BPM: lessons from the real world

by Martin Atherton, Jon Collins and Dale Vile

Is business process management a cure-all for modern business ills, an elitist technology play or just
business as usual? Experience of and aptitude for BPM varies considerably in organisations and when
seeking to manage or improve processes the most effective action to take is not always obvious or easy to
find support for. This report explores practical ways in which organisations can move forwards with BPM.


Businesses admit there is work to be done when it comes to improving process management

Effective and efficient management of the design, implementation and evolution of their business
processes is a weakness in most organisations. Process fragmentation across systems, staff and
organisational boundaries causes headaches in terms of performance, and also poses a challenge
when people want to start improving things, and corral available expertise and support.

Process ownership, understanding and alignment are foundation stones for BPM improvement

Ownership drives accountability, which in turn increases an organisation’s knowledge of the way
processes perform, providing the scope for improvement. Building understanding and alignment
across multiple domains and stakeholders through activities such as process mapping and modelling
gets people onto the same page, sets expectations and improves the likelihood of gaining support.
Organisations which apply these ideas broadly and deeply find their BPM performance improves.

The right tools for the job and ‘professional’ process automation is the best way to execute

The job in hand requires the right tools. More often than not they are already available within the
organisation, as sophisticated technology investment is not a pre-requisite to effective BPM. It is, on
the other hand, important for expert BPM, and organisations will naturally gravitate towards dedicated
BPM tools as they become more proficient. Successful practitioners understand the importance of the
balance between manual and automated process steps. For the latter, they promote the use of
‘professional solutions’ led by IT or enabled by specialist BPM tools rather than ad-hoc, DIY solutions.

BPM effectiveness can be super-charged with the right approach and capabilities

Formalising the way BPM is carried out simply works better than acting in an uncoordinated fashion.
Benefits can be gained as much from doing things in the right way and in the right order, as from
adopting a highly regimented approach. From an organisational and technical point of view, a very
strong correlation can be seen between the degree of integration across the breadth of BPM activities
and capabilities and the effectiveness of business process management.

Following the right mantra can pay dividends

‘Thinking strategically and acting locally’ sums up the research findings which highlight the
performance gains from addressing BPM in a joined up manner and the practical benefits of using the
most appropriate tools and skills at hand to get the job done. If nothing else can be achieved,
adopting this mantra for BPM can stand organisations in good stead.

The research upon which this report is based was designed and interpreted on an independent
basis by Freeform Dynamics. During the online study, which was sponsored by IBM and conducted
in partnership with The Register, feedback was gathered from 557 IT and business professionals.

Content Contributors: Martin Atherton, Jon Collins & Dale Vile

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Dale is a co-founder of Freeform Dynamics, and today runs the company. As part of this, he oversees the organisation’s industry coverage and research agenda, which tracks technology trends and developments, along with IT-related buying behaviour among mainstream enterprises, SMBs and public sector organisations.