Why BPM is a Real Tough Sell to Your Boss

Estimated reading time: 2 mins

To continue the recent thread of posts about BPM, we’re going to look at the Real Tough Sell of it.

BPM is about Evolution, not Revolution: The Western world is addicted to the Quick Fix, Instant Gratification and Revolution. High Impact is expected. BPM follows the concept of Kaizen (a Japanese philosophy) where the organization continually reviews and refines its operation in its micro-environment (in the detail). So changes happen subtly. But the beauty of this is that the changes are hidden to the outside world and competitors find it impossible to pinpoint what you’re doing. The other hurdle that Execs struggle to get over is the acceptance that their organization is not perfect. There is another Japanese term called wabi-sabi, which to paraphrase means Nothing Is Perfect, Nothing is Complete, and Nothing Lasts Forever. BPM is a business embodiment of wabi-sabi.

BPM isn’t sexy: Sure, there is loads of hype about BPM but it isn’t something a CEO will brag about, except the results. Process-orientation isn’t something that most Execs align to – they tend to be results-oriented. It is difficult to get Execs excited about what BPM is, but it is easier to get their attention when talking about what it will eventually deliver.

BPM is Continuous:Therefore you can’t timebox ‘it’ – it doesn’t have an end. Execs don’t like never-ending projects – not having an end-date also makes awkward conversations with the press and market analysts. But remember, BPM isn’t a project. Another reason why Execs don’t like open ended initiatives is experience tells them this is an indicator of bad management. But remember again, BPM isn’t a project.

BPM is a thing you be, not a thing you do: You don’t just do a BPM project and then go back to normal. It gradually transforms the organization, so it always involves a change in the business mindset, management systems, leadership and workforce. Such changes are hard to sell internally as it involves everyone changing and potentially disrupts the political landscape and the power-base of Execs.

BPM is expensive: BPM change programs involve transformation in almost every part of the organization, so each department and unit requires change management. The technology and infrastructure to support a BPMS doesn’t come for less than seven figures.

The true value of BPM is difficult to forecast and measure: Due to the iterative and continuous nature of BPM, it really is hard to predict what the benefit will be. It requires a mult-dimensional, multi-factor model for capturing the expected value. Measurement of the benefit only comes when BPM is maturing within the organization. There is a science and industry growing around this though, but is based on the application of specific best-practice methodologies, which might not suit you.

So how do you sell BPM to your boss? You don’t, directly, but you sell the benefits. You can demonstrate how you will realize the benefits by using the methods of BPM and the infrastructure of a BPMS, but those are the HOW, not the WHAT.

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2 thoughts on “Why BPM is a Real Tough Sell to Your Boss”

  1. I looked at your article with similiar experiences and that BPM/SOA is an evolution of a business strategy that develops a new market push without competitors knowledge of what they are doing.

    OpenSoft has had many experiences in helping business and organisations move toward a more process centric business with services. This is very hard for most IT people to understand due to the fact that they only understand EAI, ESB and ETL and component technology that glues to Web and desktop front end.

    We have 2 BPM platforms, one is Intalio and the other Skelta. It is very interesting that while there are great commercial open source platforms that “rock” such as Intalio, people still do not get the whole picture.

    BPM is hard to sell and it does take a long time, but if done right , the benefits of agility, re-usability (through services) and market delivery are the greatest advantages that Large Enterprises and SME can take from their investment in BPM. The motto we always say is start small but build for the long term.

  2. @Neville – I’ve heard of Intalio before but I haven’t seriously looked into it. I think I’ll take a further look! Thanks for the tip.

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