When I first encountered BPM, I judged it to be a natural fit for any organization with a strong business process improvement (BPI) focus. It seems obvious: BPM gives businesses a way to get their arms around their processes, examine them, and improve them. And, to a certain extent, I was correct: there are plenty of organizations leveraging BPM as an important player in their enterprise BPI efforts.
Still, I'd expected more. Indeed, to my way of thinking, by now BPM should have sparked a revolution in the entire discipline of process improvement, from philosophy to execution. So why hasn't it?
The bottom line is that BPM is too disruptive to have been instantly and widely embraced by the process improvement community. As is true in so many other fields, BPI has its own culture, language, and norms; BPM simply falls too far outside the realm. Even the word "process" may not evoke precisely the same image for the BPM expert as it does for the process analyst.
And maybe that's OK. After all, the goals of BPM are far more ambitious than those of process improvement. BPI historically gained traction in large enterprises where it held out the promise of expense reduction. Ironically, although process analysts themselves wield a toolbox full of metrics, as a group they are often evaluated on only one: hard dollar savings.
BPM, on the other hand, has much more to offer. Yes, cost reduction is frequently the primary objective. But BPM can also improve customer experience; boost employee engagement; enhance regulatory compliance; increase management visibility; and clarify roles and responsibilities. These are all vital benefits, yet they are rarely the focus of traditional BPI efforts.
Perhaps one day BPM really will cause an earthquake in the way formal process improvement is learned and practiced. In the meantime, we'll continue to enjoy the ever-accelerating number of advantages BPM brings to the table.