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Why hasn't BPM achieved even more widespread adoption?

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Or, in other words, what does BPM need to do to achieve more widespread adoption?

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  • I don’t have any empirical proof that this is the #1 reason, but plenty of anecdotal proof.
    In Stephen Covey's book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey tells a story to try and illustrate a point, in the story he comes upon a man working feverishly to cut down a tree. When questioned about the effort he is putting forth to chop down the tree he explains that he has to work so hard because his saw is dull. When asked why he doesn't stop and sharpen the saw he explains that he has too much work to do and not enough time to sharpen the saw.
    I can’t begin to count the number of companies that tell me they don’t have enough time to take on business process management projects. They say that they have too much work to do and not enough time to become more efficient.

  • I am still amazed at how few organisations are able to grasp even the basics of iterative software development. They cling to Waterfall like it's a comfort blanket. Could the same be true for BPM? Could it simply come down to resistance to a different way of doing things and a reluctance to invest in learning something new?

  • BPM solutions have the potential to disrupt famliar (albeit obsolete) processes and displace long-standing development teams. Practially speaking, you therefore run the risk of alienating two groups—process and IT folks—who may be critical to the success of any BPM implementation. That type of institutional resistance can be difficult to overcome. BPM vendors have a great ROI story to tell for the business; we need to work as well on soothing the reasonable fears of others in the organization whose ox we may be inadvertently about to gore.


  • Hmm, appears to be the same song with a different verse -- ignorance, fear, and personal/team agendas. We saw this same challenge with ERP, supply chain systems, CRM, and business intelligence. Why would BPM systems be any different?

    Do I sound cynical? I don't intend that. After all, ERP is no longer a competitive for companies due to its widespread acceptance. Business intelligence is becoming a competitive for some companies, but not others. Maybe BPM simply must wait for its turn.

  • Because BPM alone cannot solve the enterprise problems unless it is placed in the overall context of the organisation and technology that implement the business processes, that is in the context of the enterprise architecture.
    A business process is executed by people and technology to deliver value/a product.
    A proper EA describes the key enterprise functions and processes and their executing people and technology resources.
    As long as the two disciplines march on independently, both suffer.

  • I could say because BPMS's are sold as BPM, but I think it is more because 'organizations have processes, but people have jobs'.

    Every company is executing it's processes every day. Although that is already BPM, getting more grip on those processes (maybe supported with a bpms) is what most would call BPM.

    But who is interested in that? 89,76% of the employees don't care about process. They care about their job. They work hard, everyday to help, to serve their customer, to do what they get paid for. (In the end processes are still suffering from a hierarchy way of steering and rewarding)

    The process (most of the time a dirty word because of compliancy, quality assurance, lean, etc) is not so important for them. For the organization it is; the more grip (and that doesn't mean strictly controlled) they have on their processes, the better that process deliver what it promises. But who takes the lead in that if he/she knows that people might say 'Oh no, not those processes again'.

    I think BPM is hyped too much. It is 'sold' as a new thing, while it is just daily business. So going back into normal mode and applying all kind of process things into daily business sounds better to me.

    Then BPM adoption is turning into adaption (towards a more process way of working).

  • Faun deHenry's response is really interesting to me, because it illustrates something that it's easy to forget: BPM is a technology-based way of improving the way a business works - and it is just one way to do that. All the other examples that Faun cites are also examples of the same kind of "tool".
    BPM, as a concept and tool that straddles business improvement practice, technology implementation and organisational change management practice, is something that is quite difficult for organisations to do well. A lot of the time it just seems like too much effort.
    That said, I'm very much an optimist on this one - as long as we don't get too hung up on BPM as being narrowly defined as "buying and using the kind of BPMS that people have been buying and using for the past five years", I think there's still massive open space in the marketplace for BPM practitioners and technology vendors to go after.
    In my experience, Scott's point about education is the key one. Whenever I have the chance to help a business understand the value of this stuff and how they can most effectively make use of it in their own particular situation, lightbulbs shine and people "get it". But this is not a one-size-fits-all thing - what makes sense to business ABC will not necessarily be the approach that business XYZ needs to take...

  • Could it be that there is not a big enough incentive to do it?

    Businesses have processes and manage to run, so what is the need. The link from effort to benefits is not clear or fast enough or put another way, "it is important, but not urgent" and only urgent gets done.

    There are clearly process failure examples (Deepwater Horizon) that get fixed, but there are not enough of these (thankfully) in every company to drive demand.

  • It is because "business processes" do not exist. What we call a business process is an observation of what generally happens, a happy path of some sort. The real world is composed of entities and entity lifecycles: http://www.infoq.com/articles/seven-fallacies-of-bpm

    Many activities can be performed to advance the state of a business entity, some people can even draw a sequence of these activities in a diagram but that "sequence" cannot be modeled and controlled effectively, only the lifecycle of the underlying entities can.

    The BPM field has seen two conceptual foundations so far: orchestration languages (BPML, BPEL, XLANG...) and notation based languages (BPMN). They are both the wrong foundation.

    The BPM vision you are talking about will happen when the 3rd wave will start and people will focus on Business Entity Lifecycles, in other words, when activities will be enabled based on the underlying states of the entities. That wave will succeed, because it is anchored in the way the real-world works. IBM has a small group working on that topic (BELA), but even within IBM there seem to be some political roadblocks for this concept to emerge.

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