One of the big issues with traditional BPM software is just too expensive, or the cheaper stuff requires just too much custom software development to be appealing to mid-sized businesses. BPM tries to be 'everything to everybody', rather than 'enough for you'. It is impossible to build a generic suite that doesn't need a huge investment in custom software development to glue it together in any way you want.
Want to know the dirty little secret that really proves this point? If it was truly easy to deploy BPM, why is it so rare for BPM vendors to install their own software in-house. Is it too big and complex for what they really need, and they can't free up the resources to do the work? Or maybe it doesn't offer them the value to justify the effort?
Brian Reale has an article on ebizQ today that talks about business process improvement, or workflow, from an SMB perspective, and his thoughts mirror mine:
Every business manager instinctively knows which processes are inefficient, and probably has a vision of how they ought to work in an ideal world. But there's also a sense that a lot of effort would be required to make this happen. Three-letter acronyms such as 'BPM' recall other three-letter acronyms, such as ‘ERP’, conjuring up unappealing thoughts of expensive, months-long implementation projects.
Brian goes on to list six items that are important points to pay attention to when selecting a product for your new workflow implementations. I do feel that these are very much centered on what his open source product offers, though we all skew our writing to our products, so he is forgiven for a couple of the points. The two that I can really buy into though are these:
1) Flexibility. Choose a tool that lets you create the documents and processes that you need, rather than one that requires you to change your ways to fit with what it provides. For example, does it let you create, edit and format your own forms, or does it just provide standard forms templates?If these truly are features of his product he has picked well, as I believe they are essential for SMBs, so companies don't have to spend more on implementation than the product itself. Also, Brian's points do help to guide buyers away from Big Blue's, 'this is not really an IBM product, so don't run away' web-based offerings; and the other enterprise software vendors out there doing the same thing with infrastructure products with a little lipstick.
4) Ease of Use. A workflow automation tool should not require specialist technical skills to operate. Look for one that’s easy and intuitive to use and that can get you up and running quickly without extensive user training. If it’s a web-based tool, make sure it’s properly architected for a web environment, and not just an old client/server package with a web front end. Check that help and support are easily obtainable.
I have been working on some similar concepts for a product that is inherently easy to get up and running. Consected is an online (SaaS) system that helps businesses of any size to run and automate workflows and business processes that help their employees to improve the way they deliver, organize, find and escalate work without requiring a complex software to be developed or installed.
Consected, and Brian's company, Colosa, have similar aims for their customers. Ease of use, flexibility and a cost that can be stomached by SMBs. Beyond that, I'm sure we are very different, but that's a good thing. There is room for everyone in the vast SMB market that the traditional vendors choose to ignore.
A post from the Improving It blog
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