What is the single most important thing you can do to increase the likelihood of business performance management (BPM) success? Ensure that you have a BPM veteran on your team. Getting a been-there, done-that person with experience and perspective involved in your BPM project is the factor most likely to tip the project into the win column. Surveys consistently show that staying within budget, delivering close to deadlines and satisfying users with a BPM implementation depend most heavily on leveraging previous experiences.

The reality is that there is a finite pool of expert resources from which to choose. And if that resource is not already on your team, an increase in headcount seems counterintuitive to improving performance with existing resources. A logical alternative is to turn to outside experts to obtain that experience.

Why, then, do the same surveys indicate that a sizeable segment of BPM adopters still steadfastly refuse to bring in help? Let's examine the reasons behind the preference for going it alone.

It often comes down to dollars. Politics, egos, personality types and corporate policies also play a role, but let's focus on cost first. The most knowledgeable BPM experts are usually part of a consulting company (management consultants, research and advisory consultants, etc.). Consultants cost money.

Face it, some companies that used consultants in the past were left with a sour taste. Along with the bill, they also were left with lots of analysis that produced a huge stack of paper but little in the way of tangible results. This does not mean using consultants is a bad idea. More likely, it indicates the companies probably chose the wrong consulting companies, which often results from good marketing by the consulting company plus a lack of due diligence on the part of the organization.

The project manager (usually a mid-level manager) may feel a need for expert consultation but gets shot down by the CIO or CFO. A senior executive who gives short shrift to the idea of engaging an expert is typically not close enough to the problem to see that a new type of system requires a relatively scarce type of knowledge. The project manager is probably too smart to charge into battle on behalf of a third-party consulting firm.

Project managers don't want to ask for something only to hear, "Isn't this what I hired you for?" When a manager asks his superior for help with BPM, he may get that kind of skeptical response. The manager, being fearful of that response, may not even ask for help in the first place. When someone is hired to lead the BPM initiative, he or she shouldn't be expected to do everything alone. It is highly likely they will need to bring specific expertise to bear at different points in the process. Some of this expertise will be in house: the finance manager who knows how certain reports are put together or the IT manager who knows where the data resides.

Where does the outside expert contribute? He may know how to avoid the pitfalls common in BPM projects. Without the appropriate knowledge, the approach will be trial and error. This certainly makes the project take longer, ties up team members for longer periods and delays the time to payback. When you see BPM implementations that did not turn out happily, those consulting dollars begin to look like a wise investment.

Some companies have bureaucratic, all-encompassing policies such as, "We do not hire consultants." The BPM project manager at such a company will have to go it alone, but he should be able to get equipped with the right information. These managers need to become their own experts. Several of the BPM consulting firms sell research reports. Everything from detailed product reviews to best-practice guides is available. Spending a few dollars on the right research can go a long way to avoiding costly errors.

What is the actual risk in not engaging an expert or becoming one yourself? It could be just a minor project delay and the related costs. However, it could be major, such as spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on the wrong solution or fumbling the implementation and not delivering on the project goals. Because this is BPM, which has enterprise-wide impact, a failure of this magnitude would be high visibility.

It may be a strong statement, but the employee in charge of BPM who doesn't attempt to utilize expertise is doing his company a disservice. Plenty of organizations today are going back to fix their original BPM systems. This time around most of them are making use of experts, and many of the original team leaders are nowhere to be found. 

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