I had a very interesting meeting with the divisional CIO of a Fortune 50 firm in the past week. He had been approach by his business stakeholders to see if Business Process Management suites (BPMS) could be used to optimize and automate their financial planning process. He had subsequently discussed this with product vendors and system integrators to see if BPM would be a good fit for this, and they all enthusiastically claimed it would be, but none were able to showcase any case studies and he was wary of his organization being a guinea pig. My initial gut feel was that since financial planning was data-centric in nature rather than process-centric, it would not be the best use of BPM. I asked a few questions which backed-up my hypothesis, and also uncovered other areas which presented a more pressing need for BPM.

So why this need to oversell? Too many BPMS vendors and system integrators are desperate to make inroads with BPM, not realizing that a poor initial implementation can negatively impact or destroy future BPM prospects within the client organization. Like investment banking, the focus has become the “here-and-now”, and not on the long-term. I was reminded of this when re-watching the classic movie Glengarry Glen Ross – when Ed Harris’ character is telling a browbeaten Alan Arkin “what did I learn as a kid on Western? Don’t sell a guy one car. Sell him five cars over fifteen years”. Those selling BPM need to remember that lesson.

So how can we avoid these problems? Often those of us in the BPM industry are guilty of asking the wrong questions, so we ask – “Could the said process be done on a BPMS platform?” Undoubtedly; but it’s also true that If I spent enough effort, I could also configure my BPMS platform to wake me up with an alarm in the morning, and brew a hot cup of coffee whilst doing it. A better question would be – is this the best use of BPM or are there better options? That would force folks to look at the various options out there, and enable us to be better, trusted advisors to our clients.

So BPM is not the panacea to all business and technology issues, and we have to spend more time assessing BPM fitment, and be honest, about when it should be used. Can you handle that truth about BPM – and prove Jack wrong? 🙂