Outmoded BPM resources an issue for businesses

A recent study has found that organizations are showing a growing interest in business process management (BPM), but some are challenged by the lack of standards between process modeling and execution amid other issues.

According to research by industry association AIIM of 354 end users, 56 per cent of respondents indicated they have implemented BPM projects ranging from departmental and cross-departmental to enterprise-wide. The remaining 44 per cent said they hadn’t implemented a BPM project but plan to begin in the coming year.

Among the drivers behind this increased interest in BPM, said AIIM director Bob Larrivee, is the fact that advances in technology are allowing end users capabilities like remote information access and “when you look at streamlining or automating business process in general it’s becoming more and more of a driver that we need to do that, but also do it with some rules associated with it.”

And applying business rules to an automated workflow will not only streamline the process, but will also automate decision-making, added Larrivee.

That said, many organizations remain “process ignorant” when it comes to BPM, said Larrivee, because “many still don’t necessarily understand exactly how things are getting done [within the organization].” Moreover, he said organizations are relying on outdated documentation that exists on business processes.

Adoption aside, among the survey respondents who had implemented BPM technologies, some cited issues such as a lack of interchange standards between process modeling and execution tools, which can render system interoperability difficult, said Larrivee.

One reason that this issue exists, according to Mohammad Ketabchi, CEO and founder of Santa Clara, Calif.-based BPM vendor Savvion Inc., is that organizations are using modeling-only tools that lack an execution component. And, even if they are able to import the model into an execution tool, “you will not be able to do a round-trip process improvement which is very, very important.”

That round-trip process entails modeling, execution, monitoring, and improvement of the process again, explained Ketabchi.

But many organizations are using outmoded BPM tools that were developed before the Business Process Modelling Notation (BPMN) standard existed, noted Ketabchi.

Besides a lack of interchange standards, respondents also cited exception processing and interfaces as additional challenges.

Specifically, organizations have difficulty creating an ad hoc workflow process that can also be monitored. Michelle Warren, business consultant and technology analyst with MW Research and Consulting, said this particular challenge stems from the fact that BPM is “a series of processes that an organization must systematically work through.” Implementing BPM takes time, said Warren, and is not a “one-install solution.”

As for interfaces, organizations are finding the breadth of available BPM systems confusing in that each vendor interface will dictate how business processes are to be designed and applied. But “it will flesh itself out,” said Warren, in that customers will decide which interface works best and by the end of approximately an 18-month time period, some vendors will adjust their business models to suit demand.

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