Understanding the Value of Business Process Management

Loraine Lawson

Business process management technology is going mainstream, according to this Baseline Magazine article. But while companies may be accepting and buying BPM, they don't seem to know what the heck to do with it.

There are several indicators that BPM is being more widely embraced, according to the article. First, a recent Forrester Research survey found 60 percent of 449 decision-makers in North America and Europe were already using BPM, with another 19 percent planning to add BPM in the next year.

A separate Forrester poll of enterprise architects in the the U.S. and the UK found that 85 percent were either actively planning or had a BPM project under way.

The problem is what comes after adoption. In the Forrester survey, 60 percent said BPM had both successes and failures, or else no measurable benefits to date. The techies did feel better about BPM, with 60 percent of the IT architects polled saying their BPM initiatives met the project goals.

Even more unsettling were the results of a recent Virtusa/PRTM survey. That survey queried business and IT professionals at 125 companies; only 15 percent reported their BPM initiatives had a vision, with stated goals and objectives, according to the Baseline article.

Also telling: The survey found only 24 percent of BPM projects had a VP or or senior executive in charge of the project; many reported the projects lacked any senior executive sponsorship.

I can see why it's hard to set clear goals for BPM. Heck, it's hard to even understand what BPM is.

Generally, when people talk about business process management -the technology, not the discipline - they focus on the modeling and "process optimization," whatever that means.

Of course, as Forrester analyst Colin Teubner has pointed out, BPM suites typically are divided into two types:

  • Human-centric BPMS, which developed from imaging technology
  • Integration-centric BPMS, which evolved out of enterprise application integration tools

There isn't a lot written about the integration benefits of BPM, but as it turns out, integration, particularly outside the firewall, is one of the key business benefits of BPM technology.


A recent ebizQ article - "BPM: It's Not Just About Integration Engines Anymore" - goes a long way toward explaining the integration benefits of BPM middleware, especially if you're involved in business-to-business transactions. In fact, the writer contends that you probably don't need BPM unless you plan to do business beyond your firewall.


I really love this piece and wish more tech articles were so understandable and thorough. First, it explains the technology history of BPM - it traces back to supply chain management (SCM) software, a market that splintered into CRM (customer relationship management) and ERP (enterprise resource planning). Second, the piece examines how each major BPM vendor differs in its approach. And finally, it explains the business value of other aspects of BPM technology, such as modeling or process optimization.


It's so helpful in understanding BPM's value proposition, Forrester and Virtusa/PRTM might want to e-mail the article to the surveyed companies so they could clarify their goals for BPM.


I certainly walked away with a better understanding of how BPM could help during mergers and acquisitions, or with launching new products, or even why it works so well with SOA.


Check it out. It'll at least help you get ahead of the vision-less companies that made up the majority in the Virtusa/PRTM study.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Apr 4, 2008 8:57 AM Suvendu Sahoo Suvendu Sahoo  says:
There is no dearth of examples regarding the benefits/value of BPM software implementation in enterprises. Since every enterprise is different, these benefits have to be weighed against the investment criteria of the enterprise. A strong Business Case will help in Sr Management buy-in. Business Case should lay out the vision of the BPM initiative which should be in line with Sr Management's vision for the business itself. Hence , a Business Case should help the companies to have a vision for the BPM initiative. Reply
Apr 4, 2008 9:22 AM Wayne Snell Wayne Snell  says:
Hi Loraine,Good writeup and I can certainly see why you would comment about BPM and visionless companies. You might want to look at this post by Sandy Kemsley - she recently covered a Gartner BPM Conference and there were many great case study stories. This one is from Allianz (full disclosure - they are a Lombardi customer).http://www.column2.com/2008/02/gartner-bpm-why-and-how-allianz-uses-bpm-tim-rolfing/Hope you find it interesting!Wayne Reply
Apr 9, 2008 11:56 AM Jack Brown Jack Brown  says:
Lorraine,The key issue you pointed out is that the focus of BPM is on the technology, not the discipline. That is why I recommend starting any Business Process Improvement project with a Discovery phase that: 1. aligns project objectives with the business strategy2. identifies the specific problems to focus on and their causes3. recommends improvements made with input from each function involved4. shows how a clear ROI will be acheivedThe Helix methodology is based on this approach. If you or your readers would like more information on this, feel free to contact me at jack@myisys.com.Jack Brown Reply
Feb 23, 2009 12:40 PM Ian Louw Ian Louw  says:

Good article. Have a look at this post for some case studies and a survey report.



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