Tuesday, June 29, 2010

BPM taking off should not be about software vendor profit

If you have ever followed a Group on LinkedIn, you'll recognize that most of the discussions fail to pick up steam. A few people drop by, lob in their short comment to try and get noticed, then step away again. The discussion Why do you think BPM could not take off like ERP or CRM? apparently caught some attention. Its up at 80 comments, the vast majority well thought out and directed from individual opinions that are not just shameless plugs selling a product. Beyond its size, the discussion is interesting since it highlights the follow points:
  • There is little agreement on whether BPM is a management methodology, a class of software, or just a bunch of marketing garbage
  • The methodology people and software people can not accept that the other side has a right to exist
  • BPM as a software is too complex, expensive, and lacking in appeal to CxOs to ever be as successful as ERP or CRM
  • Success seems to be measured by the amount of profit the software vendors make, rather than the positive impact on a business
For most businesses, there is room to organize information, processes and people better. There is a need to keep client files electronically, relying less on paper and making savings on printing, copying,filing and offsite storage. There is a need to be able to simplify and control repeatable business processes, so that they take less time and less brain-power to complete, reducing the cost and number of errors. And there is a need to make it easier to track work that is not necessarily repeatable, but is easy to lose inside email inboxes. In short, with well thought out BPM, businesses can do more work, more accurately, with fewer errors, happier customers at a lower total cost.

This is what my kind of business process management would solve. Either the guy holding the purse strings gets the value of what is offered, or he moves on. No need for constant bickering between vendors that their spin on a product is better. The software and methodology says what it will do, without a vast education of needs. I like that form of business process management.

A post from the Improving It blog
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Anonymous said...

"BPM as a software is too complex, expensive, and lacking in appeal to CxOs to ever be as successful as ERP or CRM".

Are you saying that ERP is less complex and less expensive to implement than BPM?

Phil Ayres said...

Not at all. Through the 80 comments on the linkedIn discussion, there is a consensus that BPM technology (and vendors) fails to communicate effectively its true value. ERM and CRM started out much more targeted in the problems they could solve for a business, and the vendors pushing them made huge successful businesses around them.

BPM (technology and methodology) is complex, though at times overly so. I'll leave implementing a full ERP system to the guys that are smart enough to tinker around with the guts of backoffice business. As Pegasystems have shown, there is a real link between CRM and BPM, so maybe we'll see more of that in the future.

Anonymous said...

BPM as a discipline is used by the business folk. BPMS (the tools) have evolved into tools for the technical folk - that is where I see the real disconnect.

Technical folks like complex powerful tools that take into account every possible scenario - even though they almost never happen in the real world. Business folks would prefer simpler less complex "good-enough" technology that they have control over (that is why email and documents are the pervasive "tooling" used by most folks for BPM).

For BPMS (the tools) to be really successful - it will need to bridge this gap.

Jacob Ukelson - CTO ActionBase

JacobU said...

BPM is the methodology used by the business folks. BPMS (the tools) have evolved into tools for the technical folks – and therein lies the disconnect.

Technical folks like complex, fully featured tools that take into account every possible scenario, even though it may rarely happen in the real world.

Business folks like simple “good enough” tools that are under their control (that is why most BPM is done using Outlook and Office).
For BPMS (the tool) to really take off, it will need to bridge that gap.

Jacob Ukelson – CTO ActionBase

Phil Ayres said...

Jacob, I agree with you that there is a big gap to be bridged.

Where I don't (personally) get hung up is with the acronyms assigned - a BPMS for example is a Business Process Management Suite. Most businesses do not need a suite of software to improve the way they organize their legal information or pay travel expenses. They just need some level software to help guide a repeatable structured process. And in my opinion that software needs the flexibility to adapt when the all-too-common exceptions arise.

BPMS, BPM, ACM (adaptive case management, the new big buzz term) are just tools and ways to help businesses work better. Checking the RFP checklist rarely helps the business perform better, serve customers better, and so on.