Thursday, December 09, 2010

You can't build BPM

The BPM forum on ebizQ today asks:
A question from this blog, What's Better - Building a BPM Solution or Buying One? and an important question for companies looking to take the BPM leap. And what metrics should they use to make the decision?

Build or buy will be driven ultimately by the preferences of the organization. 

1) completely tailored, business wide processes
2) solving specific business problems

If you need #1, then almost certainly you'll be buying an enterprise BPM suite, and building a lot of integration into your environment. BPM software is really a set of repeatable building blocks, made general enough to match common requirements for many business processes, not just those of one business. Therefore it seems hard to envisage building a BPM internally. Really what a business should be doing if it is looking at building software is using BPM methodologies alongside other requirements analysis approaches, and building just what is needed to make the solutions work in practice and make them maintainable in the future.

Smaller companies can do a lot more, since they are less likely to be driven by technological ego. There are many SaaS solutions that solve #2, common business problems, without building anything or even designing and 'configuring' new business processes. For example, why bother creating a travel expenses process from scratch, when there are many SaaS solutions available off the shelf? 

When custom processes are absolutely necessary for SMBs, an enterprise BPMS is not going to be a good fit. Even the software vendors don't use their own software, due to its complexity and cost to implement ( see my blog post about a dirty little secret )

Finally, a guarantee of success should be something you can measure. Building anything adds risk to this equation. If the solution is the right size for the problem, there should be an ROI up front, which you can balance against the risk of build-or-buy. Soft benefits alone, like customer service improvements, does not make an investment invalid, just harder to justify ( see a quick animation that explains this from the perspective of the value chain ).

Build or buy of BPM is not the question. Companies should be asking themselves where their problems are and the fastest and best ROI for fixing them.

A post from the Improving It blog
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