BPM Partners' 2007 BPM Pulse Survey wrapped up in February. This popular annual survey had more than 500 respondents from companies large and small, across many industries and continents. The respondents came in roughly equal measure from the finance department, IT and other business units throughout the company. Respondents answered questions about their status and plans around budgeting, strategic planning, consolidation and reporting, scorecards and dashboards, and operational analysis. Noting correlations between responses and functions across several key questions led to some important conclusions.

Differing Viewpoints

For this column, I examined the correlation between the respondent's background (IT and finance specifically) and their responses. One of the goals of business performance management (BPM) is alignment: strategic alignment across the company and business alignment between IT and finance, who generally work on BPM projects together. According to the survey, BPM has made good progress, but some areas of disagreement remain.

BPM is a broad term covering several areas. The survey asked respondents to identify the key areas of BPM they were focused on. While budgeting and forecasting was the area receiving the highest response from all finance department respondents (CFO, controller, finance managers), the picture was somewhat different in IT. The CIOs who responded to the survey gave both strategic planning and dashboards a higher priority. The respondents with other IT management titles placed budgeting and forecasting first, but by only two percentage points over dashboards, which were closely followed by operational analytics. This matches up with the realities we see in the field. Finance-led BPM projects tend to focus on budgeting because that is where they feel the most pain. IT-led projects often start with performance dashboards to sit on top of and provide value from recently completed data warehouses. Operational analytics is a logical progression from there. Neither starting point is wrong, so long as the other elements of BPM are filled in over time.

When looking at the anticipated number of users for a fully deployed BPM system, finance and IT again had somewhat different perspectives. There were even differences within the finance department itself. Because there was a roughly equal mix of small, midsized and large companies, it should not impact this analysis. The majority of CFOs had a vision of 50 users or less. Perhaps that's because they were thinking in terms of the costs involved in adding users. Controllers and other finance managers were mostly split between fewer than 50 users and 50 to 150. The CIOs were in line with the controller/finance manager thinking. However, the other IT managers gave 251 to 500 users the highest rating. This is more in line with the true vision of BPM, reaching users across all departments throughout the company and consistent with their responses around BPM focus areas.

An area where we would expect a wide variance is in the choice of software provider type. In the survey, users could select enterprise resource planning (ERP) provider, packaged application vendor, tools vendor or vendor of tools and applications. In the overall results, the majority preferred a vendor of both tools and applications. In the end, finance and IT did not disagree very much on this topic. There was more variance by title. CFOs preferred, by a wide margin, vendors of both tools and applications. Controllers preferred packaged application vendors, also by a wide margin. Other finance managers were fairly equally split between the two. The CIOs were overwhelmingly in favor of packaged applications. This would seem surprising at first because it affords less opportunity for additional customization and expansion. However, because the application vendors design their solutions for business end-user self-sufficiency, there could be a reduced demand on IT. Other IT managers came out in favor of vendors of both business intelligence tools and packaged applications, with pure packaged application vendors a close second. This data breaks the stereotype that says the majority of IT managers look first to their ERP provider and then to pure tool vendors for BPM. It is just not the case.

On questions such as planned expenditures for software and services, the importance of various features such as predictive analytics and overall satisfaction with the BPM project, IT and finance were very closely aligned. In the end, the two groups are more alike than different in their thinking about BPM. It's a good thing, too, because for successful BPM, it is essential that the two groups work together closely.  

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