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SAP BPM best practices: Avoiding common BPM project mistakes

Learn best practices in BPM projects and how to avoid some of the common mistakes.

BPM in an SAP world focuses on aligning software and applications to complement each other and enable a business goal. The rewards of an SAP NetWeaver BPM project can be substantial, but there are also plenty of challenges. Learning how to spot potential pitfalls and manage around them determines success.

One of the biggest risks is that people often purchase a BPM product and don’t know what their BPM objectives are, according to Elise Olding, Gartner research director for BPM. Setting BPM objectives requires taking a holistic approach, Olding said. Instead of buying software and then looking for a problem, she said, there needs to be a complete business objective around the improvements.

“The tools are just a means to an end,” she said.

Begin by categorizing a BPM effort as small, medium or large, suggests Michael Mah, managing partner of QSM Associates, a project consulting firm.

“People really freak out in trying to size projects, especially if they are doing something for the first time,” Mah said. “They don’t make a distinction between a Triple A ballpark and Yankee Stadium.”

Then, based on the deadline, organizations can “triage” and make a project plan more detailed and accurate.

“You don’t want to try to boil the ocean – you need a baseline for what things look like now and what you want them to look like after you have made the changes in SAP,” said Dennis Drogseth, a consultant and analyst at Enterprise Management Associates. “Then you need to set some clear objectives.”

In setting those objectives, there needs to be not only a top-down but also a bottom-up and middle-out approach, Olding said.

The people at the top -- senior people, though not necessarily at the C-level -- need to communicate strategy and objectives, she said. The bottom-up people, those directly affected in IT and line-of-business roles, need to look at discrete problems and how to solve them. From the top comes the what and from the bottom comes the how. And the middle-out people, often the informal leaders across the organization – those who command respect and generally lead the way -- will get the groundswell going and get the organization rallied around the task.

IT needs to be involved as early as possible in defining the business benefits, according to Jaisundar V, a BPM consultant with Patni, a systems integrator. A consistent challenge is getting people in an organization to move beyond the Excel spreadsheets that have often been their tools of choice in the past. Business users are often not ready to look at BPM in terms of continual improvements and are resistant to efforts to change their way of doing business, so IT ends up taking the responsibility for looking at it.

A best practice is developing an internal center of excellence for BPM. Companies need to have that so they can be highly focused on their implementation options, V said. The center of excellence is ideally led by a representative from senior management with a strong, even passionate, belief in BPM and understanding of its drivers. The team itself should include a mix of representation from both business and IT. Whether the center needs to be a full-time dedicated team or a temporary group depends on the size and extent of the BPM initiative, but it is important to have members in common across several initiatives.

Some of the other benefits that can come from such a team can be identifying reusable artifacts, mitigating risks from over-engineered solutions, setting realistic expectations for end users, coaching business participation, and coaching business users to achieve continuous process improvements, V said.

“We find it is important to visualize the process and the opportunities from a BPM point of view,” V said. “Many customers already have documented requirements, but it is wise to go back and understand those requirements from a BPM point of view. That can help shape their expectations of the benefits to be [gained] from BPM.”

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