Many business people still struggle to see the role of business processes in building better performance (i.e., business results). So I thought I would share this little hook that I developed within one of my consulting engagements. It is based around preparing bread: Mixing the components of the bread — the flour, yeast, and water — and then baking it all together for an effective result.

In your business, it is the dough rising that equates to achieving its performance objectives — however those performance objectives are defined.

Whether they’re aware of it or not, in most businesses the different ingredients are not well aligned or working together as well as they could be. Mixing the metaphors for a moment, the roles and actors are not rowing together in a coordinated fashion. Business process management (BPM) brings together a range of techniques and approaches — the BPM tool box. The components of this tool box help change agents in the business (the bakers) create their own special sort of dough. At the heart of that is an ongoing inquiry into business processes — if you like, the water that binds the flour (your people) with the yeast (the technology).

There may be other ingredients involved that add their own subtle contribution to flavor and texture. But cooking is not only about mixing the right quantity of ingredients; it is also how you mix them and how long you bake the mixture. You might think it is just a question of getting the right measure of ingredients. But first, it is necessary to decide on the sort of bread you want to make, how it is going to be delivered, and to whom. Alongside the choice of people (flour), the most critical element is the water (processes) — the ingredient that binds it all together.

Relatively speaking, adding the technology is the easy part — but it requires a considerable amount of rigor. This rigor is most apparent in the way we understand and model processes — because in modern BPM technology, it is these models that drive how work is managed and driven through the business. If we want to change the way the business operates, all we then need do is change the models. No programming should be required (or at least only in very specialized cases). As much as is possible, everything is configured with models.

But to develop these models requires a rigorous approach and methodology — one that allows us to bind together (integrate) the people, processes, and technology. The problem is that process models are like a bikini: What they reveal is suggestive, but what they hide is vital (to paraphrase Levenstein talking about statistics).

This blog originally appeared at Forrester Research.