Business Process Management (BPM) is a management discipline that involves modeling, automating, managing, monitoring and optimizing business processes as a means of increasing profitability. As the definition implies, it is a highly complex undertaking. Not all processes – particularly those that are unpredictable or unstructured in nature – lend themselves well to being managed within software specifically created for this purpose. Business processes that are highly standardized, repetitive or regulated, however, are well suited to it.
BPM software is not a plug-and-play product you can find on the shelf at your local computer store. It requires a fairly rigorous evaluation across a wide front of concerns and issues to determine which solutions will work best for an organization and its processes.
Even before a budget is established, it is important to lay the groundwork with strategic BPM considerations. Evaluating whether the organization is ready for process automation is important, and within that context, setting and communicating goals that BPM software is intended to help the organization achieve is essential. This is an exercise that will help management avoid getting caught up in software features that are more “cool” than relevant.
Internal due diligence should also extend to understand how BPM can be expected to evolve in response to the business’ own adaptations to changes in the market and economic environment. A system whose features will seem outdated in a few years is not going to sufficiently serve the organization’s needs.
These measures promoting internal readiness will help ensure buy-in for the BPM investment by senior management. This is necessary not just at the front end of the project, but on an ongoing basis because of the importance in gaining support from above and guiding the BPM initiative for the long haul.
Not all BPM software solutions are the same. Some are more data-centric and integration-oriented. Others are data-centric and workflow-oriented. Still others are content-centric and workflow oriented.
In evaluating the options, it’s best to weigh against such criteria as “fit” with the organization’s particular business process type, the level of integration it enables, performance management capabilities and how well it meets traditional IT values of supplier/software maturity and fit.
It also helps to understand the considerations that help shape BPM software, and how well these factors meet your organization’s needs. In addition to the data or content orientation and integration requirements, these considerations include transaction recovery requirements, scalabilty and flow requirements.
A host of issues comes into play around influences that play into the software purchase decision. These translate into specific pitfalls to be avoided, if at all possible. An obvious one is price. For the most part, you do get what you pay for, and if you let the lowest price dictate your decision, performance may suffer.
Regarding the vendor, brands are important. As the axiom goes, no one ever did get fired for buying IBM. Software, however, is not the same as consumer goods, and brand names matter less in this world, no matter how safe that makes the decision. Best to look at vendors that can meet your specific technical requirements and that have expertise in your industry or business sector. Always take customer service and support into consideration as well.
By the same token, don’t base your vendor relationship on your programmers’ wishes. Giving your business analysts a heightened degree of power is the idea behind the BPM software purchase to begin with, so it can be dangerous to bypass their recommendations in favor of internal programmers’.
The world of BPM software is one marked by variety in types of processes addressed, modeling skills required, integration capabilities and performance management features. Since marketing tends to leave them all seemingly differentiated, you must weigh the options against a thorough evaluation of your specific needs.