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What is the biggest challenge facing BPM right now?

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In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge facing BPM right now?

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  • I think the biggest set of challenges being faced right now are (as opposed to just one);

    (a) trying to prove the benefits case for BPM in an unsettled budgetary climate. The main focus right now with CxO's is steering the corporate ship away from the rocks and not heading inland for a quick wave at the crowds. Unnecessary spend is off the agenda. This isn't an analyst view, this is simple fact from experience. Certainly in the UK companies will use what they have rather than buy in something else in order to achieve much needed stability.

    (b) the ever increasing trend of M&A to shrink the market and the perception of reducing the competition. Sorry but competition is healthy and creates creativity.

    (c) the continued lack of revolution in BPM to make it even remotely sexy. You only have to look into Techcrunch or Springwise on a daily basis to see where trends are happening and imagination is being used. Being a BPM corporate dinosaur is not an excuse for lack of creativity these days. Sadly BPM vendors will need to look at themselves internally and start cutting out the dead wood.

    (d) the continued infighting between practitioner factions. Let's face it, BPM doesn't even have a de-facto standard or methodology yet and as soon as someone suggests merging or joining forces then accusations fly and it all gets heated. I've seen more collaboration in a primary school class. "Social" BPM ? Give me a break.

    People predict 2012 will be the end of the World (because the Mayans got bored of making calendars), if the above trend continues then BPM will head the same way.

    • Theo, your points are spot on. Its all about perspective. Perhaps that's one thing I'd add to your list.

      The true ROI for process management activities is measured in years or perhaps decades, and is evinced in business models and org charts. It's hard to effect change in that domain when the landscape around you is defined quarterly and changes that don't pull the quarterly levers are seldom selected. This is why BPM is so focused on slivers of process improvement like lean and six sigma battalions going off to churn out paper improvements.

      When we all pass on and are able to look back at our lives and process improvement work at the speed that the universe sees us operate, we'll look like a bunch of ants scurrying about a tasty morsel. I'm sure we'll all get a good chuckle that we lived on 90 and 365-day deadlines.

  • Companies don't see a compelling event that will get them to step up and spend the money on BPM. They believe that they can do fine without it.

  • If the responses from various polls in LinkedIn are credible, BPM's greatest challenge is twofold -- commitment from an organization's leaders and user adoption. Both of these are related. If leaders demonstrate that they are committed to process excellence and will accept nothing less, their business user community will recognize that they need to "get on board."

  • This is a great question and a topic of many recent conversations. The single biggest challenge to BPM right now is skepticism. It is driven by the language we use, very fuzzy ROI predictions and results, obfuscation of the many facets of BPM by software vendors, and a fast-moving technology landscape that has many people frozen in the headlights (I link to the first two, below):

    • process language
    • fuzzy ROI
    • In the end, BPM professionals (vendors and consultants) are responsible for this challenge as they try hard to out-shout each other with cries of, "adaptive case management is the only way to go!" and, "automation is the real ROI!" What isn't being acknowledged is the breadth and complexity of what BPM really is.

  • I agree with much of the sentiment here on management buy in, skepticism and not seeing the real value etc. I see these as being fundamental issues that people and companies are fundamentally uneducated. Many different organizations are seeking to get the message out, but it seems to not be taking root or at least not enough. So I see the fundamental problem as being that of a lack of education and complete awareness.

  • user-pic

    I think one of the biggest problems has to do with the BPM industry and that is BPM still means to many different things to different people. I think we need to settle on agreed terms, e.g. what is business process mapping vs. business process modeling, in order to provide consistency.

    Secondly, we need to bring "sexy" back, in order to get the end users to adopt, just look at what a smart phone can do today.

  • I think that the main challenge towards the big audience is to make BPM a challenging domain.
    Nowadays, the impression I get is that people are excited about ANYTHING except for BPM.
    We need to change this attitude, otherwise all the other problems you are listing (adoption, flexibility, misunderstanding, ..) will never be solved.

  • Here in Holland the biggest challenge (where crisis and cost cutting is the hottest topic of the moment) is to make clear that BPM is actually saving you money.
    But most companies think they have to buy software, start large projects, but the only thing they have to do is take the guts to look a little different.

    Take a customer view and be aware it’s the process that makes your customer happy. The better your processes, the happier your customer.

    But you need teamplayers for that. People who don’t care to help their colleagues to make a process better. People who like to fight for a shared goal; the result of a process.

    (As you might remember the worldcup of 2010 this is not always a guarantee as we didn’t beat Spain in the final ;-))

    So that is why I sometimes think: Isn’t it naïve to want to manage your organization by process? Perhaps it is because we are dealing with power addictive people. Make the process important. No way. I am important. (No, I didn’t put up my tent at Occupy)

    So let’s find the teamplayers in organizations and give it a try. Yes, I could start about commitment now.

    I also agree with Chris on all the fuzziness. Ofcourse, implementing BPM is not as easy as making a cup of coffee, but it is no rocket science.
    And analysts like Gartner and Forrester make it look so space-age (if you don’t buy a tool out of the MQ or Wave you are not able to do BPM) that I believe a lot of companies don’t know where to start.

    Come one. I can do BPM with Excell, Windows Explorer and a set of teamplayers.

    Sometimes I wonder, Where did common sense go?

    Just remember you exist because of your customer and not because of your nice hierarchical way of managing your employees. But you have to have the guts.

    And still remember: Process management is just one way of managing your organization. But at least it is a customer centric way.

