Posted by: Theodore Papailiou on: May 16, 2012
Three weeks ago I was asked to attend the Gartner BPM Summit to work my company’s both. Over the years I have developed a love/hate relationship for these events. On the one hand, I love talking to attendees and learning about their work, the challenges they face, and thinking about how we “BPMers” can help solve their problems. On the other hand, I dread the long hours on my feet thinking about all the work that is piling up while I’m here.
This year was no different; I was excited to talk about all the new great advancements in the BPM space: Social BPM, Mobile and Cloud computing, just to name a few (still dreading the work pile up). Well, the craziness started around noon Tuesday and attendees swarmed the exhibition hall to see all the vendors’ offerings. I had great conversations with users from every industry, representing a variety of roles and including existing customers as well as competitor customers – all eager to exchange knowledge and hopefully walk away with new ideas.
But this year, I noticed (for the first time?) that I was talking to a lot of “newbies” in the space (this was also clear from the number of badges that had BEGINNER ribbons on them). Managers, CIO’s, it didn’t matter; they were all looking to understand what BPM is and how it will help them. The surprising point here is that in most cases, those with whom I met were overwhelmed and timid about BPM, which made me wonder: “Have we overcomplicated our message?” If you looked around the exhibit hall, the vendor booths were decked out with fancy acronyms and aggressive promises, all touting advanced, seemingly, futuristic and complex capabilities, so I think in some ways, in an effort to differentiate and highlight our technology capabilities as vendors, we confused the very basic message that BPM really is a management discipline. It’s how an organization gets work done.
At its core, BPM is about driving better business outcomes for an organization by improving processes, optimizing and maximizing resources and simplifying work. It is important for beginners to really understand the value of BPM and how it can transform the way work gets done. On the vendor side, we talk about BPM technology as being about more than process automation – it’s about enabling continuous process improvements. And, we do see that companies who are using BPM solutions to support a well defined business strategy are yielding the greatest value from their BPM solutions. But the fact is, automating processes is exactly where many organizations are with their BPM efforts today and this is a critical first step towards enabling continuous process improvements. While many people would say that automating a broken process is not beneficial, I would argue that there is absolutely value in seeing how and where improvements are needed. Automation provides this visibility.
For this, it’s important to remember the most basic principle of all start small. Even the smallest process improvements can produce significant results. Most of the successful BPM implementations I have seen began with a small process improvement project that they were able to repeat across the organization. There are still a significant number of organizations who are not yet benefiting from the value of BPM. Many of these companies will need to follow the industry’s evolution, albeit in a condensed timeline, and for this we need to continue to talk about the basic values in our message and help the “newbies” join our growing family.
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