Imagine yourself hiring a fresh-out-of-school, Masters in Management graduate as a process analyst, hoping that soon he will start improving your business processes. What do you expect him to already know about business process management (BPM)? Now, turn that question around; what should we, as academics in the BPM field, teach to our students in business schools on BPM? This was the main question I had in mind while designing a three-week intensive course on BPM for our Masters in General Management students, titled “BPM Consulting boot camp”.
When it comes to advertising this topic to students, of which they had no clue about, I used Edward Deming’s quote; “If you can't describe what you are doing as a process, you don't know what you're doing.” But my main ‘selling proposition’ for the course was the fact that it does not originate from an academic discipline, but has completely sprouted from business practice. This was quite interesting for management students who are usually hungry for relevance. The fact that BPM is industry and business-model independent was also an attractive point for them.
As this year was our first trial with the electives, I was happy to see that 12 students opted for BPM, even though none of them had any relevant work experience and none of them had a course about or including BPM before. They were quite like a white canvas waiting to be filled.
Even though this was a small group, the diversity of their backgrounds was not to be underestimated; ranging from architects to computer scientists to biologists. I wondered, what is the impact of their background education on learning the process related concepts and techniques? I also wondered, should they learn to work with BPMN? Should they be aware of the BPMS industry and players within? Would practical experience with a BPM system be an added value for their future careers, or would it only limit their perspective on the role of IT in BPM? These were only some of the questions I had in mind while designing the course content. But one thing I was sure about was the importance of hands-on experience and real-life challenges, which proved to be right at the end.
The objectives of the course were pretty straightforward;
As they ran through concepts guided by a variety of teaching methods, such as games, simulations, and case studies, they also practiced what they learned on imaginary or real-life cases. But the jewel of the crown was the third week of the boot camp; where the students put their brand new consultancy hats on, and rounded up their sleeves to improve a current (and rather problematic) process of a real company (a.k.a. the Deep Dive Challenge)! The end result? They clearly saw how practical and operational BPM can be, as well as BPM projects’ strategic impact on the rest of the company.
It was very interesting to see the transformation of the students in this extensive learning journey. But they were not the only one learning - I also had very interesting observations worth sharing;
As professionals in the field, do you think these learning points hit the target? What else should we pay attention to? Are there certain skills that you wish your process managers learned in school? Please let me know! Or maybe you have an idea for the next edition of Deep Dive Challenge? Just drop me a line!
Boot Camps: tailor your Masters with our specialised courses
A Masters programme at Vlerick Business School is all about action-based learning. And even more so as from this academic year onwards. Masters students can tailor their programme to their specific interest via a 3-week specialised boot camp on a topic of their choice. Far from passive lectures, these boot camps are designed to immerse our students in the specifics of a well-defined concept domain. For three weeks, they will attend advanced classes, take part in in-depth exercises and apply your knowledge to real-life challenges.