One of my responsibilities is to talk to as many customers, partners, and BPM industry experts as possible. I normally have a wide range of conversations relating to BPM, workflow, and business processes in general. With BPM maturing as a technology (growing from workflow), I am often engaged in discussions relating to BPM product innovation, comparison of Ultimus Adaptive BPM Suite with other products in the space, and product vision. While these conversations are certainly important, I also make it a point to remind myself to not take myself so seriously all the time. Meaning, while BPM is as popular and ubiquitous as it has ever been, there is a large percentage of the customer base who are not specifically interested in advanced BPM subjects such as Ultimus version 8's SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) and market differentiating 3D XML data model. Rather, many customers have identified basic problems with their basic manual processes in their work environment. If a BPM product cannot address the simple problems in intuitive and an easy-to-understand format and is mainly geared for "BPM experts", then we as an industry are abandoning a signification portion of today's new customers.
My concerns for the masses of customers who are beginning their BPM initiatives or have yet to start enjoying the benefits of BPM are confirmed with a recent article by the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) that hit the wire: http://soa-talk.blogs.techtarget.com/2008/11/19/bpm-adoption-hits-56-in-latest-survey/. In this post, I see that AIIM, a global community for users and suppliers of enterprise content management, is reporting that:
- BPM is already implemented in 56% of IT organizations
- The remaining 44% are planning BPM initiatives in the next 12 months
- AIIM further classifies that the majority of customers interviewed identified back office operation for their primary BPM projects, followed by IT, HR, and Customer Service needs.
These findings match what I am seeing in the BPM space. Today's customers are identifying basic BPM needs for some of their most basic business processes. While Round Trip Optimization is a very important process optimization strategy, how does this relate to today's new BPM customer who is identifying they have HR process needs like Employee Roll On or Vacation Request Management. While established customers will indeed eventually start focusing more on process optimization as they get a process or two up and running, my argument is RTO (Round Trip Optimization) is often not a major factor in new BPM sales. I think it is vital in these types of cases to realize that while we (BPM vendors) eat and drink BPM daily, companies just beginning to think about BPM have basic needs.
One final thought.....As workflow matured to BPM approximately 6-8 years ago, if it has taken this long for 56% of the customers to adopt BPM, and if the other 44% will begin their adoption in the next 12 months, all BPM vendors stand to be VERY busy and stand to generate GREAT revenues in 2009.
VP Product Marketing and Management
BPMS marketing in the past introduced BPM as the necessary enterprise application for your existing IT landscape. While today's BPMS is perfectly constructed to have the robustness and structure to serve in that role, this is not the only way a BPMS can provide value to you. In fact, an argument can be made that a deterrent for BPM adoption for some companies is that total upheaval and reorganization of your company's IT landscape is not needed.
Ultimus Adaptive BPM Suite currently serves as the software application backbone for many customers across the world today. Because of Ultimus BPM Server's SOA construction, the ability to easily integrate with other systems and applications, and the ability to scale to support high volume needs, Ultimus Adaptive BPM Suite is positioned as the cornerstone of companies' IT landscapes.
Having said this, it is important to note that BPM can provide value to you in other ways. A BPMS does not always have to be the enterprise application upon which all other systems rely. Take for example:
- You currently have an ERP application that serves as your cornerstone application but exceptions in your business processes cause major disruptions in your day-to-day operations
- Integration across your existing applications is not a current problem. You have constructed your existing applications to successfully and efficiently integrate with one another (and they are sufficiently serving most of your IT needs)
- Your company is small and/or your IT department is small and is not prepared to start a new endeavor where you uproot and reorganize your IT landscape. But you have an identified need to unify your company's business data and streamline operations
All of these situations merit you considering a BPMS as an application that can serve to augment your existing IT systems. By utilizing a BPMS for exception handling, you will continue to take advantage of your existing systems, but you will have the added capabilities of ensuring disruptions and exceptions to normal operation systems are handled in an organized manner.
In fact, you very well might be overlooking how exceptions are currently handled today. Upon close inspection of this, you might be surprised to see how much time and effort are needed to handle these types of situations. Consider the following unhandled exception situations:
- New Orders are received and the Ship To Address information is incorrect
- Customer information collected through the order process does not align with customer information in your Finance application
- Placed orders are being received with a discount amount that is not adherent with agreed upon company policies
It is these types of situations where your existing day-to-day operations fail and your employees spend too much time and effort focusing on correcting the exceptions. Moreover, because exceptions are not accounted for, your employees are spending inordinate time determining who / which department is responsible for managing the exception. A BPMS is ideal here to handle these types of situations. By implementing a BPMS to handle exception situations in your existing applications, you can be assured that your employees are focused on spending their time in handling the majority of incoming orders that are contributing to your company's revenues and profits.
