In my last column, I discussed how companies fall into purchasing the wrong business performance management (BPM) software solution. Getting past that first hurdle, organizations that select the right software can still get off on the wrong foot for their initiative and miss a significant opportunity. That's why we have continued this discussion - other ways to get a false and unproductive start with business performance management. Knowing what not to do is an important companion to your knowledge of best approaches to BPM.

  1. Inadequate Executive Sponsorship on the Project. Without a committed executive sponsor, several things can go wrong. Most significantly, the project itself may fall off the priority list when another important project comes along. We have seen too many BPM projects get shoved to the back burner, never to return. Less drastic, but all too common, is the scope of the project being severely limited. Without a senior sponsor, there is often a lack of corporate vision for the project. The risk is that the focus often becomes the current pains of the department heads who have shepherded the project along. To provide its full potential value, BPM has to be functionally and organizationally far reaching. Moreover, when you are attempting to build a corporate-wide performance system that interfaces with many systems and attempts to address the needs of many groups across the company, some tough decisions will have to be made. Without the right executive to serve as tiebreaker, you can end up with a suboptimal system that will long remind you of too many compromises made along the way.
  2. End Users Not Involved Enough During the Process. It comes back to haunt companies when a BPM system that has the right functionality and technically integrates in a satisfactory manner gets rolled out and is resoundingly ignored by users. This is the classic situation of users not having emotional or time commitments to the new system. For BPM to be successful, it must be embraced. The more users, on both the input and the reporting sides, the better. To get users excited, they must be involved throughout the process. The BPM requirements should include user input and not just focus on corporate needs. Adding some features or data detail to the system for the specific benefit of the end users can go a long way toward gaining their buy-in. Because it can take a while to fully implement BPM, make sure you communicate to both end users and key stakeholders throughout the process to keep them engaged. Lastly, when you are ready to roll out the system, make sure they get adequate training on the business use of the system as well as the technical functionality.
  3. Listening to Biased Advisers. Many have heard us and others suggest engaging an expert to guide you through your BPM initiative to reduce the risks. Unfortunately, some advisors may put their own best interests first. You may be vulnerable if, for example, you put too much emphasis on utilizing a single consulting firm for the entire engagement, starting with choosing a software system. If a consulting firm that relies on implementation for its bread and butter is brought in to help with requirements development and vendor selection, they may well steer you to the software they know, rather than the software you need. Prior to completion of the process, how do you know what product you will be implementing? Most consultants are experts in only one or two products, so you need to choose implementation partners based on the product you have selected. Secondly, the expertise of implementation consultants is focused primarily on the vendors they implement; how can they help you evaluate the full BPM landscape? Last, they have a strong financial incentive to lead your requirements discussions as well as your actual product selection down a path that will position them as the obvious choice for your implementation partner. What's required here is a truly objective, nonvendor-aligned expert.
  4. Trying to Do Too Much Too Soon. Winning hearts and minds over to BPM can depend on reaching a reasonable mass of users quickly with useful functionality and getting them talking about how it helps them. Our practical experience is that if 20 users find they can do two or three key tasks more easily or rapidly, you are going to have more acceptance than if five power users adopt the new system for almost all of their work. Don't try to implement everything at once - for example, just improving budgeting and planning will reduce the pain for many users. This also lays a strong foundation for the rest of BPM (actuals consolidation, dashboards, operational analytics, etc.), which can come later. To measure actual performance, you need to have the plan in place to serve as the target to measure against.

In this series, we laid out some of the potential missteps for those who head BPM initiatives. The challenges are many, but they have been addressed successfully by numerous organizations that now enjoy a tremendous return on their investment in BPM. With your own research on best practices, pitfalls to avoid and the right expertise added to your team, you should be able to join the ranks of satisfied BPM users.

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