BPM: Pulling the threads together....

I was reading a couple of different BPM articles recently with fairly contrasting topics and it occurred to me that they were effectively trying to say a similar thing in different ways.

The first article was from Earth Times (via Sandy Kemsley from Column 2) which said "An April 2009 survey of 781 business, government and IT managers revealed that just 15% of respondents in organizations that have implemented Business Process Management (BPM) systems say that worker productivity increased more than 50%." The second article from IT-Director.com quoted Terry Schurter at Hydrasight saying that "Hydrasight believes BPMS vendors have previously failed to deliver on their promise because of product complexities, system interdependencies and limited capability to address the needs and expectations of business users. As a result, many of the purported benefits of BPMS solutions remain unsubstantiated and unrealised."

Effectively the first article was saying that the implementations haven't been as succesful in reaching their objectives as was desired and the second article was saying that there are extenuating circumstances with the vendors about why they aren't able to deliver on their promises. The Earth Times article quotes a survey as saying that 86% of end users of BPM applications often or occasionally design their own workarounds due to system inefficiencies. 86% ! The same survey quotes that almost 30% of end users are not involved in the improvement of their processes and supporting systems. I think these two figures are connected.

Personally I think this all links back to a comment made by Dennis Parker of K2 in a recent interview I held with him. According to Dennis "Evolution of model-based execution technology is at a very early stage in its life cycle". By this he means that the whole BPM(s) market is still immature with regard to what it could do and how it could do it. I think this manifests itself in the following ways: The standards needed to make this happen are not yet fully mature. The functionality that users expect to be able to have in a software is not always there and - most importantly - the BPMS vendors still see themselves as technicians providing a technical solution for the business rather than busines partners providing a business solution (although this is still starting to change). There is a very real need for proper user driven BPMS solutions rather than psuedo-end user ones. This will ensure better buy-in from your end users as well as less need to create workarounds to make the system function.

If we follow Dennis's thinking this is probably another 5 to 10 years away. In the meantime we can probably expect more depressing surveys telling us that BPM doesn't work and we aren't getting the benefit.

On the brighter side Global 360 (who commissioned the survey mentioned above) did - through a post from Jim Sinur (ex-Gartner and now back at Gartner) - also say that process is free. I align with that theory and stick by Jim's assertions. But he does say in his post that 'well scoped BPM projects approach a 15% internal rate of return'. That's not too shabby, I feel.

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