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Producing a Successful BPM Project
Strategic recommendations to reduce risk and
increase success

This article is part of the Best Practices White Paper Paper-Centric Business Process Automation [July/August 2009]


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In order to compete effectively in the 21st century, many organizations are designing powerful and unique business processes, and automating these processes with business process management (BPM) technologies. These organizations recognize that their financial performance and the quality of service they provide to their customers are intimately tied to their business processes. For this reason, many organizations consider BPM to be a vital strategic technology that has the power to decrease costs, increase productivity, provide high-quality customer services levels and realize a respectable ROI for their investment. According to a Gartner BPM Survey of more than 50 companies, 78% of the firms reported an ROI of more than 15%. BPM enables organizations to design, automate, monitor and actively control their process assets.1

Because of the key competitive advantages provided by BPM, many organizations are either investigating or deploying formal project management practices to ensure the success of their BPM implementations. The good news is that the majority of BPM projects are considered successful. In fact, according to a Gartner 2008 report in which the research firm surveyed organizations that had implemented BPM, approximately 95% of those questioned rated their BPM projects as successful. Having myself been a BPM project manager on several customer engagements, I have an appreciation for those critical project management ingredients that produce a winning or not so winning BPM project.

A BPM project manager is a significant agent for changing business processes, and for championing BPM technologies as a part of a continuous process improvement program. Indeed, the continuous nature of BPM projects is what makes them unique—they are never-ending.

Recommendation #1:
Use a redesigned project methodology.

Using the right methodology for BPM deployments is essential in order to ensure project success. The methodology needs to assist the project manager with the following core areas: process vision, scope of project, business case(s), critical success factors, defined project roles and responsibilities, a plan for the analyze and redesign phases, conditions necessary for process performance improvement, definition of work breakdown structures, detailed implementation plan and a monitoring and continuous process improvement plan.

The following are often factors in the failure.

  • Customers designed and executed the BPM project with the same methodologies employed for the implementation of an enterprise content management (ECM), ERP, CRM or other solution. The project managers had no BPM project experience and/or training, and simply thought that all projects were managed the same way with the same skill set.
  • Organizations went immediately from purchasing BPM from a vendor to deploying the software with minimal understanding of the current and/or future state of their business processes.
  • Business process decomposition of activities, inputs, outputs and sequence dependencies were not clearly understood and/or not formally defined.
  • There was a lack of executive buy-in.
  • There was no corporate process governance to manage the strategic versus tactical prioritization of process improvement and BPM implementation.

There are several project methodologies available in the market today, but the one that is most credible, mature and practical for BPM implementations is the "BPM project delivery framework" (BPDF). This process-centric framework provides clearly defined steps that ensure that business process improvement initiatives are tightly aligned with key business and IT stakeholder objectives; have executive sponsorship; enforce process governance; and include process metrics for measurement, monitoring and control. Also inherent in the framework is a continuous process improvement phase.

The following are brief descriptions of each of the framework’s steps:

1. Create a steering group that includes management from the affected business area, lead IT manager and senior LOB managers from the functions that are affected.

2. Identify the target processes that have a relatively low level of maturity, high impact and low complexity. These starter BPM projects should range from three to six months in duration to ensure quick success.

3. Create a compelling business case in order to link the key business objectives (KBOs) to the BPM initiative.

4. Achieve executive sponsorship from both business and IT organizations.

5. Construct the core BPM project team. Members should include the project manager, senior manager(s) for the targeted business area, key SMEs from the LOB affected, process architect(s), lead IT manager and IT specialists as required.

6. Understand that the process needs to include both the "as-is" and ‘to-be" processes. The IGOE methodology is a solid technique for mapping out business processes.

7. Identify breakthrough opportunities such as reduced cycle time and time-to-market, lower costs, decreased defects, enhanced customer service, better exception processing and realtime process performance reporting.

8. Develop and prototype on the BPM suite.

9. Implement and align organizational change. This approach should include a process governance model.

Recommendation #2:
BPM strategic discovery workshop.

Conducting a strategic discovery workshop is an additional, but critical, step for successful BPM implementation. The workshop’s core purpose is to identify the most valuable LOB business process candidates for process transformation and BPM implementation. The workshop enables organizations to define and confirm clearly the project scope for the process improvement initiative. The workshop requires both business and IT executive management stakeholder involvement to ensure that the BPM project delivery vision is aligned with strategic corporate objectives and to "marshal the troops" around the BPM initiative. Please see my KMWorld article titled Business Process Management: A Strategic Imperative for a Down Economy for more in-depth coverage of the BPM workshop structure, recommended participants, best practices guidance and workshop deliverables.


1 Derek Miers, The Keys to BPM Project Success


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