Are You Ready for Sustainable BPM?

  • January 26, 2011
  • Scott

Forrester is running a survey that is about to close, that attempts to determine how many organizations are ready for sustainable BPM Change.  The preliminary conclusions are, unsurprisingly, that the majority of organizations are NOT ready for sustainable BPM Change:

To date, 124 business process pros have kindly answered my survey. My conclusion? The majority of organizations are not ready for sustainable BPM change. A few data points supporting this:

  • 63% of participants view business process change as a strategy to implement cross-functional optimization through common best practices, standards, and shared insights.
  • In 52% of the surveyed organizations, business process change initiatives pursue different objectives and are executed without coordination.
  • 59% of participants admit that most business process change projects are measured through project timeliness and budget, but only some provide operational measures.
  • Only 34% of the organizations apply architecture frameworks for business processes, insight, and decision-making to help structure and prioritize business process change targets.

I’m not arguing with the conclusions – I don’t have enough data points to do so.  However, I’ll say this:  you’re not ready for Sustainable BPM Change until you are.  In other words, get to work. Figure it out.  Start aligning your organization around BPM and the change it incurs.  But if you put off BPM until you’re ready, you never will be.  Show some leadership.

I’ll relate one of our early BPM projects at BP3.  We did an assessment for a customer as to their BPM readiness.  Our assessment found them wanting – quite a few things for the customer to address before they were “ready” for BPM.  They went ahead and got started on their BPM projects despite the lack of “readiness.”  Lo and Behold, three years later they had taken 10 processes to production, with good ROI on the whole program.  So what happened?

Well, first, they didn’t give up on the basis of the analysis.  They treated the gaps as areas of improvement, and got started on the project-level.  They created a lot of value for the company, developed internal skills, improved their customer service. They beat the odds by creating a small, cross-functional, focused team – and aligning them with business value.

But there was two gaps that they weren’t able to close:  the first was convincing senior IT leadership to treat BPM differently from other IT applications; the second was convincing the business to continue to own BPM beyond the “pilot” stage where it had resided for 3 years.  When BPM went over to IT, and the business stopped owning it, IT management wasn’t interested in BPM, per se – just in managing the applications that were running on top of a BPM platform.

So – one could view this as a failure of BPM to take root.  Or one could view it as planting the seeds of future success.  Either way, the company achieved a lot of return on investment across a series of processes.  Had they deferred starting on BPM, they would have left a lot of money on the table, and sacrificed a lot of customer satisfaction in their customer service processes. (Or, they would have had to try to achieve those objectives without the aid of a BPMS.  )

Ready or not, our recommendation is to get started.  Sometimes the journey is the destination.

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  • Ian Gotts

    Great analysis. Just get started. So the question is which process to start with. Some would say “The one with the biggest problems” but that is too high profile and probably is too big a challenge. You need an early success. So pick something which people care about and will make a difference. One ideas is “On boarding new staff”. Self contained. Normally a basket-case…. How many people get their business card, laptop, phone and induction plan on Day 1 that they join? Day 5, Day 15.

    Final point. The only place process automation is ahead of process mapping is in the dictionary. So map it out first before you let IT try to automate it.

    • Ian, thanks for sharing! And yes, choosing the process to start with is tough. I’m a believer in picking something that matters, but not trying to “pick the hardest possible problem first” 🙂 if you pick a process no one cares about, even if you win, you lose (because no one cares if your solution was successful).

      For some businesses, employee onboarding is critical (or customer onboarding). For other businesses it may be important but it isn’t considered a critical problem.