    But if you care more about yourself than you care about your customers, if you don’t face competition, then I believe BPM is not a good thing for you.


  • Theo nailed it. I also agree with Emiel: the idea that BPM requires a 7-digit expenditure and a 7-month deployment process is absurd. If I'm a customer on the other end of that pitch, I figure you're just trying to find yet another way to fleece me, seeing as you already have about all the money you're going to get from me for your ERP, CRM, and HRIS "solutions".

    BPM can become expensive and complicated, sure, but it shouldn't start that way. The ROI on a project-by-project basis isn't at all hard to determine, so your initial foray should be an easy decision. If it's not, may I humbly suggest your vendor is making it harder (and more expensive) than it ought to be.

  • The biggest challenge for BPM is that hopefully organizations begin to understand that processes have no value in themselves but depend on the context of people and communication. I haven't seen a process yet that makes a customer happy. Customers are happy when there is a successful outcome for them and that is completely dependent on their perception and the skills employed in interacting with them through all kinds of channels. Therefore processes need to have appropriate and auditable goals with the necessary flexibility to cater for their achievement.

  • The challenge is focus / relevance / interest.

    I was keynote speaker at an event billed as 'one of the USA's most important BPM events' - 500 attendees. Gartner gets fewer 1,000 at their US BPM Summit.

    In contrast Dreamforce (Salesforce's PAID annual user event) gets 25,000 delegates.

    TIBCO's annual revenues are nudging $1bn. Add together the revenues of the other BPM vendors and you will not get to $5bn. This is less than SAP's revenue, and Salesforce's revenue in the next 3 years if you believe Marc Benioff.

    Yet BPM is relevant and critical to the effective operation of every company on the planet. So why the ambivolence to BPM? Is it too broad, too nebulous, too undefined. Maybe it is just been around too long and is just too boring? Or perhaps it is tarnished and there is 'Process Prejudice' as this video shows.

  • I have to say, I disagree with most of the above. Most, not all.

    Disclosure: I'm with a vendor focused on Business Processes (we call it Business Process Excellence). The vendor is Software AG. I hope you don't find this to be a sales pitch.

    I think there's definitely at least one compelling event - governance and compliance. There are others too - the drive to transparency around results resulting from social media is requiring companies to look at their processes and ask some basic questions.

    When two events happen, similar inputs but different outputs, that's a problem. Think about medical claims. I've had personal situations where I enter the same claim two months in a row, and get different results. Now, I get on twitter and complain, and someone sees this and says, wait a minute, that shouldn't happen.

    I agree that it seems too expensive to get started. It isn't, and it shouldn't be. It's not.

    I disagree that there aren't enough standards in place. There are well developed standards around Business Process Analysis (BPA) (TOGAF and more) and around Business Process Management (BPMN). If anything, there's a challenge that there are too many standards BECAUSE there are too many audiences. BPMN included the ability to articulate execution elements, which BPA standards don't. BPA standards, on the other hand, include the ability to articulate organizational elements and other dependencies that are irrelevant to execution - and therefore of no interest to BPMN representation standards bodies.

    I'm seeing a lot of BPM activity. Admittedly, it's all I do for my company, so that's to be expected.

    I think the main challenges are:
    * BPM adds infrastructure; so when looking at the "first project" it's hard to justify. We are, as Theo mentioned, averse to spending anything more than we have to in this economic climate. So... if a project can be done for 100K, or 200K for a BPM version, they'll go with 100K. Even if in 6 months, it's another 100K.
    * We know how to manage monolithic projects, where the process is tightly embedded in the application (think SAP). We don't know how to manage (people and process... the technology is easy) of decoupling process, and rules, and events, so that we can deliver more dynamically.

    Let me leave you with this concrete example. Coincidentally another medical example, though not insurance this time. There is a "class of solutions" around a problem called Aggregate Spend in the pharma industry. Most every pharma company is under government observation for ethics violations. In short, the way they spend money on using doctors and hospitals for drug promotion is controversial. If I fly a doctor from NY to San Diego to speak at a conference, the government wants to know that there wasn't an equally competent doctor in San Diego to speak. The thinking being that if I fly a NY doctor to San Diego in February, of course they'll say nice things about my drug. Who doesn't want a boondoggle like that?

    So, they have built agg spend "applications" to track the process. Including Web UI's for entering credentials of the doctors, and tracking when they're used, etc. Standard stuff. HOWEVER, at any time, a regulator can come in and say... wait a minute, it's no longer good enough that you find a doctor within 100 miles, you have to find one within 50 miles, and if you don't have one at the same level of capability, you must pick one who's slightly less capable (they've already defined standard definitions of capability/qualification) who's closer.

    Imagine having to implement that new rule in a typical (non agile) SDLC? It takes them six months to make even minor changes like that - where in BPMS vernacular, you'd add a new rule to the process and deploy.

    I can give many examples like this.

    The challenge right now... think about how many companies deployed databases, and have developed tons of SQL queries and database triggers, and now have no idea what there databases are doing. They didn't have any way to manage all those queries and triggers, and I have more than one customer who's like "whatever you do, don't touch the database". They don't want that to happen with all these rules, and processes, and so on.

    I hope I've not rambled, I think this is a hard problem, because it involves a new way of doing things. And, that's always really hard.

    Again, just one-employee-at-one-vendor's perspective. A perspective that may or not be supported by my employer. All words, and thoughts are my own.


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