Why We Need Pure Play BPM Consulting Firms

  • March 31, 2010
  • Scott
  • 15 Comments

Preamble

With the thinning of the herd of Pure Play BPM software vendors, and with the energies of firms like Oracle and IBM behind BPM, I think two predictions we can reasonably make are:

  1. BPM software will be pervasive (or pervasively available).  IBM, Oracle, Pega, Progress, Software AG – they’re all going to move a lot of BPM software.  And of course it looks like open source offerings are going to be more prevalent as well.
  2. BPM software is going to get better – either because the big stack vendors invest in the new products they’ve acquired, or because the remaining pure play vendors continue to innovate at a faster pace and grow, or because open source solutions will lift the bar for the minimum requirements that all the BPM software suites have to match.

Why Pure Play BPM Consulting?

But the other prediction we can make, is that there is a growing need for specialty BPM consulting firms – or, dare we say it, “pure play” BPM firms.  These BPM consulting firms are all about BPM – and not about being all things to all people. Nearly all of the points I’ll make about BPM pure play service firms likely apply to pure play services firms in other market segments.  The advantages:

  • They really “get it” with BPM – and they’re willing to explain it to customers, they even evangelize to people who might never be customers.
  • They’re really invested in understanding the BPM space – which pays dividends over time. Their staff don’t go from BPM project to integration project to database architecture project – they’re transitioning from BPM project to BPM project. It takes time and patience to develop a deep practice in BPM, and it takes time to develop a deep bench in any services business.
  • The right methodology and tactics to get BPM projects successfully deployed. And after all, success is what we’re after…
  • Really deep expertise on at least one BPM software suite – every product suite has its own strengths and weaknesses and you want staff that knows what those are before they start your project.
  • Process improvement staff, that understands how to marry improvement methodology to BPM Software.
  • They are “high touch” – high quality, long-term relationships with customers are more important than chasing the next shiny deal, because they’re not selling software…
  • Experience, quality, focus, and vision. Not volume.

Pure Play BPM consulting firms also fill the void left by pure play BPM software companies being purchased by the Big Software companies of our day – previously these pure play firms had staff focused on BPM alone, but now that they’re part of a bigger machine, focus will be diluted within a much much bigger team.

It’s hard to imagine the big guys matching this focus – not that they can’t afford to, but just because they have so many customers, and so many products, and so many people, that they’ll always depend on specialists (pure plays, if you will) to augment their teams of business and technology generalists.  These general purpose consulting, outsourcing, and off-shoring firms just don’t bring the BPM-specific focus to the table.  As such, customers will continue to need pure play service providers to bring that depth of experience and focus to the table.

Requirements Risk

The BPM Pure Play consulting firms know that you can’t throw requirements over the wall to 50 guys offshore to build the software to meet those requirements.  That’s very old-school separation of responsibilities, but it is based on a lack of trust between the parties – requirements have to be thoroughly specified before anyone can start working – and all the work has to be exactingly matching the requirements or it isn’t accepted.  Keep in mind that the biggest risk to any project is that the requirements are wrong; any methodology that puts off finding out the bad news is going to increase risk.

As my friend and colleague John Reynolds pointed out in the comments on my previous post, so much of this is about Trust.  The pure play firms understand how to build that trust with the business by building the solution in the same room, and doing frequent playbacks of the results of their labor.  Iterations and Accountability are the watch-words of these engagements. It doesn’t take 50 people to get the process right, it takes just a few of the right people in the room, and they have to be brave enough to hear the feedback of the business on a daily or weekly basis, and then course-adjust.

Prioritizing

Another issue: the big firms don’t know what they are not.  They’re trying to provide any service their customer needs. Pure play BPM services firms don’t need to increase their own footprint on the project by capturing non-BPM work, because the universe of BPM consulting work is already so much bigger than their ability to capture that business.  Sure, an increased budget will be good for the bottom line of any services company.  But a pure play services firm can be relied upon to turn down work that isn’t in their sweet spot – or at least to advise you that you are asking the firm to take on work that isn’t their strong suit.  Pure play services firms (not just in the BPM ecosystem) can afford to turn down work because they know what they are, and more importantly, what they are not.

Where did we get these crazy ideas?

These aren’t revolutionary ideas – they’re well known and understood and tested in industry as best practice (and not just for BPM projects).  But the general firms just can’t adjust from a world of 100+ person projects to a world of smaller, independently motivated teams engaging in highly value-added projects that act independently – it just isn’t part of their business model.

The BPM Pure Play service firms are the tips of the spears in a sense – the vanguard of experts that increase your odds as a customer of punching through the inertia and hitting the target of success we’re all aiming for.  The BPM ecosystem needs that ability to cut through the noise and focus on what matters most.

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