting management to take their hands off the wheel and let the smart people they have hired do the jobs they hired them for. “Then manage the results, not the tasks and activity,” says McGregor.
McGregor is amused by the amount of legislation put upon financial institutions in the current market. “If that legislation was doing its job, surely we wouldn’t have this problem?” he says. His biggest concern is that the amount of legislation provides laziness in the market. “We’ve stopped actually looking at the fundamentals and checking how we’re doing,” says McGregor, “we’re assuming that controls and legislation provide the protection.” McGregor isn’t a fan of overregulation and from a process point of view, thinks it needs to be more tapered. “There’s no point in having a Six Sigma approach in one direction, an ITIL project going off in another direction, someone else doing BPM, someone else responsible for ISO-9000,” he says. “They’re paying multiple times for the same job.” In real BPM all that is put to one side. “A single set of processes will serve anything that we’re doing,” says McGregor, “Some we may well choose to automate, but everything comes from a single source of truth.”
It’s this idea of truth that remains important to McGregor throughout speaking with him. “Anything that focuses on understanding how people work, how we interact, or helps us to do our work better, always appeals to me,” he says when quizzed about what new technologies he is excited about. McGregor is also very honest about the future of BPM: “there’s one part of me that says within three years, it won’t exist because all these things, from a technology perspective, appear to be a case of fashion,” he says. Instead, McGregor sees it evolving and morphing into something different. “The only challenge is, in the last 30 years, technologists had always felt the problems can be made to go away with technology,” he says “They can’t. It still comes back to running businesses effectively, and knowing what we want to achieve for our customers.”
A better life, or a better business, is everything that McGregor encourages. He doesn’t mask his knowledge in superlatives or talk through revered jargon; he just talks. “I've worked with people who are adamant the future of business is all automation and no people. Maybe they're right, but it's a sad day for the human race if they are,” he says in closing reference. "I want people to be able to say, ‘I can go and do it, not with analysts, but with people doing the work and guiding them to describe a process, to improve it, to access solutions, and then empower them.’ If you do that, then you're going to win big time.” For those still doubting, McGregor points to GE. “The biggest wins in GE came from the principles of workout, which was all about how to get the non-value added activity out by letting the people at the sharp end describe the business processes and problems and then help them to fix it for themselves,” he says. The first bank or insurance company to seriously replicate what they did at GE, McGregor says, will be so far ahead of the competition it will be “incredible.”
McGregor on choosing software and providers:
“I think that the financial services sector's actually pretty good on this one. Others fall into a trap, and that's that with every new genre of software, be it ERP, CRM, BPMS, whatever, everyone says that this is the one that's going to give you agility, it's got everything you want, and you'll never need to change your game. Well, we've been saying that since applications first came about, and none of them appear to be giving everything or being future-proofed.”