As Maria Paz wrote in this forum discussion: "Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), on the other hand, don’t take so much advantage of the BPM discipline. But in order to grow and develop, SMEs need to organize their processes. And that is why in my opinion BPM will have an increasing role for them." So what do you think holds SMEs back from fully exploiting BPM?
Going too small.
Smaller companies may be too timid, and dip their toes in the pool with a lower value project or an inadequate investment.
Both are worse than doing nothing.
my advice would be to put BPM observational practices into place, observe the bleeding and opportunity cost of *not* doing things the right way, then using that information to justify an appropriate investment with a reputable partner.
Need, time and $$$.
Until an SME is 200-300 people they can get by with core applications and informal networks - unless they are in a regulated industry where they need clearly defined, documented and controlled processes. Arguably every company needs these, but SMEs have other priorities - like staying alive.
A BPM initiative is a major, long term change project, so that drives everything.
Need: The company needs to recognise the extreme pain of not doing it. SMEs don't have the bandwidth for multiple change programmes. BPM need to be THE change program.
TIme: Giving it to someone to project manage who also has a full time job won't work. So you need a dedicated project manager at a minimum. Line staff will need to give up time to work part time on the project.
$$$: The BPM software applications were too expensive, but now there are cloud vendors emerging (and about to launch) that are offering affordable software and breaking the stranglehold of the big "pay $m's up front" vendors.
Money is of course a factor, but SMBs do spend on things they consider important. The good news is that cloud delivery can put sophisticated BPM solutions within the financial reach of even relatively small businesses. The bad news is that some of these "inexpensive" cloud options have high minimum user counts or other constraints that make them not nearly the bargain they seem. So a big challenge for SMB execs is to find right-sized BPM solutions that address their immediate needs with plenty of scalability and horsepower to grow along with their business. Those offerings exist, but SMB CIOs may have to be willing to go beyond their usual menu of IT vendors to find them.
First of all, I would like to thank Peter for his interest in my answer.
In a recent post in my blog I analyzed precisely this issue and asked myself: What do SMEs need to massively automate their business processes?
Smaller companies face several challenges when it comes to implementing BPM.
But most of the fall into one of these categories:
Given that BPM is such an important area when it comes to growing a business, it's really important to know how to deal with each of these obstacles. So we developed a formula to do so and it is available to download for free.
Fear it is another "IT" project which will not deliver on promises? Well let's face it early BPM solutions followed that track. As many have mentioned cost is also a significant factor.
So the challenge is now getting the message over to a large audience that this BPM approach has moved on placing the business as the driver not IT and much can be achieved at significantly lower cost than old IT projects.
They need not be big projects and once the business owners understands how it works in their language with support for rapid change then a new journey begins that will spread across the business with enthusiasm from users.
Very good question, and very good answers. And really, if BPM is so great, shouldn't it be great for everyone?
Apparently @Maria may have been the trigger for the original question. And apparently @Maria makes reference elsewhere to "massive Business Process Management (BPM) adoption" for SME. Wow! For the record, I think this is great and more power to any organization that can achieve this. @Maria's indirected post includes a reference to "consultants", and I think the role of the consultant is key.
Specifically, I believe that SMB adoption of BPM technology is dependent on a growing ecosystem of boutique BPM consultants.
In more detail: Similar to accounting, an SMB company will have clerical and bookkeeping staff and a CFO. But deeper accounting analysis and policy making will involve an outside accounting specialist with a professional designation. I believe that in the same way, over time as BPM is adopted more widely, that we will see "boutique BPM specialists" establish long-term relationships with organizations of any size, including SMB.
And unlike the staff practices of firms providing commodity IT services (e.g. database management, event SOA programming), where it doesn't matter so much that the same programmers is shopped down the street to a competitor, BPM consulting will be different. Because BPM is really about the "crown jewels" of organizational practices, trust between provider and client is extremely important. You don't shop the crown jewels. And thus the opportunity for long-term symbiotic relationships.
I believe that some VARs -- suffering for over a decade now by terrible margins -- but with some business sector knowledge -- may have the opportunity to evolve into boutique BPM services provider (and including also business rules, event processing knowledge, etc. etc.) I'm already familiar with several such examples and I think they provide a possible model for some organizations. Whether BPM consultants maintain a distinctive identity separate from accounting service providers is another question.
Both BPM and accounting are (a) essential to business operations, (b) the management of which are critical determinants of organizational success and (c) deep bodies of knowledge which cannot be maintained on their own in most organizations.
I find interesting thoughts in previous posts, but I must disagree with some of them. Where is it said that BPM is NOT for SMEs? It is not. But it happens? Well, yes.
But, let’s reframe the problem. Given that SME’s are more than 90% of all private companies in the world, I’d like to change the question to: How do we make it easy for SME’s to adopt BPM? The post and formula from Maria Paz address that.
Another example, in Latin America, more than 95% of the private companies are SME’s with less than 300 employees, and they are the target market of our company, INTEGRADOC(and yes, they buy BPM solutions :)
I do agree with Emiel, several SMEs, especially the ones that are doing it right and growing, are experimenting with BPM, but maybe implicitly. I am sure that they could get even more value if they explicitly adopt the discipline, identify, automate and measure their processes.