If your existing BPMS is not flexible enough to work in the ways you need it to, then how much actual value does it provide to you as your business needs change?
VP Product Marketing and Management
Trying financial times are here. I do not have to build or explain the argument here. You can just read the news:
These stories tell of staff reduction, streamlined work forces, reduction in business costs, and businesses looking inward (for increased efficiencies) rather than outward (for new IT acquisitions). Specifically, it is vital today to ensure you are effectively and efficiently utilizing what you have. Conversely, if you are experiencing internal inefficiencies with what you have, what is the best acquisition can you make to overcome these challenges and ensure you will have a greater return on investment on your business activities going forward?
At the core of all of these stories are business processes. Business processes are the most granular aspect of day-to-day processing in the business realm. Regardless if times are profitable or challenging, the effectiveness of your business is incrementally measured on the business processes themselves. Executives from the companies in each of the stories above are now requiring heightened levels of visibility and reporting accuracies. Leveraging existing business process management installations (or investing in new and focused installations) makes perfect sense in these difficult economic times.
Consider the case that you have already invested in Ultimus Adaptive BPM Suite. Now is the ideal time to evaluate the effectiveness of these processes, how much visibility you have to your data and KPIs, and how efficiently the people who are involved in your processes are working. By ensuring your processes are efficient, effective, and the data is visible in them (for reporting, dashboards, etc.), you will have an exact measure of how well your business is performing as a whole. Moreover, with all this in place, you can understand what the impact to your day-to-day operations will be when your business undergoes economic, financial, and possibly structural changes.
Conversely, consider the case you have not yet invested in Ultimus Adaptive BPM Suite (or any business process management system). As a CIO or IT Director, you might be asking yourself these questions right now:
- Are my company's employees spending the appropriate amount of time to perform their daily work?
- Are my existing software applications working together seamlessly or are we spending time and effort re-entering and reconfirming data across these systems?
- Do I even know my true key performance indicators vital to measuring my business?
While times may be tight, can you afford to not know the answers to these questions? The answer is exactly where business process management makes sense. By implementing a quality BPMS, you are going to invest in a enterprise software application that will enable you to streamline your work force, ensure everyone is working as efficiently as possible, and ultimately save your business money. In fact, your return on investment will happen sooner than you believe it to be (as the direct and indirect money you will be saving with an efficient process multiplies as you invest more into the BPMS).
VP Product Marketing and Management
There have been some recent announcements from some of the largest technologies providers about new business process management offerings. While it is exciting to see that BPM is being recognized as a valued software offering by the largest of software vendors, I am careful to read the fine details of what is being "offered". Large software application providers have the convenience of associating their numerous and often disparate applications together as a single enterprise offering. What this means to the customer is that there is some work to connect the separate applications as a single and cohesive software solution. There are some positives and some concerns with building an enterprise in this way:
- Positive: You can mix and match applications (or pieces of those applications) to build your enterprise BPM application as you wish
- Concern: In order for the applications to collectively serve as an enterprise application, you have to specifically manage the data transfer between these applications
- Positive: You are probably using some of these applications for other uses (and as such, you are already familiar with how they work individually)
- Concern: While each individual application works well on its own, its fit with other applications could be described as "forcing a square peg in a round hole"
- Positive: The large software vendors are constantly releasing new features and functions
- Concern: As each individual application has its own release schedule, you must ensure the new application versions are compatible with one another (and do not "break" your pieced together enterprise application)
On the contrary, utilizing a BPMS that is organically grown as a comprehensive and singular BPMS overcomes the concerns listed above. By investing in a BPMS that is not a collection of individual applications, you can ensure that:
- the data you collection in one module is accurately represented in the other BPMS modules
- each module in the BPMS is designed and tested to work seamlessly together with one another
- you will not need to constantly manage application updates to just one part of the BPMS (each new version of the BPMS is offered as an update to the entire BPMS itself)
One point not discussed thus far is the mixing individual applications with a collection of custom code and/or workflow engine APIs. Collectively, a workflow offering could be developing by utilizing this concert of technologies. But remember that each line of code you develop on your own is not just an investment, but also can be considered a liability (in that special care must be made to ensure your custom code continues to compile and execute as your BPM needs change). Moreover, if you choose to develop your own custom code to serve your enterprise application needs, then you must ensure that you have the proper change management, code security, and code management policies in place (to ensure inadvertent or improper changes to your code do not adversely affect your live BPM implementations).
With all this in mind, why not leave the work of developing and offering a BPMS to a pure play BPM vendor and put your time and money where it should be....on your business.
