Gartner: Business Impact Is Key to Successful BPM

Ann All

I recently wrote about the bullish outlook for business process management in 2010, with jobs site Dice.com reporting growing interest for IT pros familiar with BPM software and an IBM executive predicting 2010 will be the year that BPM sees mainstream adoption. Gartner predicts spending growth of at least 5 percent for BPM this year, fairly impressive when you consider how carefully most companies are still watching their budgets.


With all of this interest in BPM, companies will be seeking advice on how to successfully implement it. Gartner just published seven guidelines companies should follow to increase their odds of BPM success. They are:

  • Start with a small project. Rather than tackling a major end-to-end process, look at streamlining a portion of one. Look for projects that can be completed within 90 days and that can be accomplished using internal resources. Gartner suggests creating a higher-level contextual business process model to identify potential opportunities. This advice was echoed by Nathaniel Palmer, president of advisory company Transformation+Innovation and executive director of the Workflow Management Coalition, when I interviewed him back in 2007. He suggested focusing on a high-impact process like bringing new hires on board, which lends itself to BPM and cuts across the organization. "It's an understood process, but not a rigidly defined one. It's not overly controversial, and fairly straightforward. It's one you can develop an ROI around fairly easily," he told me.
  • Look for a process seen as having high value in attaining desired business performance results. Gartner says only a fraction of all business processes are perceived as having high inherent value in achieving end results. Palmer's suggestion, the new-hire process, seems to fill the bill.
  • Select processes with clear alignment to corporate or business-unit goals. Says Gartner: "The link to goals and strategies can occur at various levels of the business purpose hierarchy -- from the high-level stock price down to the details such as employing Twitter -- but the hierarchy should be developed and understood clearly."
  • Use the right metrics. Don't use too many metrics, and make sure the entire organization understands and accepts them. Make sure you get a baseline first, and consider a thorough post-project audit as well as monitoring metrics over the long haul.
  • Get stakeholders to agree on a goal. Gartner says not to underestimate the effort required. Coming up with a common, shared performance goal may require as much effort as the actual business process modeling.
  • Enlist an enthusiastic business sponsor. This requirement is so vital, says Gartner, that IT leaders should not consider pursuing BPM projects for which such a sponsor is not available. Palmer told me: "[BPM] succeeds on the basis of making some fundamental changes in organizational practices. If it were simply a matter of doing things exactly the way you are doing them today, there would be no inherent benefit, other than perhaps some automation benefit. But we're talking about really changing operations in a way that is going to be beneficial to the organization. That's something that is highly politically charged; I've never seen an organization that had a real propensity for change. At some point or another, even if a process begins with momentum, you're going to run into resistance. Having top-level sponsorship is critical to overcome that."
  • Engage business users. Gartner suggests "offering a fresh perspective on how to look at what they do in their jobs, and making a process view easy to understand and intriguing." If successful, users will "realize that they are the experts, they feel a sense of ownership about what they do and they engage in seeing how things could actually be done better." At Wells Fargo, business units take ownership of BPM while IT pros simply provide support. Gartner says keys for engagement are: "good modeling, good methods of visualization and meaningful measures of performance." Using visualization is one of four tips for BPM success also offered by Bob Graham, VP of the Banking and Financial Services group at IT consulting company Virtusa.


Another of Graham's tips, also mentioned by Palmer, is establishing a business process competency center to drive the use of best practices and knowledge management and to promote asset reuse.

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