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Business process management is growing up, and BPM suites are more popular than ever.

Those are two of the key conclusions in a “The State of Business Process Management 2012," a new report from a BPTrends, a news, information and community organization for BPM professionals. The 63-page report, available for free download, is based on a late 2011 survey of nearly 400 business executives, IT managers and BPM specialists. It’s packed with insights about—and for—all those audiences.

Chief among them: “There’s a change taking place in the BPM market,” BPTrends co-founders Celia Wolf and Paul Harmon wrote in the report’s executive summary. “For the first time since we began gathering data [in 2005], there are clear indications that some organizations are becoming more mature in their approach to process work.” And there’s a transition in the BPMS marketplace as well: “Process management software is more widely used than it was two years ago,” at the time of the last BPTrends survey.

But one key factor hasn’t wavered: “In 2011, as in all years that we have surveyed organizations, the dominant concern is to reduce costs by making processes more efficient,” the report noted. “Companies continue to spend money on BPM initiatives precisely because they hope that investments in process work will enable them to become more efficient and productive.”

BPM, like just about everything else, has felt the impact of the recent global economic crisis, according to BPTrends’ most recent previous surveys. “Most of the indices in 2007 and 2009 showed the process market slowing down or standing still,” the report noted. But that’s now turning around, the authors added: “The 2011 data, by contrast, indicates that the market for BPM is growing.”

One such indicator: the level of C-level support for BPM. In BPTrends’ 2005 survey, 28% of respondents said their executives regarded BPM as a major strategic commitment. In 2007, that percentage dipped to 26%; by 2009, it had dropped below 20%. “This year, it jumped to 31%,” the authors wrote, noting that “it is as if 2007 and 2009 didn’t happen.”

Interest in BPM appears to be growing geographically as well. BPTrends’ initial survey, conducted in 2005, primarily attracted respondents from North America and Europe. The 2011 survey drew significant response from South America, Australia and the Middle East as well. “Clearly, interest in BPM is spreading around the world,” the report noted.

(Those results support similar findings in recent surveys conducted by ebizQ and its parent company, TechTarget. In ebizQ’s Reader Priorities and Challenges Survey, 92% of participating business and IT executives characterized BPM as being of equal or greater importance this year than last year. In TechTarget's 2012 IT Forecast, more than 90% of respondents worldwide ranked BPM and a related approach, case management, as being of high or medium priority this year.)

In each survey, BPTrends’ researchers have used the Capability Maturity Model (CMM), an approach initially developed at Carnegie Mellon University, in asking respondents to assess the sophistication level of their organizations’ process efforts. The approach assumes that organizations that tackle certain types of process activities more frequently are more advanced, or mature.

Between 2005 and 2009, researchers reported little change in overall maturity levels, with most respondents describing their organizations as engaging in those process activities only “occasionally.” But in 2011, researchers saw a sharp increase in the number of respondents indicating that their organizations undertake those process activities “frequently,” “most of the time” or “always.”

“There has been, in other words, a real change in the process market over the course of the last couple of years,” researchers note. More organizations are engaging in process activities more frequently, meaning that they’ve significantly increased their BPM maturity levels. And many are broadening their efforts as well: “They aren’t doing more of just one or two specific things, but are increasing their activities in a wide variety of areas,” the report noted.

The BPTrends report notes that while the terms “BPM” and “BPMS” often go hand in hand, the former doesn’t necessarily require the latter: “One can do process work without considering BPMS tools, and many do.” At the same time, the authors acknowledge that managers in industries ranging from manufacturing to finance can, and do, benefit from using the right BPMSs.

Many organizations invest in BPMS tools before they’ve reached the process-maturity level necessary to use those tools well, the report noted. “An organization needs to understand and redesign its business processes so they are reasonably efficient before it can benefit from automating them,” the report noted. In some cases, BPMS vendors pushed their customers to “pave cow paths” by investing in automation too early on, rather waiting until they sure about “creating freeways.”

Not surprisingly, the BPMS market hasn’t flourished as dramatically as vendors might like. But the authors believe it’s heading for a significant upswing in sales. In the most recent survey, 37% of respondents said they were benefitting from using a BPMS, up from 26% in 2009 and 23% in 2005. And 31% reported that they were considering investing in a BPMS, up from 21% in 2009 and just 11% in 2005.

Bottom line: “Organizations that are using BPMS seem happier with the results, and more organizations, perhaps based on those results, are planning to invest more in BPMS this year,” the authors said.

If the trends continue for the next two years, BPTrends expects even bigger things for BPMS, predicting that it will “begin to become a mainstream technology that large numbers of organizations will need to embrace to remain competitive.”

The state of BPM maturity and the growth in use of BPM suites are just two of the findings in BPTrends' comprehensive survey report. For more details, and to obtain the report, visit BPTrends.com.

READER FEEDBACK: The BPTrends 2012 survey indicates that some organizations are developing more mature, or advanced, BPM projects and programs. How would you characterize your organization’s current BPM maturity level—and where do you expect it to be in the next couple of years? Share your thoughts with ebizQ’s editors. Contact Site Editor Anne Stuart at editor@ebizq.net.

About the Author

Anne Stuart, ebizQ's editor from mid-2010 to mid-2013, is now senior editor for SearchCloudApplications.com at ebizQ's parent company, TechTarget. She is a veteran journalist who has written for national magazines, daily newspapers, an international news service and many Web sites. She’s specialized in covering business and technology issues for 20 years. Based in Newton, Mass., she can be reached at astuart@techtarget.com. Follow Anne on Google+ and at annestuart_TT on Twitter. For general questions about ebizQ, please e-mail editor@ebizQ.net.

More by Anne Stuart, Contributing Editor



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