VP of Product Marketing and Management
From my experience and research, Business Process Management continues to be one of the top priorities for CIOs. As Business Process Management Suites (BPMS) are often enterprise applications, the out-of-pocket expense, time, and resource investments in these applications are significant. Coupled with the fact that a quality and properly implemented BPMS returns significant ROI, cost cutting, and overall improved efficiencies, results in the BPMS having visibility at executive levels. As you further invest in your BPMS, it is important that you work smarter, rather than harder, with your business process initiative (BPI). What strategies can you incorporate for a successful business process initiative? Some questions you should ask yourself as you continue with your BPI are:
- What will be your next automated business process? What processes will you implement in the long term?
- Do you currently have business process initiatives active in numerous countries or departments where there is little to no communication or knowledge sharing?
- Are you collecting similar information across your processes and/or across your other applications?
- What are your reporting needs inside and outside your BPI?
- Is the data you are collecting (including the KPIs) consistent with critical information collected in your other applications?
While there are many IT challenges and concerns with taking any enterprise software application live, such as risk management, change management, business data consistency across applications, etc., you should pay special attention to your BPI goals when developing a broad and deep business process library.
It is these types of concerns that merit considering building your own Center for Process Excellence. A Center for Process Excellence is a library of reusable standards, methodologies, and techniques surrounding business process development to not only ensure continued success with your BPI, but also to minimize the time and effort needed to achieve those successes. Leading BPM market analysts, such as Gartner and Forrester, recognize this initiative as one that companies growing with business process management initiatives should consider. For example:
- Gartner describes a Business Process Competency Center (BPCC) focus as: "In the beginning, the BPCC focuses on the services needed to guide projects. Early projects are generally discrete but need to build off common modeling techniques, and so forth. As the organization adopts the process view, the BPCC supports the shift from the single project view to managing programs that involve process, organization and technology projects, which need to be tightly integrated."
- Forrester's states the following in the publication "The EA View: BPM Has Become Mainstream": "almost half (49 percent) of the enterprises that reported clear and measurable benefits from their BPM efforts had a BPM COE [Center of Excellence] in place; only 10 percent of the group reporting mixed results had a BPM COE in place."
Consider the following example of costs (both direct and indirect) associated with a company's BPI. As seen below, even if the initial BPM Software cost is not included as part of the overall cost of automating your first business process, when you implement a strategic plan of process automation as part of your Center of Process Excellence, each new process you automate will cost you less.
With the advantages of a Center of Process Excellence in mind, your next questions might be: What if I do not have a person or a team to lead this initiative currently? What can I do today to start my own Center for Process Excellence?
If it is the case that you do not have the budget and/or resources to start this initiative in your own company, you should consider working with Ultimus Professional Services to at least assist you in documenting your business processes. With your processes documented, you will be able to take a step back from the day-to-day management of your processes and gain a broader understanding of exactly what your processes are doing today. Moreover, Ultimus Professional Services can help you to understand what impact your future plans have on your everyday IT management and how to be more efficient with your next business process automation effort. With this information documented and understood, your company can set a foundation to start your own Center of Process Excellence.
VP of Product Marketing and Development
Today's financial volatility has an effect on all of our daily lives: the cost of coming and going has never been so high. High fuel costs have caused increases across the consumer products chain. From a business perspective, the cost of doing business is measurably higher. More, now than ever, is it important to ensure we spend each of our business dollars wisely.
Ultimus believes practicing Green Initiatives is a sensible and economical way to ensure company expenses are not only well spent, but also spent in the most eco-friendly way. We are proud to state the following internal Green Initiatives are practiced today:
- PRODUCT SALES: We strive to offer as many product demos and deep dives over the internet rather than spend the gas / fuel to travel onsite. With today's offerings through WebEx / LiveMeeting / etc, this approach is often the most convenient.
- PRODUCT DELIVERY: We offer all Ultimus customers the product and product literature electronically as downloads through ultimus.com (rather than CDs and paper manuals).
- PRODUCT SUPPORT: As an international company with offices across the world, rather than require most of our Support and PS resources to travel daily to/from the office, we offer a virtual office working environment (and a virtual professional services deliverable model).
- PRODUCT TRAINING: Our new entire BPMS E-Learning offers the ability to be fully trained on Ultimus Adaptive BPM Suite without the gas/fuel cost of travelling onsite. The online portal for customers and partners allows users to access important training tools, product updates and information.
Until the market achieves some degree of stability, it is challenging to determine how much your spending efforts will return to you in earnings. Moreover, going forward in a modern day technology era, we should all embrace new ways to conduct business in smarter and more economical ways. Today's internet provides advantages and conveniences we have never experienced in the past. If used to their full extent, they can add to your company's bottom line. Internet-based training, remote support and professional services, and a connected end-user community can significantly help to improve the time to automate, manage, and optimize BPM operations.
What are you doing in your business to encourage Green Initiatives?
VP of Product Marketing and Management