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Over-investing in BPM Technology

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In an eWeek piece, