Every year BPM Partners conducts its BPM Pulse survey of companies around the world, ranging from small to very large organizations, about their projects and plans for business performance management (BPM). More than 20 industries are represented in the most recent survey, with the largest numbers being from manufacturing and financial services. The survey provides some very encouraging findings and detail on why users are happier with their projects than with their software vendors.

More than half of the 200 respondents were already at work on BPM, and another 22 percent have concrete plans to launch BPM initiatives. We see a recent trend of companies pulling their projects forward, moving them up on the IT/finance calendar. For the minority not moving forward with BPM, the most cited reason is that senior management didn't see the benefits or the ROI justification.

Which business process is the starting point for companies considering BPM? Budgeting is the most popular (56 percent), but interest in operational analytics has exploded over the past year, leaping to nearly half the respondents. This is a highly encouraging development. It signifies that companies are seeing wider applications for BPM beyond the confines of the finance area, and suggests that adoption of performance management will quickly benefit companies on a wider scope. Another 26 percent ambitiously have started or will start with the full BPM suite, but there is a clear trend away from full suites toward limiting initial project scope to just one or two areas and aiming for early wins.

Almost 40 percent of the respondents expected the vendor selection process to take six months or longer. In practice, 69 percent of those who had chosen vendors already said the selection took three months or longer. In most cases, these timelines are unnecessarily long and costly, and could be reduced by leveraging a proven methodology to define requirements, audit existing systems and select a vendor and solution. Nevertheless, only 15 percent planned to use outside consultants in the vendor selection process. This tendency to go it alone could be a factor in the less-than-stellar vendor ratings: choosing a good product to address a problem it wasn't designed for can easily result in user dissatisfaction.

Experience breeds a changed perspective; nearly two-thirds of those already engaged in BPM said they should have used more outside expertise, primarily in requirements definition, implementation and overall project management. The CFO was by far the most frequent project champion or sponsor. With finance leading the charge, a senior finance manager often ends up managing the overall project, and this is not a CFO's strong suit. We recommend that finance involve IT for detailed and technical aspects of the implementation, and consider using project management experts for strategic guidance to the implementation.

Almost 60 percent of the respondents did use, or planned to use, outside resources to assist with implementation. Approximately one-third of the 200 respondents involved consultants at the outset for requirements definition and later for training.

A surprisingly large number, 40 percent of those engaged in BPM projects, said they had underestimated the resources needed for the task. This could be due to the fact that finance, not IT, was running the project because finance has less experience with project staffing. Another possibility: giving credence to vendor hype, these companies assumed the implementation would be easier than it actually was.

What about costs? Almost two-thirds spent, or planned to spend, less than $250,000 on software. Nearly half of the respondents pegged software expenditure at less than $100,000. When grouped by company size, almost 80 percent of the smaller firms expected to spend less than $100,000. Large and mid-size firms were more evenly spread across the price ranges in the survey: less than $100,000, $100,000 up to $500,000, and more than $500,000.

Respondents were asked to give their level of satisfaction with any of 24 listed vendors of BPM software. In general, the ratings were a disappointment. Most vendors received a midrange rating with the highest scores going to Applix, OutlookSoft, Oracle, SAP and Cognos. We believe the overall lower ratings are due to a mismatch of the technology required to address the business issue at hand (selecting the wrong product), having unrealistic requirements and expectations and problematic implementations. In some cases, the respondents were rating an installed product that could be one or more versions behind the vendor's current offerings; therefore, they would not provide an accurate reflection of that vendor today.

Despite the muted satisfaction with vendors, the level of satisfaction among respondents with their BPM initiatives was high. The majority of companies say that their BPM initiative has met or exceeded their expectations. The conclusion we draw is that even if implementation was difficult, or the product claims didn't all pan out, users are achieving important benefits with BPM projects. To see highlights of the survey results, you can download the BPM Pulse white paper from: http://www.bpmpartners.com/bpmcentral_whitepapers.shtml.  

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