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Kugel says it's important to step back and evaluate how such software is being used. He advises companies to learn and apply SCM and BPM best practices, both generally and specifically for their industries. He also recommends sending users to key vendor conferences "to find out what's possible, learn best practices, come back and persuade the organization that process improvements are worth implementing."

Optimizing SCM processes: More than technology

Of course, technology is not an end in itself. "It comes down to understanding that software is just a tool to help companies that are doing the right things do them better," Wisner says. "The idea is that if you're doing a reasonably good job, then software applications can help you do those things better. If you're doing a lousy job at something, then software is not the answer."

That means considering other factors in addition to your technology. "You have to take into account the people, the process, the technology and the knowledge that enables it," says Jeffrey Varney, a senior advisor for the APQC, the American Productivity & Quality Center. "To be successful, you need to integrate these four things."

Before implementing any technology, of course, it's important to first understand your processes. "Process is implicit in everything we do in our businesses, whether we know it or not," says Varney, who also leads APQC's Process Improvement Practice. "Those processes, if we don't have an understanding for what they are, can get messy and inefficient in a hurry. Those processes exist. The real question is: Do we have an awareness of them? Do we know where [in the enterprise] people do processes differently, and can we enforce a common approach?"

BPM gives organizations the perspective needed to identify supply chain processes, structure them in a way that's effective and identify process owners. But experts emphasize that users must be involved in these efforts.

After all, "a process isn't much of a process if people that should be involved aren't involved, particularly in areas of planning and reviews," Kugel says. "If you don't have all of the people involved, it's going to lessen the effectiveness of the process you're trying to manage. If you don't have input from the right people, or the right people who should know what's going on don't, then the execution of that process isn't going to be that great."


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