A little more than a fortnight ago, I had bounced a few thoughts about how BPM should not merely be about automation but should instead be about unlocking competitive advantage.

I had taken an example of two firms in a quest for competitive advantage implementing packaged software; and discussed Competitive whether  they would find a definitive edge over each other even if they both choose the same software products. If they both got on the BPM bus, there could in fact be a more direct influence on their Balance of Power in the market place.

Last week, Gartner made an announcement on BPM, something really worth more attention than you might have given it (that’s possible!)– they released this press note and a 2011 Predicts on BPM, and subsequently there’s been a lot of chatter(verb) around competitive advantage and BPM. It’s nice to know I made that post a few weeks before Gartner did. And it’s nicer to imagine that my post might have inspired the nice folks there 😉

But I kid you not (actually, just myself for a while there 😉 ), Gartner’s releases have come in a very apt time. A time when we are looking up after a particularly damaging economic crisis, when fists are easing around tightly clenched budgets, when sustained period of hard times have challenged and changed our view of the market, competitiveness and success. This is a time that calls for differentiation not merely by cost, but by value.

But, as I had mentioned in my post, this thing about competitive advantage from BPM is really not some blinding insight no one ever thought of. All of us have discussed this substantially. We have unanimously acknowledged that BPM is about business, and about aligning IT to business and about process improvements and so on.

And yet, and this is where these Gartner announcements are particularly relevant, the majority of us seem to be letting that fundamental proposition of BPM slip through our fingers as we go about ‘doing BPM’.

There certainly are some serious issues that are compromising benefits promised by BPM, if a recent Forrester survey is anything to make a generalized statement by. These results are from an Online Self-assessment and Survey to determine the sustainability of BPM change effort. Alexander Peters, apparently discovered some bad news

  • In 52% of the surveyed organizations, business process change initiatives pursue different objectives and are executed without coordination.
  • 59% of participants admit that most business process change projects are measured through project timeliness and budget, but only some provide operational measures.
  • Only 34% of the organizations apply architecture frameworks for business processes, insight, and decision-making to help structure and prioritize business process change targets.

These are serious issues that can limit or even shut-out potential competitive benefits from BPM investments.

If you are already on the BPMS bus, It is important to quickly identify and effectively correct such areas of drag, lest your budgets end up funding a YAS (‘Yet another software’) implementation.

On the other hand, if you are about to get on that bus, such issues need not overwhelm you into ‘boarding delays’. It is important to ensure you do get on the bus, even as you fix all these drag issues.  I loved Scott Francis’ reaction to the survey and completely agree with him on this one. He says

You’re not ready for Sustainable BPM Change until you are.  In other words, get to work. Figure it out.  Start aligning your organization around BPM and the change it incurs.  But if you put off BPM until you’re ready, you never will be.  Show some leadership…..

This is absolutely true. There needs to be hunger and urgency to get it done, and have the preparedness and willingness to do whatever it takes to get it done right. One of the single most important highlight, the way I see it at least, in Gartner’s release is that sense of urgency that they exhort.

Waiting for ideal conditions and a perfect time is all very fine. But we are talking about finding competitive advantage here. Not buying art for the office lobby. Either you are in, or you are out.  So what it calls for is the round-spherical-objects to pull up socks and take charge and make the move, confront the odds and challenges and make it all work. That’s really leadership and its no surprise that top management participation is sort of a pre-condition for BPM success.

Predictions and trends, though tend to keep varying and changing and evolving as we go along. But going forward though, one thing will be common –  IT investing buyers are going to look at IT more and more to drive revenues, profit and cost – the three things that define your business.


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  3. Sumiko February 24, 2011 at 3:25 am

    Good point- if you drag your feet on any project your going to lose your advantage. Great article- thanks!

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