Four questions to ask yourself at the start of a BPM selection

In a BPM selection process, as is the case in all enterprise technology areas it seems, we’re conditioned to think that more features and capabilities equals more value.

But the most feature-rich BPM tools or platforms may just not be right for you. Focusing only on those offerings appearing ‘top-right’ in some positioning chart may at best slow you down in your investigation and procurement; and at worst could set you on a completely inappropriate path.

At MWD Advisors we’ve been helping organisations with BPM selection for over 10 years, and we’ve learned an awful lot along the way.

We know that the BPM technology marketplace is very diverse – in terms of both suppliers and buyers. The good thing about this is that there are many great products available, addressing a wide range of requirements and scenarios. The challenge for you is how to select a shortlist with confidence.

Here are five questions you need to ask yourself before getting too far into the process of selecting a BPM technology platform. We use these questions to frame many of our technology shortlisting engagements.

1 – What’s the scope and scale of your requirement?

For each project you’re thinking about addressing with BPM technology, are you looking to improve the way that work gets done within a team, within a department, across multiple departments, or maybe even across multiple businesses? Are you likely to need to co-ordinate work across a few dozen people and perhaps linking to a couple of software applications; or are we talking about thousands of people and dozens of applications?

Some BPM technology platforms are great at addressing really large-scope and -scale challenges – for example offering advanced capabilities that help you manage process variants for multiple business units, product areas, territories, etc. However these platforms can be very expensive to get started with, and require a lot of training to get the best out of.

2 – Who will drive the project or program you have in mind?

Have you thought about where in your organisation the real impetus will come from for your BPM work? Is this going to be an initiative where a senior business leader is pushing; or is it more led by your enterprise or business architects? Or some other group? Who’s really going to take ownership for the delivering the business and technology changes that your BPM work will introduce, and manage subsequent changes over time?

Some BPM technology platforms (and vendors) offer approaches that play particularly well in situations where businesspeople are in the driving seat; others offer approaches that really play more to an IT architecture community making the charge.

3 – What’s more important to you – speed of implementation, or customisability?

BPM technology platforms are powerful things, but they can’t change the basic laws of technology or economics. If you want to deliver results really fast, you need to make compromises in the detail of the functionality you deliver. If you want new apps that are very customised at the detail level around particular kinds of uncommon features or behaviours, you’ll need to be prepare to spend more time. What’s more important?

Some BPM technology platforms excel in situations where you need the core functionality on offer, but you want to integrate that with very specific kinds of application behaviours. Others excel in getting you working business process apps that can improve the way your business works in a matter of weeks – as long as you’re prepared to go with a more templated approach.

4 – What skills do you have, and what skills are you prepared to build?

Do you already have established business process specialists in your organisation with experience of analysing your organisation’s processes to look for improvements? Do you have technical people who are comfortable working closely with non-technical subject-matter experts, and regular front-line people from your business? Do you already have people with experience of model-driven design tools, of popular notations (like BPMN, DMN, CMMN)?

Some BPM technology platforms wear their technology standards credentials on their sleeves, and require someone proficient in the use of these standards to really get them to fly. Other platforms are less standards-focused. This may or may not be a good thing. Again, it depends on your situation!

These aren’t the only questions you need to think about, but they’re a good start.

Check out this free MWD Advisors analysis report before you do anything else: BPM technology review: Assessment framework

If you’d like to find out more about how we help organisations one-to-one in this area, you can do that here.