Companies don't buy BPM software; they buy a solution to their problem.So as succinctly as possible, what problem does BPM solve?
But to be really good for business it should answer the question 'WHY' by making objectives, goals and targets transparent to performers. The problem of 'HOW' is then solved by the performers and BPM (ACM really) makes it transparent to management.
So BPM doesn't solve a problem, it can have problems. And all the tricks, methodologies, tools etc are solutions to make BPM better.
A more important question should be; what helps organizations to get the right level of grip on their processes. And then Scott's statement is true.
Organizations don't care about BPM, but they do care about their processes.
• To "IT" just maybe it might help understand how business really works
• To business it opens the door to "buy a solution to their problem"
• To users it will remove fear of asking for change
• To “third parties” it should improve the interactions as customers or suppliers
• To management it will contribute to a new model that empowers their people
These are all issues that need to be addressed by Enterprise Software indeed maybe long overdue …….?
The simple fact is that content is king, whether you are into digital rags, apps, or bpm implementations. Every day it is easier and easier to produce tools and the barriers to entry are getting lower and lower. But content is much different. Content is specific and it is based on experience. The last 5 years have allowed everyone and anyone to advance their toolkits quickly and easily. But the point is - every BPM player under the sun advanced their technology. It all looks better and is easier to use. So, from a competitive standpoint having a flashier tool today delivers almost no marginal advantage if we assume that all the tools got better.
Content is totally different. Content is something that is won slowly after years of working in an industry and figuring out the true needs of that industry. Content+BPM = Solution. This is what companies should be buying and BPM companies should be selling.
The other problem with toolkit selling is what I call the "Venture Capitalist Highlander Mantra" which clearly states that "In the end, there can be only one."
In summary not only should customers focus on buying solutions and not software/tools, but most BPM companies will also be better off if they focus on selling solutions instead of software.
BPM offers the potential, for the first time, of leveraging a single, configurable platform with which to address a large number of use cases. What's more, that same platform can be used to tie together solutions (BPM-driven and legacy) across the enterprise, clearing the way for a more integrated, comprehensive overall approach to meeting business needs.
When you are sick, the goal is not to buy medicine, the goal is to get well. Medicine might, or might not, help. You need to pick the right response to your particular situation. Snake oil is almost never the right response, but it is hard sometimes to know what is.
The assumption is that there are ways to make your business more efficient and more effective. That is the goal that businesses seek, and loosing sight of this goal may lead you to buying the software equivalent of snake oil.
Stepping back, I think there are three things businesses need to deal with in the "digital age," and BPM has answers for all of them:
BPM helps me engage my customers. This means ensuring when they ask for help, I hear them and and solve their problem. It means understanding that one size does not fit all, and I need to tailor the process, the conversation I have to each customer. BPM does this by ensuring that customer engagement becomes part of a larger process that can be tracked, tailored and optimized to ensure nothing falls through the cracks. BPM also helps engage customers simply by making things easier to do, which brings me to...
BPM helps me simplify my operations.This means taking an end-to-end approach processes, performing iterative process re-engineering, driving unnecessary costs out of the business. It also means making it easier for my employees by automating what I can automate, guiding what I can't and tracking manual work so I have visibility into operations. And simplifying processes makes customers happier, too!
BPM makes change a competitive advantage.Most businesses would tell you they can't change fast enough. Some of that is driven by leadership, strategy, corporate politics, but some of that is driven by rifts between IT and the Business, siloed systems, etc. BPM drives business and IT collaboration to roll out applications (and changes to applications, processes, etc.) faster than traditional programming.
1. Remove routine operations from experience workers thus liberating people for added-value creative work.
2. Make the joint work of the business and IT easier as both of them speak processes.
3. Speed up the improvement loop as no huge up-front efforts to define everything before the IT agree to start working.
4. Exploit the digital way of operating.
5. Have an enterprise as a system of executable processes thus reducing the level of undesired complexity.
"What problem does BPM solve?"
[i]BPM technology provides managers and technologists with a common language and vocabulary of work, instantiated in technology. With the use of[/i]
[i] BPM technology [/i]
[i]organizations can more rapidly and successful meet today's core work automation challenges . While all technology, by definition, is a force- and thought-multiplier for human effort, BPM technology is unique. Only [/i]
[i]BPM technology specifically concerns the work of business, i.e. where the concepts of work are first class citizens of that technology. [/i]
I had to repeat the question to myself because it would be so easy to define BPM technology, instead of the problem being solved. And it's a good question.
Here's the full argument. First, some Biz101 definitions:
[b]Organization[/b]": Which has goals, governance and resources (let's ignore inter-organizational processes) and which has as
[u]its focus a characteristic type of work[/u].
[b]Resources[/b]": The usual resources are employed in the work the organization: capital, labour, skill, commodities, components, energy, land, IP (possibly) etc.
[b]Management[/b]". Which is the exercise of the practices enabling governance, a coherent identity and the
[u]management of employed resources to perform the work required[/u]to achieve the organization's goals. Managers have two main strategies for success: be more efficient or do something different, i.e. change the business model. In a rapidly changing world, managers are under lots of pressure to do both.
[b]Technology[/b]": Artifacts and systems which are force multipliers. Including both production technology and information management technology and possibly IP. But in the broadest sense, also includes management practices and even human language.
Technology is a force multiplier for human strength and human mind. And software in particular enables humans to organize vastly greater enterprises than are possible with only language, pencils and paper. All software consists of inventories of tools which are useful to managers. The greater the capability of the software to help organize the work of the organization, the more useful that software technology.
Now let's get to the problem.