In sum, being a SME is hard, you have to compete and survive before thinking of BPM? Well, I believe that if you are a SME, you have to think in BPM to compete and survive. And yes, there are emerging technologies to democratize BPM.
Sure Patrick about $$$$, but how to overcome this barrier? Let us see at the BPM implementation cost structure:
- convincing company management -> $$$ (unique consulting)
- process culture -> $$$ (unique consulting)
- CAPEX -> $$ (in-premises) or $ (in-cloud)
- OPEX -> $$ (in-premises) or $ (in-cloud)
- new way of working for the whole IT department-> $$$ (unique consulting)
- first few projects -> $$ each (consulting)
- next project -> $ each
- business + application + information + infrastructure architectures impact -> $$$ (unique consulting)
Reducing “number” of $$$ (thus expanding the BPM penetration) is possible by
1. standardisation of BPM tools,
2. harmonization of BPM practices,
3. offering ready-to-use-or-adapt process patterns/fragments.
I'm late to the party on this one, apologies.
I'm noticing in the responses above an implicit assumption that BPM means deploying BPM software, or automation. Both of which potentially require $$ to spend.
I look at it differently: BPM is the state of mind and culture of your organization around process-driven improvement. For things that happen once a year or less, don't worry about designing a process - assign someone smart (maybe yourself) to figure it out. When it is something that happens every month, you might want to document it. When it happens frequently or in such volume that one person can't do it all the time, then you define the process and communicate it, and maintain it - but you automate only if the automation has return on investment. Usually volume is what drives the value of automation, though I have found that the best team members will decide to automate even their own activities because they are always on the look out for efficiencies or reducing redundant work.
Does it have value? does it happen at volume? does it impact your customers/business outcomes? Then it's a process. If you don't have volume, but you have the other two, pay attention to it but delay automation.
(for the curious, we started applying BPM and Lean-six techniques to our own business when we were at 10-15 people. It is not too early to start doing some outside-in thinking, and to think about what you'd like to do differently in the future - when you can afford it - to provide better levels of servcie to your customers)
All reasons above hold but if I would point out one single reason why BPMS's are not adopted in SMB's, it's complexity.
The BPMS industry as it is today thrives on complexity (after all, who would hire a consultant if implementing a software would be simple? and who would pay $100k license per core if the software wouldn't appear intricate?). Also, complexity sells well in large-budget companies, where only CIO's can navigate through that and thus get an extra layer of job protection.
Even the so-called cloud BPMS companies embrace complexity quite happily. BPM is agile enough to lead you to think you can (and should) do anything with it. I've fallen in this trap myself as a BPMS customer and almost fell again as a BPaaS start-up.
Companies with CIOs - that's not where most of the BPMS market would be in 5 to 10 years. BPM technology is increasingly capable and increasingly affordable. More and more small companies what to get it right at the outset, not after they've hit a wall. It's easier than ever to start a business today, but it's also easier than ever to fail if you don't do things right from the get go.
A small business that starts first with a BPMS has more chances to adapt, pivot, and survive.
Customer simplicity will be the main driver of the BPMS market (read SMBs) of the future.
Is a small company (<= 200 / 300 collaborators) with Google Forms to gather some information, a bunch of Trello boards to manage tasks and some spreadsheets to track and manage their effort doing BPM? Opinions may vary, but in my understanding of BPM, they definitely are doing BPM!
Nowadays, I actually think that what keeps SMB's from implementing BPM is simply a mindset:
- the mindset that you must focus only on survival instead of thinking on continuous improvement and operational excellency even when you're small
- the mindset that you don't have money and you only need expensive tooling to manage and improve the way you work
Maybe Process Automation is very costly and only applies to big organizations. Process (aka Work) Management doesn't.
Alternatively they are small businesses, they don't have complex processes, thus they don't need BPM.
To take the accounting comparison further, all SMEs use double entry accounting. But their charts of accounts are simpler than the charts of accounts used by a large enterprise.
However when required, it's easy enough for an accountant or even bookkeeper to set up special accounts to account for unique ways of conducting business. In the same way, BPMN is useful for any size of organization, although smaller organizations will choose a limited palette and simpler process patterns.
But again, when required, when you want to serve customers in a unique way, the full richness of BPMN is at your disposal. You'll probably want to call up your friendly BPM boutique specialist, who already knows your business, and work out something a little richer.
What do we think that the BPM consultant and your accountant will be part of the same business? Because chances are that accounting workflows and/or chart of accounts will likely need to be updated at the same time as you implement your new process.
I can imagine a whole BPM vendor program targeting small to mid-sized accounting firms to adopt BPM technology as an additional offering . . .
Per John Morris...
I like the accounting aspect when looking at small-business internal (back-office) workflow requirements. And... this is government mandated per IRS (and other) filing requirements.
Many of the replies on this discussion are highlighting the expense of managing a BPM program. However, there are off-the-shelf process-aware applications readily available for even the small (one man) start-up company.
For example... QuickBooks Online features nicely illustrated accounting workflows for most aspects of small business finance. The workflows are fully documented, task oriented, managed process. And, these models all plug into the QuickBooks accounting system.
So, there's really no seriously blocking bariers to process-management, at the infrastructure level, for small business. However, most being required to follow OOTB solutions.