Execs draw a blank on BPM
Business process management still meets with plenty of resistance in the enterprise because most chief executives don’t even understand what it means, said an AIIM analyst.

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“It’s not a term that’s on everyone’s lips,” said Doug Miles, director of market intelligence based in the U.K.

Not knowing the meaning of the term was found to be the second biggest barrier to adoption of BPM in the enterprise, according to an online AIIM survey of 495 professionals last October. The largest roadblock was resistance to change.

Miles said that while some people can tell what BPM is based on the name itself, what isn’t clear is what it actually looks like. They wonder whether it’s a consultant methodology or a piece of software and what that software would look like, said Miles.

It’s both a methodology and software, he said. Actually, people may already know BPM as a document management system or enterprise application integration – areas where BPM has origins, said Miles.  

“And if you called it ‘workflow,’ they’d understand what it was,” he said.

For that reason, BPM and workflow are sometimes used interchangeably to facilitate understanding, although fundamentally workflow is a component of BPM, Miles added.

The survey also found the biggest technical issue stunting BPM growth in the enterprise is integration with other IT systems.

Organizations that want to implement BPM typically must rely on a combination of connectors built by BPM vendors, and a variety ways of pulling data from enterprise databases. However, Miles said it’s becoming more popular to ease integration by way of services-oriented architecture.

Also murky, according to the survey, is understanding the organization’s current processes and a lack of agreement as to what they are. This then makes mapping and optimizing difficult, said Miles.

A third of respondents reported that BPM projects were initiated by the IT department by offering available technology to improve current processes. And while individual departments often initiated BPM implementations, Miles said “this is one product that line of business can’t go very far without help from IT because of integration issues.”

But while there is misunderstanding about what BPM is, half of organizations using BPM tools did report a payback of their investment in 18 months or less. Seventy-two per cent recouped their spend within two years.

Respondents also reported success in BPM deployed in customer support, proposal generation and a variety of human resources processes.

Pleasanton, Calif.-based Zoho Corp. released this week applicant tracking software to help recruiters manage the process of sourcing, tracking, and hiring candidates in a collaborative manner. Rodrigo Vaca, Zoho’s director of marketing, said he’s observed human resources departments interested in deploying tools to help them manage the recruitment process as well as centralize information.

Vaca said although recruiters like the part of the job that requires interacting with people and ascertaining skills, they’re not keen on doing mundane tasks like posting jobs and providing status updates to hiring managers.

“What doesn’t make them very productive is having to deal with everything that lies in the periphery of talking to people,” said Vaca.

He estimates 10 to 30 per cent of time is consumed by peripheral tasks.

Zoho Recruit is targeted at small companies like recruiting agencies so system integration is not such a challenge, said Vaca. But he does agree that larger enterprises are faced with the complexity of “playing nice with the rest of the house” when ensuring systems like those human resources and budgeting are connected for instance.

But as the use of BPM tools grows, the majority of AIIM survey respondents felt they’ve really only addressed one-fifth of the potentially profitable BPM projects in their organizations.

Miles thinks that is a good number because it demonstrates the degree of potential once an organization is able to get through the first handful of projects and then reapply that same technology and knowledge moving forward.

“That shows a lot of aspiration to be able to apply to a lot more projects,” said Miles. 

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