Posted by: Adam Deane | 22/11/2010

BPM Outside-In: Off with her head

BPM Outside-In‘What do you know about Business Process Management disciplines?’ the King said to Alice.

‘Nothing,’ said Alice.

‘Nothing whatever?’ persisted the King.

‘Nothing whatever,’ said Alice. Except for “Outside-In

‘Inside-Out is very important,’ the King said, turning to the jury. They were just beginning to write this down on their slates, when the White Rabbit interrupted:
‘Outside-In, your Majesty means, of course,’ he said in a very respectful tone.

‘Of course I meant Outside-In,’ the King hastily said, and went on to himself in an undertone, ‘ Outside-In – Inside-Out — Outside-In — Inside-Out –‘ as if he were trying which word combination sounded best.

Some of the jury wrote down ‘Outside-In,’ and some ‘ Inside-Out.’ Alice could see this, as she was near enough to look over their slates; ‘but it doesn’t matter a bit,’ she thought to herself.

At this moment the King, who had been for some time busily writing in his note-book, cackled out ‘Silence!’ and read out from his book, ‘Rule Forty-two. All processes must be customer centric.’

Everybody looked at Alice.

‘My processes are customer centric,’ said Alice.

‘They are not!’ said the King.

‘Not, Not, Definitely not, not customer centric !’ added the Rabbit.

‘Well, I think they are,’ said Alice: ‘besides, that’s not a regular rule: you invented it just now.’

‘It’s the oldest rule in the book,’ said the King.

‘Then it ought to be Number One,’ said Alice.

The King turned pale, and shut his note-book hastily. ‘Consider your verdict,’ he said to the jury, in a low, trembling voice.

‘There’s more evidence to come yet, please your Majesty,’ said the White Rabbit, jumping up in a great hurry; ‘this workflow design has just been picked up.’

‘Read it,’ said the King.

The White Rabbit put on his spectacles. ‘Where shall I begin, please your Majesty?’ he asked.

‘Begin at the beginning,’ the King said gravely, ‘and go on till you come to the end: then stop.’

The Rabbit pulled his spectacles down to make him look more important, then read: ‘An employee fills in a holiday request, the manager reviews and approves it. The HR manager reviews and approves it and then the system deducts the number of days from the employee’s annual leave.’ said the rabbit turning the workflow design upwards and downwards.

No customer in the workflow! exclaimed the King. It’s not Outside-In compliant!

There was a general clapping of hands at this: it was the first really clever thing the King had said that day.

‘That PROVES her guilt,’ said the Queen in a deep voice.

‘It proves nothing of the sort!’ said Alice. ‘Why, you don’t even know what it’s about!’
‘Not all of the organisation’s business processes are customer related. Some are internal processes, some are required by law, and some are interactions with internal systems.

‘Making everything customer experience oriented is not always good for the customer.
Investing in great customer support desk processes instead of investing in QA processes might make customers happy in the short term, but will cause them grief in the long term’ said Alice.

‘That said, I agree that when you are designing business processes you should always think of the customer – the end result, it’s just common sense’ said Alice waving her arms out.

‘No, no!’ said the Queen. ‘Design the customer first – Process afterwards.’

‘Stuff and nonsense!’ said Alice loudly. ‘The idea of designing the customer first!’

‘Hold your tongue!’ said the Queen, turning purple.

‘I won’t!’ said Alice.

‘Off with her head !!!’ the Queen shouted at the top of her voice.


  1. Hilarious!

    Note: While it may not be Outside-In, there is ALWAYS a ‘customer’ whose perception defines the quality of the process. And no, ‘customers’ do not always use common sense when they judge it. Often expectations are more important than common sense. Furthermore, ALL processes have compliance rules, law or otherwise. And all processes must have goals. When you start from goals the direction from which to look at the process becomes irrelevant.

    Thanks, keep it up! Max

  2. It is an interesting story, with Alice really hitting it as she saw the jurors write, and thought it didn’t really matter. Outside in or Inside out, it is a matter of how you view it. In the case of the employee and vacation he/she is the customer requesting time the company has granted in its commitment to this employee. Every process has customers within the process, not necessarily the end customer. Every process should be minimized of waste the customer is not willing to pay for.

    • “Every process has customers within the process, not necessarily the end customer.”


  3. Ahem, ok. One simple point that you might have overlooked: if the company had no customers, would the “internal” processes still exist?


    • Hi Craig,

      As I understand from reading the Outside-In literature, employees are also “customers” (they are customers of the internal processes)


      • Adam – where did you see that?

        True outside-in seeks to align processes with the true (end) customer, although for some immature organisations this is a stretch so there is sometimes a two step process applied using internal customers as the customer – but this is NOT the recommended approach.

  4. Hi Adam,

    Alice in Wonderland is the right place for this topic.

    Nice fairy tale.



    • It’s only a wonderland for the inside-out dinosaurs – there are many of us delivering great value to our customers by taking an outside-in approach.

  5. Hi Adam,

    As a response to this, please refer to my post at:



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