Sunday, October 07, 2007

Don't forget about the real end-users of BPM

BPM is obviously very much about process, but I feel that obsessive focus on the process model reinforces an abstract view of the business that misses a large part of the story. BPM software vendors are guilty of producing BPM suites that reinforce this view. They present their systems from how pretty and easy to use their process modeling tools are, and how multiple process analysts can work on a process simultaneously - treating the analyst as the primary end-user.

The reality is that the handful of process analysts are not the most important end-users of BPM software - the primary end-user is the business user that participates in the process to do his or her job and contributes to the success of the organization's critical operations day in, day out. Why do BPM vendors rarely focus on the hundreds of 'true' end-users?

BPM software often sells exclusively to business analysts. Analysts rightly need tools that facilitate the design of effective processes. And building pretty design tools is a sure way of selling software. After all, just like buying a car, most business analysts should be expected to go for tools that appear powerful and have a nice shine.

A true business application design platform concentrates on the business end-users first: what will they see, what documents do they use and create, what other sources of information do they access and what tasks do they perform? Process is obviously core, and often represents an orderly structure that many of these other things hang off of. With a platform that only focuses on process, rather than providing a framework for actually running all components of critical business applications (including business process) an organization is left to build a whole lot of technical infrastructure from scratch. This leaves the business users depending on applications that are limited by the skill of an organization's masses of software developers.

Now don't get me wrong, clean and accurate process design is an essential component of effective business applications. But failing to provide the equivalent focus on the sharp end, the actual execution of the newly perfected processes inside a meaningful business application can leave an organization trusting its critical operations to software that is more worried about 10 process analysts than 1000 concurrent users.

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A post from the Improving New Account Opening blog