There are many lists of best practices and steps you can take to help ensure business performance management (BPM) success. These lists are usually derived from the examples set by companies that have been successful with BPM. The list we offer here is unique because it is based on BPM failures that I have witnessed. Skipping or overlooking one or more of these lessons results in BPM systems that fail to meet their original objectives and produce significantly lower satisfaction ratings.
Keep it Moving
The most critical step is to keep your BPM project moving at all costs. In certain cases it can be difficult to calculate ROI up front, so many projects get put on the back burner. In the case of BPM, the back burner often equals death. If the key stakeholders do not see the value of the initiative, it is typically not a project that will get reprioritized to the top of the list. Yet, the sometimes difficult-to-quantify fact is that BPM does produce tremendous returns for companies that embrace it. The problem is that those returns may not become obvious until the system is up and running. So, how do you keep your project moving?
One way is to educate your senior sponsors. Help them understand the value other companies are deriving from their BPM systems. This can be accomplished easily enough by having key team members attend meetings or conferences to hear from their peers in other companies who have moved forward.
An alternate approach is to have BPM experts who have worked with many companies meet with your senior supporters and share what they have seen. If all else fails, see if you can get away with a low-cost first step to help build the case for BPM - an under-the-radar move that will boost your position.
One possibility is to have an audit or needs assessment performed. This will produce data to show management where current systems fall short. You can also share survey data with them so they will be aware that a significant majority of companies are moving forward with some form of BPM. No one likes to be left behind.
Get IT and Finance Working Together
Unfortunately, in many cases this is easier said than done. In fact, many companies do not even realize that this should be the approach to BPM. They may assign IT to run the whole project. The end result is often an underutilized system that does not really meet the needs of the business user, particularly in the area of ease of use.
If finance takes the ball and runs with it, the department will typically buy a packaged application that meets most of its needs and is designed for end-user self-sufficiency. However, the resulting system may have performance issues, have difficulty integrating with existing systems and technologies, and struggle with accessing data from source systems in a clean and consistent way. It is clear that the two groups need to work as a team. One way to make this happen is to have the executive sponsor force the issue. Although that would be the "stick" approach, the "carrot" alternative might be to tie the two groups to a joint project incentive bonus based on the ultimate success of the system as determined by the end-user community.
Do you think that trial and error is a wise approach to building a system that will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and be the primary vehicle for making strategic decisions for years to come? Phrased that way, you'll probably answer no.
Business performance management is too complex, costly and mission critical to take risks. It often has high visibility within the organization. You can't afford to not get it right the first time. Make sure your requirements are complete and realistic. Make sure you select the best product for those requirements, and be certain it is optimally designed and implemented.
The realistic approach is to take advantage of deep domain expertise by working with someone who has done BPM before. This is a key addition to your BPM team. Whether it is a new hire (or re-assignment of an existing employee), a contractor or a third-party consultant isn't the point. The help a BPM veteran can provide will be invaluable in keeping the project on track and ensuring your BPM system turns out to be a success. Companies that decide to try it alone often end up implementing systems with far less functionality than similar companies spending the same amount of money that did engage an expert. In extreme cases, they have had to throw out the system and start over. It follows that the original champions of doing it themselves do not survive to contribute their viewpoint in the second go-round.
Next month we will look at the remaining lessons and a quick hit list of other potential "gotchas."
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