2.1 Exogenous Shocks
2.2 Business Process Management and Process Change
The continual tight linkage of organizational priorities and enterprise processes enabling achievement of business goals
Establishing relevant and transparent accountability and decision-making processes to align rewards and guide actions
The approaches and techniques that support and enable consistent process actions and outcomes
The software, hardware, and information management systems that enable and support process activities
The individuals and groups who continually enhance and apply their process-related expertise and knowledge
The collective values and beliefs that shape process-related attitudes and behaviors
Continuous process improvement
Process reengineering, process innovation
Exogenous shock, process disruption
Process resilience; flexibility-by-design
Process agility; flexibility-by-deviation
Business continuity; disaster recovery
3 Research Approach
4 Interplay of BPM and Exogenous Shocks
5 Challenges and Opportunities for BPM
C1. Sudden obsolescence of organizational strategy and uncertainty regarding the permanence of changes
C2. Enforced reprioritization of business process improvement efforts
O1. Need for novel (potentially process-based) value propositions and radical improvement of existing business processes
O2. Improvement of process-enabled shock resilience
C3. Sudden inadequacy of existing BPM and process governance setups
C4. Need for fast switches between different governance modes
O3. Development of robust, multi-context BPM and process governance
O4. Potential to instill process-oriented governance in an organization’s “DNA”
C5. Lack of agile process (re)design methods
C6. Inadequacy of existing process roll-out and change management methods
O5. Development of simplified and resilient business processes
O6. Insights into the vulnerability of business processes
C7. Absence of scalable and remotely available process management tools
C8. Obsolescence of existing process monitoring setups
O7. Adoption of lightweight process automation, deployment, and experimentation techniques
O8. Increased transparency through increased digitalization
C9. Absence of scalable process training concepts
C10. High individual stress owing to misaligned business processes, reset of experience curve effects, and communication overload
O9. Scaling of organization-wide process thinking and digital literacy
O10. Leveraging the creative potential of employees for process improvement
C11. Potential deprioritization of customer orientation at the expense of internal shock management
C12. Necessity to effectively unlearn existing business processes
O11. Utilization of the shock experience as a foundation for future radical process changes
O12. Transition toward a results-oriented culture of trust with improved work–life balance
5.1 Strategic Alignment
C1: Sudden obsolescence of organizational strategy and uncertainty regarding the permanence of changes. BPM needs to support the fast switch between pre-shock (I), in-shock (III), and post-shock (V) strategies. Following the arguments in Sect. 4, BPM can help in identifying those process and strategic elements that can stay as-is, mitigating the negative effects on process performance. Hence, BPM needs to support dynamic strategic realignment, since there may be no consistent in-shock strategy and contexts may change rapidly within and outside organizations. Moreover, in the in-shock phase (III), BPM needs to support the identification of permanent and temporary changes to allow organizations to appropriately respond to the shock on the operational and strategic levels.
C2: Enforced reprioritization of business process improvement efforts. In the event of an exogenous shock, organizations may need to cancel or postpone greenlighted process improvement initiatives in the in-shock phase (III). BPM should therefore equip process managers with instruments to differentiate must-do projects from those that have been rendered obsolete or have lost their strategic fit. Moreover, it is vital to identify projects that should be initiated or continued even in the in-shock phase (III).
O1: Need for novel (potentially process-based) value propositions and radical improvement of existing business processes. BPM should not only help to operationalize organizational strategies, but also actively shape them. BPM professionals can use their process and domain knowledge to design novel process-based value propositions in both the in-shock (III) and post-shock (V) phases. Based on this foundation, they can design strategies that improve the strategic alignment of business processes and BPM and support the organization in tapping into new revenue pools.
O2: Improvement of process-enabled shock resilience. BPM should drive organizational resilience. Resilient organizations depend on resilient business processes (i.e., processes designed with alternative execution paths or sufficient degrees of freedom for dynamic adaptation at runtime). Such organizations have low latency in response to shocks since processes either do not need to be redesigned at all or only require partial redesign.
