Is BPM doomed like its predecessor BPR?

Once again BPM is coming under fire as inter factional fighting threatens to destroy what Research and Markets describes as a $32 bn industry by 2012. This time it is the proliferation of the initiatives purporting to be the real BPM leaving the corporate decision makes confused and dismayed.

BPM continues to decline as a search reference with the latest findings suggesting a decrease to less than 40% of the interest from the same quarter five years ago however IT vendors marketing campaigns reflect more spend, up 200% on the same period.

The ABPMP (Association of Business Process Management Professionals) has taken its time in establishing its presence and despite the many competing educational offerings is yet still to launch its BPM certification program. The original intention expressed in 2005 is still to appear while at the same time commercial offerings are fulfilling the needs of corporates in providing methods and approaches to make process management a key discipline. Recently technical training has emerged with organisations like the OMG (Object Management Group) providing training in process modelling semantics.

BP Group researches suggests three versions of the truth are obvious in the market place, each attempting to satisfy the needs of corporate and individuals in understanding and deploying BPM. The initial 2009 study of more than 120 European and North American senior executive decision makers reports 37 per cent of companies already use BPM ‘inside-out’[i], 27 per cent view BPM as a technology and another 36 per cent prefer BPM ‘outside-in’[ii].

The situation is similar to the demise of BPR a decade ago when ultimately the lack of delivery, hyped promises from IT vendors and then corporate disenchantment scuppered what had promised to be a transformational change in business thinking and practice. Will BPM go the same way?

The signs are ominous. The Linkedin community now boasts more than 15 communities covering the themes of business process management. Some groups, led by technology vendors, claim independence from any one product and yet push their own BPMS (BPM Solution) leading to many to see the sham of those communities as thinly disguised marketing machines. Who can the senior executives trust to provide impartial and objective advice?

Recently there have been developments amongst some of those disillusioned to form new entities. One such project from Theo Priestley, sometimes also known as Process Maverick, is creating some interest. Following a poll amongst BP Group members asking the question of whether a BPM Manifesto is required Priestley formed BPM Nexus, hosted on the Ning community platform. Will this initiative be any more successful? Time will tell.

In undertaking the BP Group’s 17th annual research programme we are seeking answers to all these questions. You can join this research and input your two cents worth. The findings will be fully published at the 5th annual BPE conference in London during September 2009.

[i] ‘Inside-Out’ reflects the way organisations are implementing BPM when they view processes as beginning when they cross the organisation threshold and end when they leave the door. A classic depiction would be in the airline business where some carriers treat ‘booking to carousel’ as the process. Typical ‘inside-out’ approaches include six sigma, lean and TQM.

[ii] ‘Outside-In’ sees processes as the customer experience. The starting point begins with customer desire, and ends only when the customer says it does. The ‘outside-in’ view is commercially more attractive as the organisation then influences and obtains revenue at each stage of the customer experience. Organisations such as Southwest airlines, Apple and Best Buy represent mature approaches to BPM adopting outside-in viewpoints.