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BPM -- Gartner, IDS Scheer outline critical success factors

Leadership and corporate culture are just a few of the things companies need to succeed with BPM, according to a Gartner analyst at IDS Scheer's ProcessWorld.

AMELIA ISLAND, FLA. -- Business Process Management (BPM) technology continues to capture the attention of business users as well as IT, but as people become more involved in projects and as processes become more complex, the potential for problems increases.

There are a few "critical factors" for BPM success, regardless of the platform an organization uses or the state its BPM is in, Jim Sinur, vice president for Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc., said in his keynote speech at IDS Scheer's ARIS ProcessWorld conference.

"Business process isn't new," Sinur said. "They've had business processes since they were loading boats in ancient Greece."

What is relatively new is that more business users are getting involved in BPM implementations and selecting the technology to support it.

"In the last two years, 80% to 90% of the people we've seen who select business process products have a background in business," said Mathias Kirchmer, Chief Innovation & Marketing Officer of Saarbrücken, Germany-based IDS Scheer's Americas and Japan division. "In the past, 80% to 90% had an IT background."

IT is one of the critical factors in successful BPM projects, but not more important than the others, according to Sinur. IT has to be able to act quickly on the ideas business people have.

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"If business people can dream it, IT has to be able to get it done in a reasonable period of time," Sinur said.

But the importance of a strong IT department cannot be overestimated, according to David Fahr, ERP project manager for Community Coffee of Baton Rouge, La.

"The more you can do internally, IT wise, the better off you're going to be over time, especially in a smaller organization," Fahr said. "The more internal knowledge you can develop, the better off you're going to be."

Business-oriented factors dominate the list, and attendees concurred with Sinur that leadership is near the top.

"Each factor is its own dynamic," said Mike Malone, senior systems engineer for Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed Martin. "You need leadership with the vision to see all the critical factors in a project and the ability to blend them together, or you're going to have problems."

Likewise, according to Sinur, a business process project should become part of a company's culture.

"We prepared our organization very well for the impending project, before it even started," Fahr said of Community Coffee's BPM implementation. "The project must be part of the company's goals and objectives."

There are as many corporate cultures as there are corporations, however, and it is important to figure out where your company fits.

"Is your culture short-term thinking and reactionary?" Sinur said. "Or is it a long-term planning culture?" Knowledge of the aspects of a company's culture is critical in determining the changes that will be necessary for BPM success.

Governance will also play an increasingly important role in BPM. Michael Blechar, also a vice president at Gartner, noted that governance plays a large part in gaining control of complex processes.

"There's process governance, service governance; you can have various artifacts, different levels of the organization, different co-owners of processes," he said. "So governance is a key issue today."

The methods organizations follow -- including Six Sigma, Eight Omega, Lean, and Systems Development Life Cycle (SDLC) -- must also be considered. While all have benefits, none works perfectly for every situation, according to Sinur. He therefore recommends using a toolbox approach, making use of different methodologies, depending on the situation.

Then, of course, there are the actual people in an organization.

Community Coffee's Fahr considers finding the right people and making sure they can focus their efforts on the project to be absolutely critical.

"As an organization, it is important to get the best people, the 'do-ers,' on the project and dedicate them to that project as much as possible," he said, "which could mean sacrifices in other areas of the organization."

And when a company changes its business processes, the people involved will have to change as well, whether or not they were directly involved in the project implementation.

"You can't forget the people and how they have to change," Sinur said. "You may have to give them incentives to change how they do things and take on more responsibilities."

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