C3: Sudden inadequacy of existing BPM and process governance setups. Established and commonly applied governance mechanisms are not practical during the pre-shock–in-shock transition (II) and in-shock (III) phases. This is for two reasons: First, the focus of interest and related business objectives change in the event of exogenous shocks. Second, data collection for key performance indicators becomes more challenging, especially when underlying information systems are not process-aware. Moreover, many routine processes become ineffective, making it challenging to ensure compliance because reference points in terms of to-be processes are no longer available.
C4: Need for fast switches between different governance modes. The use of a proprietary governance mode in the in-shock phase (III) can contribute to maintaining the pre-shock level or at least mitigating decreases in process performance. In the sense of process continuity, organizations need plans for the temporary and permanent simplification of governance processes. Such simplification includes roles, responsibilities, and methods that replace existing approaches in the in-shock phase (III). One example is the International Red Cross/Red Crescent movement, which, in the case of a disaster, switches governance structures to a crisis mode to establish working processes where relief is needed (Peterken and Bandara 2015). The challenge here is to incorporate the possibility of a targeted switch back to the “old normal” state (if the expected shock does not materialize or is not long-lasting) or the transition to an improved “new normal” state (IV/V).
O3: Development of robust, multi-context BPM and process governance. In the event of exogenous shocks, intentional process change increasingly takes place in ad hoc and bottom-up initiatives, which need to be managed through lightweight and adaptive governance setups. As discussed, the need for such setups is magnified by exogenous shocks because the increased speed and extent of process change can lead to misinformation and confusion. By contextualizing and synchronizing decentral ad-hoc changes, BPM can implement both robust and multi-context BPM and process governance.
O4: Potential to instill process-oriented governance in an organization’s “DNA.” The implementation of new governance setups may facilitate transformation toward a truly process-oriented organization. Currently, many organizations feature BPM roles and responsibilities that are formally described but not anchored in the organizations (e.g., process owners without any decision-making rights or budgets). Exogenous shocks can help BPM practitioners to implement truly process-oriented governance structures.
C5: Lack of agile process (re)design methods. Exogenous shocks call for agile process (re)design methods. Organizations that use such methods can reduce initial performance decreases and recover more quickly (II/IV). This is true because BPM typically works in a deductive way – from symptoms (i.e., process inefficiencies) to solutions (i.e., optimized processes) based on existing frameworks (e.g., process improvement patterns). Since inductive process optimization (e.g., based on process mining) does not work well in the event of exogenous shocks, abductive process (re)design methods are needed. Such methods contribute to better process design based on the changing environment without relying on existing frameworks (deduction) or vast data sets (induction).
C6: Inadequacy of existing process roll-out and change management methods. It is not only crucial for organizations to identify viable process configurations for the in-shock (III) and post-shock (V) phases, but also to implement them. Standard processes originally stemming from the pre-shock phase (I) may additionally need to be split into multiple process variants. Thus, methods such as the rapid prototyping of several process variants in combination with strong change management capabilities are needed to speed up the recovery (IV) from exogenous shocks.
O5: Development of simplified and resilient business processes. Organizations are rarely prepared to face exogenous shocks through shock-resistant and possibly simple process designs. While some organizations may not need to change processes that are flexible enough, for others, exogenous shocks present an opportunity to simplify historically developed processes and, where possible, improve process resilience as well as process performance in the post-shock phase (V).
O6: Insights into the vulnerability of business processes. Especially organizations with resilient processes already have deep insights into related process vulnerabilities. They can easily switch from a “normal” mode to a “shock” mode with minimal impact on in-shock (III) process performance. Organizations that rely on agile process change benefit from prior insights into vulnerabilities, since they allow for a rapid focus on critical processes during the in-shock phase (III).
5.4 Information Technology
C7: Absence of scalable and remotely available process management tools. Regarding process design and modeling, tools can only be used if they are widely (in the case of COVID-19, remotely) available. For instance, it is possible that organizations lacking cloud solutions with scalable license models will be unable to make use of their design tools when adapting to a “new normal” (VI). Such tools can be used in the in-shock phase (III) only if knowledge about them is broadly available.
