Think "Small" When Starting with BPM: Recipe for Immediate ROI

by MK Strupe on Fri, May 01, 2009 @ 12:28 PM

As I speak with customers who are just beginning their BPM initiatives, one thing I often hear is: "What should my expectations be regarding ROI?"  This is a logical question, as they are concerned with the value of the BPM effort compared to the up-front cost.  In today's economy everyone is concerned with cost but, the real value proposition with BPM projects is that the time and cost savings experienced will ultimately save their company money many-fold (compared to their initial cash outlay).

My response to this question is simply three words: "think small initially".  BPM is a technology where often the phrases "enterprise" and "cross-departmental" are thrown into the mix.  It is true that departments in a company often have strong ties to other departments when executing the day-to-day functions of a company.  But when automating these workflows, the old adage of "too many cooks in the kitchen" has relevance to process automation efforts.  For an ideal business process automation initiative, you should think of building a castle.

building blocks

It is not possible to build the towers to a castle until you first build the center section.  And it is not possible to build the second and third stories of the castle until you lay the foundation.  Building and automating the library of processes for your company should be in line with building a castle.  If you envision building a library of processes for your cross-departmental or enterprise process solution, then start small and build process momentum from the ground up. There are two benefits with this approach (one obvious and one not so obvious):

  • Obvious Benefit: With a small first BPM project, you will be able to automate the process quickly and achieve your ROI in the short term
  • Benefit You Will Not See Coming: Other departments will hear of the BPM initiative, see how efficiently the first implemented department is executing, and then request urgently to be the next BPM project in your company
With all of the interest you will generate with your first BPM initiative, you will want to ensure each and every business process you choose to automate is one where you have an opportunity to quickly begin, end, and achieve measurable return on investment. The ROI attainable from a successful process automation initiative can be modeled as shown below.

performance goals

But note that there are possible risks that can corrode into your anticipated ROI if poor decisions are made with either your BPM initiative or your BPM product.  Three areas of risk that can corrode your planned ROI are shown below.

business cost

 With every BPM implementation, you want to ensure you avoid these risks:

  • Slow Launch: If your business process takes a long time to implement, resulting in delayed "go live" dates, then a slow launch will delay the point where you can start enjoying your ROI.
  • Poor Adoption: If you develop interfaces that are hard to use and understand, then the actual BPM stakeholders will simply not use the solution you have provided. Rather the end users will go back to the manual, paper-based way of working and/or revert back to the basic applications like Excel and/or Word to achieve their day-to-day work.
  • Poor Adaption: As your core business changes and/or the way you conduct your business changes (for example, in today's economic times), your business process should be flexible and dynamic to change with your needs. With business changes, you should need to rebuild, retest, and redeploy new business process versions. You should be able optimize and change your business processes quickly and easily to ensure those processes adapt to your company's current day needs.
I know of companies that have automated more than 100 business processes with Ultimus Adaptive BPM Suite, where the team managing those business processes is just a one or two person team.  The only way those companies were able to automate significant portions of their companies' day-to-day operations were to "break apart" the company functions into sizeable and manageable processes (where they were able to complete the first process, get it "live", and then move to the next process).  Are you following this development methodology today as well with your other applications?


Chris Adams
VP Product Marketing and Management

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This post was written by MK Strupe