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What's the Key to User Buy-In for BPM?

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At the Gartner BPM Summit, much of the focus seemed to be on the user, and increasing ease-of-use for applications.  As it has become clear that the key to BPM success is user acceptance, what's the key to user buy-in?

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  • The key to user buy-in is threefold: 1) recognition that process automation will save them time/money to focus on more value-added activities, 2) ease of use, 3) flexibility to change (adaptabilty, agililty). You should also add great customer service/support. Ultimately, users need to know that what they are doing new with BPM is important, creates value, makes sense and utlimately simplifies work.

  • I have to agree with Garth on his first point, although I'd take it a little further. Without a burning need, BPM is unlikely to spring to mind at all. Sure, you can try and persuade prospective clients and users that they need BPM and it will save them time and money, but without them really feeling pained by a current process they are unlikely to actively respond.

    At an individual user level there is likely to be buy-in once they have truly acknowledged there is a need to change, and its not just the current management team's desire to leave their mark with an expensive software solution.

    You can certainly try to appeal to users based on their 'personas', though in my opinion this is just a brutal (and possibly effective) bucketing of workers' requirements for analysis and marketing purposes. The reality is that the high profile employees, the most vocal, the potential advocates among their peers have to be able to see, feel and experience a working solution as soon as possible, possibly even pre-sale.

    This is where we can learn something from marketing - spending your (both the vendor and the customer) effort on gaining the buy-in of the users who are the most vocal, highly respected among their peers. These end users 'BPM mavens' will go out of their way to get buy in from the majority of other users. But don't oversell the maven, because they can as easily destroy your product after it fails to please.

    Phil Ayres
    Strategy Lead

  • There are several communities that benefit from BPM. Buy-in could come from operations, business analysts, IT, continuous improvement (LSS) practitioners, and business stakeholders. For instance, BPM greatly improves the speed in building new solutions. BPM aligns and bridges business and IT communication. This results in buy-in both from the business and IT side. BPM delivers specific ROI, greatly reducing the cost in building and executing BPM solutions and also providing a platform for innovation. This results in buy-in especially from business stakeholders, but also potentially from IT. BPM provides visibility and control of automated solutions. Both operations and business stakeholders will benefit from the monitoring and visibility of automated processes. BPM is the ideal platform to realize lean as well as Six Sigma objectives. This means CI practitioners can achieve LSS process control in real-time. BPM benefits operations – as it provides easier to use and convenient as well as guided interactions to the end user of the BPM solution.

  • I am glad to hear about the focus on the end-user, they seem to get lost in most BPMS marketing - where most of the focus is on the analsysts and developers.

    I would take Garth's ease-of-use argument one further. Provide end-users with something that makes their work easier and more pleasant - with a minimum of overhead. Help them be more effective and efficient in their jobs.

    Maybe Joy-of-Use is a better term then ease-of-use.

  • I cannot agree more.

    I encountered several situations when the business users thought that usability with the BPM tool is a challenge. They got the impression the tool was too technical and even after go-live, they called IT help desk just to check out run time process instances. They are yet to be convinced that BPM tool unlike other IT tools is meant to be used by them. Not to mention the initiative was not successful because of lack of participation from the business users.

    Part of the blame also goes to how the processes are built. Sometimes the processes are so complex to the if-else-and-or level of details, only the IT folks can make sense out of these. To the business users, these are still gibberish.

  • Does user buy-in really start with the tools and their user interfaces?

    If we put the technology, BPM, at the forefront and focus on its interface rather than understand and confirm the business requirements, buy-in with the users is quite unlikely.

    There are numerous successful products that could be described as having poor user interfaces. A compelling solution will sell, be brought, maybe not quite as much if it has a great interface - look at the iPhone, who got both right.

    BPM is an enabler, not a solution. Before engaging in the tools, we need to engage with the business and business users. Mahbub summed it up well when he said to business users it is still gibberish.

  • Lots of good responses here.

    BPM is a business initiative. IT (BPM tools in this case) can only be an enabler in the context of this.

    Most successful *real* BPM initiatives (as opposed to application integration / service orchestration / composite app development projects) are driven first by business teams and business needs - IT follows up with tooling support.

    For any IT leader or architect wanting to try and introduce BPM ideas to business teams - my advice is: start by asking around. There's probably some business team out there already doing something in the realm of process improvement, and they might not know about how IT can help.

  • What about business managers who do not see a more holistic perspective. We put together this paper to help that audience understand how the pieces of the puzzle are intertwined and how SOA can create business value. http://www.oshyn.com/landingpages/understanding-the-value-of-soa

  • Outlook integration. Of course many of the other answers given are also good. You have to give users the information they need at the time they need it, but users really appreciate it if they can continue to live in the world that they are familiar with. Some BPMSs publish new tasks via RSS, so users can see new incoming tasks along side of their email, as long as they use any mail reader like Outlook (or most others) that is also an RSS reader.

  • In my experience, the key to user buy-in for BPM is improved productivity. Users get excited about business processes that help prevent errors/defects, save them time (seamless data integration among applications), and improves their visibility and control with handling exceptions and escalations.

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