C8: Obsolescence of existing process monitoring setups. Information systems for monitoring and controlling business processes need to be adapted quickly. Control mechanisms that rely on experience become worthless if the experience does not match the new in-shock/post-shock reality (III/V); hence, organizations need to quickly adapt their process monitoring tools.
O7: Adoption of lightweight process automation, deployment, and experimentation techniques. Hard-wired business processes in heavyweight IT are challenged by the rapid changes induced by exogenous shocks. Organizations that rely on adaptive process-aware information systems can experiment with new process designs and deploy them quickly into production. Moreover, lightweight solutions, such as Robotic Process Automation or pre-configured chatbots, can enable the fast scaling of new processes and, hence, help in coping with shocks (III/VI).
O8: Increased transparency through increased digitalization. Especially regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, which required substantial remote work and customer interaction, there was an increased effort to digitalize transactions between users and employees. Organizations can leverage these advances to accelerate process digitalization; for example, by using data-driven process technology to quickly improve in-shock processes and achieve or even surpass pre-shock performance (IV/V).
C9: Absence of scalable process training concepts. In many organizations, BPM skills tend to be centralized (e.g., in process centers of excellence), but to cope with shocks, BPM skills need to be distributed across organizations and process change needs to be empowered (Kaplan et al. 2020). Moreover, the implementation of new processes requires employees to acquire new skills and adapt to changing roles. Accordingly, providing continuous and comprehensive process guidance that enables process participants to quickly adapt to new or changed processes in the in-shock and post-shock (III/V) phases is challenging.
C10: High individual stress owing to misaligned business processes, reset of experience curve effects, and communication overload. Especially in an environment of decentralized process change, interfaces between processes may be misaligned; hence, leadership needs to reduce individuals’ job strain when processes do not work seamlessly in the in-shock and post-shock (III/V) phases. Particularly when transitioning to the post-shock phase (IV), organizations should employ change management initiatives to ensure that people do not revert to old habits. Only then can organizations reach higher levels of performance after the shock than before the shock (V).
O9: Scaling of organization-wide process thinking and digital literacy. BPM practitioners have an opportunity to increase the digital literacy of employees due to the wider adoption of digital technologies and process-aware information systems. This unprecedented openness toward (emerging) digital technologies and the acquired literacy can catalyze further process digitalization after a shock (V).
O10: Leveraging the creative potential of employees for process improvement. In response to exogenous shocks, organizations have a unique opportunity to harvest the creative potential of employees for improving their business processes. Employees’ efforts to “make things work” in the in-shock phase (III) and the corresponding potential for positive deviance can be disseminated within organizations.
C11: Potential deprioritization of customer orientation at the expense of internal shock management. When organizations focus too greatly on securing their own survival in the in-shock phase (III), interactions with partners and especially customers may suffer. In this regard, a BPM culture dedicated to customer orientation is highly desirable. Organizations need to ensure that the deprioritization of customer orientation – if needed at all – is a temporary and conscious decision.
C12: Necessity to effectively unlearn existing business processes. Process change can benefit from a healthy level of process commitment and the corresponding ability to unlearn past routines during a shock (III). However, process commitment should not focus only on as-is processes, but also on achieving overall process goals. In times of exogenous shocks (II/III), an overcommitment to, and reliance on, existing processes may prove to be a liability for organizations by causing a sharp decrease in process performance and, potentially, leading to the demise of the organizations.
O11: Utilization of the shock experience as a foundation for future radical process changes. From a cultural perspective, an exogenous shock might be a good “burning platform” for future radical process change. Based on previously experienced exogenous shocks, process managers can refer to changes made because of the shock whenever the feasibility of future process changes is challenged in the post-shock phase (V).
O12: Transition toward a results-oriented culture of trust with improved work–life balance. During the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations had an opportunity to change from an attendance-oriented culture toward a results-oriented culture. While such transitions pose challenges for both line and process managers in leading people, they also provide opportunities to explore new and hopefully better ways of working with an improved work–life balance (e.g., working from home).