[b]General Business Problem[/b]": Do more with less. You might use ROI or an OEE metric. But basically how can an organization achieve more with less? Or if you want to change your business model, how can you do something new?
[b]Specific Business Problem[/b]": From custom apps to ERP to Cloud, all software is used by business managers to perform the characteristic work of business better. But all software is difficult and expensive to build, and more so to change. So, how can technology help one do more with less?
Now the answer.
[b]Long Answer[/b]": There is one category of technology that is specifically about the "work of business", and that is BPM software and BPM methodologies and practices. BPM is about making explicit a language and vocabulary that is about the repeatable processes that are at the core of organizations. All software aspires to supporting the work of business, but only BPM, by definition, is explicitly about the work of business. BPM is not just another technology.
[i]BPM technology provides managers and technologists with a common language and vocabulary of work automation, instantiated in technology. Organizations that use BPM can more rapidly and successful meet today's core work automation challenges.[/i]
As a technology BPM is not fully mature and BPM is a challenge to master. But the payoffs are significant and the effort is worthwhile.
As for solutions, certainly business likes to buy a solution. And a solution might be based on BPM. But they are two separate things.
Go back a generation and consider a "solution" to the need to keep track of millions of insurance contracts. The insurer needs a "solution". And the solution could be IMS-based or based on a new relational database from Oracle. in the technology business (both buy-side and sell-side) there is an irreducible responsibility for technology as such. The organization that stayed with hierarchical databases for too long paid a price in terms of business inflexibility.
The problem/answer suggestion here is compatible with most of the contributions; but the question is important and having a formal answer (which can also be disputed) is useful.
The quoted statement is valid for pretty much everything we buy for a need. We are always delusional when we buy a product, ending up customizing a lot of that product in order to get a fully rounded experience / solution. We need (and we are marketed) a solution, but in most cases we just buy a tool.
Likewise, every BPMS vendor will feed you successful use cases, RoI calculations, CTO testimonials, speed-to-market improvement ratios etc etc. Always forgetting to mention how much the customer had to bear to make that BPMS initiative successful: additional consulting / licensing / hardware / development, trial-end-error costs, organizational distractions, opportunity costs etc.
This will always be the case, especially with BPMS (no process is standard enough to warrant immediate re-application) - this is a clear shamrock organization example (with the customer as the fourth leaf).
But the key to a BPMS package success story is how much of that customer contribution to the final solution can be made productive, frictionless, and fun. Because the final solution will always include the customer experience, even if it's not an explicit implementation goal.
I agree it is on both our shoulders to make that clear.
Vendors and Customers alike should be transparent with business cases.
- George Chast
- 2 years ago
But my concern is that there's something missing. A visitor from Mars reading the forum comments -- and indeed comments anywhere -- about BPM, could be forgiven for thinking that "BPM is just another flavour of technology available to business".
And that's a mistake. As I mentioned in my note here, "BPM is THE technology concerning the work of business". Expressed specifically about BPM software technology, BPM software can be the core of business technology, ("can be", because its full potential is not yet realized).
All other technologies can be expressed in terms of their relationship to BPM. For example, ERP is a collection of business processes (the BPM part), plus data structures, logic and human interfaces. But processes are central, because they are the technological corollaries of the human work for which the organization is constructed. To take another example, decision tables and BRM are very important technologies; just not as centrally important as BPM.
*** Organizing work is a central problem of business. BPM is the common technical language used for organizing work. And as with technology generally, the use of BPM enables dramatic improvements in organizing work. ***
So, if having the best processes is the desired outcome, how do you do that? Well, one way you start is by defining the process, making it explicit, and attaching a label to it. You also visualize it, and associate metrics with it so that you can measure it.
Where this is leading, is to optimizing your processes. BPM, in and of itself, has limited value. But BPM used as part of a strategy for continual improvement, business process optimization, and organizational learning, is a key element of achieving a competitive advantage.
However, the risk an organization faces is the possibility of being to rigid with their processes. If the key is improvement, then you have to realize that, for a thing to improve, the thing has to change. So the goal here is not to define a bunch of processes, express them with BPMN2 on a server, and then walk away leaving them to run. No, that's actually almost the exact opposite of what should be done.
Processes need flexibility, they need the ability to change, and they need a human element. Otherwise, they won't improve, and they'll lock your firm into outdated policy decisions that don't make sense, and inhibit your ability to react to events in real-time.
I can't speak for others, but when I talk about "Social BPM", this is basically what I'm referring to. Putting the humans "in the loop" in a way that lets machines (workflow servers, web services, rules engines, etc.) do what they're good at, while allowing the human operators to fine tune things, and make tweaks and adjustments to compensate for unexpected situations.
In stage 1 they thought of reducing waste and solving problems.
But there were three higher levels.
A truly mature company balanced all four.
So my question to you Peter is "Why is BPM all about solving problems?"
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BPM projects serve mostly to reduce the chaos and set some order in the business live of an organization. As well as the cost of chaos is significant. Not only burned man hours. Bad decisions, lack of decisions, higher external operational costs.
BPM provides guidelines, in respect of the performance of work. Workflow management with BPM and Adaptive Case Management yields improved efficiency, decreased errors, increased throughput, improved compliance with internal and external rules and regulations, setting the stage for improved outcomes.
BPM improves operational excellence. Any company that would like to achieve operational excellence to get a competitive advantage will get a benefit from BPM approach. BPM is a key factor for business success in current dynamic and competitive environment. Of course, there are some challenges to adopting it right. Otherwise, BPM approach will fail to meet a high expectation for it. Success with BPM occurs, when organizations well align the people, process, and technology, roll out templates of best practices and encourage staff to use them, well balance standardization and creativity, management practices and governance discipline.
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