It is easy to get lost in the process of process improvement.
It can become an overwhelming task to plan and organize and implement especially when we take into consideration the necessary knowledge of tools, methodologies, languages, frameworks and other technologies. The exercise improves in ROI the more closely we can perceive it as a "story" about the way we work and an improvement of that narrative. Treating the business process management activity as a continuous improvement of the way we work can add clarity to the task and a shared understanding between stakeholders.
I like the idea that companies are working to democratizie the act of BPM to get right to the reasons we do it -- to attain operational efficiency.
I would say they are generally thought of as discrete projects and the business is tasked with solving a specific issue/process. This leads to very short term process specific thinking with internal resources who may not have any context or expertise as others have mentioned. When the project is over, the resources are tasked with other projects or back to their main jobs. Because these projects tend to be far apart due to resource allocation, the resources may be relearning from the last project or brand new to BPM and starting from scratch.
Most firms in my field do not have the insight or vision on how to manage their processes, they are only tasked with pain point projects. What makes it even harder for them to manage their business processes is the 'Workflow enabled' applications which allow pain points to be addressed by x number of systems. Pretty soon, they may be automated but with lots of different tools which means management of these processes is seriously difficult and especially not consistent.
Off the top, here are six reasons why internal BPM efforts fail . . .
Failure to pre-state objectives/expectations
Lack of understanding of the BPM discipline
Lack of expertise practicing the discipline
Inadequate qualified human resource allocation to BPM
Wrong software selection
Bad choice of pilot project
Notice that 'failure to sustain" does not appear in the list - Reason: if you implement a run-time UI where it is easier for workers to liaise with the software system than not to, most of the objections, foot-dragging etc goes away.
Firstmost, IMO there are few genuine "pure" BPM efforts. At least, I have not seen many "BPM projects."
On the other hand I have seen multiple "ERP implementation", "Lean", "Compliance" projects fail. The common denominator here is: "We need to understand our processes before (fill in any business initiative)." To make a long story short, and a lot has been said already above, but I happily repeat that: You need to get your BPM foundation in a healthy shape in order to make the mentioned initatives more succesful.
So, basically we have a chicken - egg issue here: Is there any company that want's to spend money, just for the sake of retaining and manage BPM as a discipline. Not many I'd say. But here's the crazy thing: They're happy to spend thousands of $$$ for each business initative where BPM sort of is seen as a necessary side thing. Consultants are hired (again) to map processes, conduct analysis and capture requirements. Over and over and over again...
And thus recalling Einstein's: "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."
Most things fail.
Take your pick: lack of imagination. Poor leadership. Muffed execution. Questionable teamwork. Lack of clarity of purpose.
Having worked as a consultant for 20 years, then re-entered the corporate environment as their BPM expert, the answer is easy. Staff DO NOT have the credibility consultants do and therefore no matter what you try it eventually, sometimes slowly, but eventually it fails. The reasons already given certainly contribute but at the root of it all is the fact that what an external consultant says and what a member of staff says do not carry the same level of influence.
It's been a very enlightening experience for me and one that I'm glad that I've had.
I'd like to emphasize 3 points:
1- In many organizations, the BPM has been treated as a project, instead to be treated as management discipline.
2- There is no high level leadership that embraces the BPM and neither defend it as primordial to align strategies and operations.
3- Culture: in general the people are satisfied where they are, what they do and how they do ... at same time, they don't know why they have to do this or that to support the strategy needs.
For sure there are many other points to be considered....
"why do internal BPM efforts fail?"
for all the reasons external BPM efforts fail, plus skills gap (as said above).