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Few would disagree that the objective of most BPM programs is continuous improvement. But as the old business adage goes, you can't manage—or improve—what you don't measure.



John Dixon, a Gartner Inc. research director, sums up the matter this way: "BPM without metrics is just a shot in the dark." In fact, accurate, relevant metrics are becoming increasing important to companies seeking to make smarter, more agile business decisions. By the end of 2013, he predicts, "50% of all firms will embrace end-to-end performance metrics or lose their sense of control and become less competitive."

BPM success (and possibly an organization's overall competitiveness), then, hinges on the company's ability to accurately measure its progress.

Gauging a BPM program's success begins with a formal strategy, which should strive to benefit the whole organization, not just the business units involved. "Many times, people will implement BPM within their department, and they make some improvements within the department. But those improvements get lost when you look at the bottom line," says Lisa W. Hershman, CEO of Hammer and Company, a business process education and research firm.

Those diluted benefits make it difficult for executives to see the results of—or value in—a BPM initiative, and they may lead to questions about investments in both people and technology. For those reasons, formal efforts to measure BPM success must cross department boundaries, just as end-to-end processes do.

ESTABLISHING A BASELINE

The first step in developing a strategy for BPM metrics is understanding the current state processes that you're considering changing. "A common mistake is not creating a baseline" for existing processes, says Hershman, also co-author of "Faster Cheaper Better: The 9 Levers for Transforming How Work Gets Done" (Crown Business, 2010). "People get so excited and jump right into it," she says. "Take the time to understand the current state before you start designing to the future state."

Without a defined baseline, it's tough for an organization to quantify process improvements. Stakeholders involved with a given process may be able to attest that it's more efficient, more effective or otherwise better than before—but there's no reliable way to provide that to decision-makers. Not having a clear current-state picture also makes it more difficult to decide about future improvements.

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