Each year, BPM Partners surveys end users to identify trends and preferences in business performance management (BPM). This survey is fully independent, not sponsored by any vendors. With the survey coming to a close, the 2006 BPM Pulse Survey shows some interesting surprises.

First, a little background on the survey. We had almost 500 respondents from around the globe, with a little more than 60 percent from North America. Respondents included a balanced mix of small, medium and large companies. They represent finance, IT and operations as well as a wide range of industries, with manufacturing and financial services weighing in heavily.

Goodbye Tools, Hello Applications

Thirty-four percent of respondents preferred a pure packaged applications vendor, while 43 percent said their favorite BPM vendor offers both tools and applications. Thus, 77 percent of survey respondents recognize the benefit of customizing a packaged application to fit their needs.

Although there is still a market for tools-only vendors, that market has compressed. Today, customers can buy more advanced functionality and find value in the sophisticated analytics and best practices for a specific vertical market that packaged applications can now offer. By the same token, the popularity of applications could reflect a limited number of expert resources with current BPM tools programming expertise. IT groups have a voice in vendor preference, of course, and as applications have matured to an enterprise level, IT can now endorse the integration, database and metadata management of newer BPM offerings. Addressing these factors during the selection process makes life easier for the entire enterprise - including IT.

Looking at this same data from an IT versus finance perspective, 85 percent of finance respondents were interested in packaged applications, versus 71 percent in the IT department. This is notable in that only 17 percent of IT staff would rely on a pure tools vendor for developing their BPM solution - a significant shift in IT's perspective over the past few years.

Everyone Wants Metadata Management

Previously a concern that was relegated to hard-core data warehouse professionals, both business users and IT recognize the importance of synchronizing departmental applications with enterprise data structures. Overall, 74 percent of respondents rated metadata management as important. In the same vein, 76 percent said that a unified solution with a single database and interface was also important.

An additional capability that is becoming more prominent in many applications, driver-based planning, includes the ability to take an event-based approach to the planning process. For example, if energy prices significantly changed halfway through a fiscal year, you could readily insert the impact of this event and see the results in your overall plan. Driver-based planning was considered important by 62 percent of all respondents. Many respondents are also interested in sharing information from their performance management application across the enterprise, and 60 percent noted that a portal framework is an important need in the solutions they seek.

Vendor Satisfaction Way Up

With a view toward getting market feedback regarding overall satisfaction, each year the BPM Pulse Survey asks respondents to rate their experiences with a large range of vendors on a five-point scale, with five being the highest possible rating. Last year, only one vendor received a four or better, but this year several surpassed that mark. We think this is an overall positive trend for the market. Vendors are doing a better job of servicing their clients, and clients are having more realistic expectations of what they consider success with the performance management initiative.

Looking at the detailed satisfaction figures across the vendors, it seems that improvements in product documentation is the area with the highest level of dissatisfaction.

Overall, the survey recognizes that the performance management category is maturing, with value-add applications playing an important role in client satisfaction. The most intriguing measure is that more than two-thirds of the respondents felt that their performance management initiative exceeded expectations. This demonstrates that the value proposition is strong, but also sends a word to vendors and service providers that one in three look to get even more out of their BPM initiative.

To request a copy of aggregated 2006 BPM Pulse Survey results, go to www.bpmpartners.com/BPMSurveyCentral.shtml (case sensitive). 

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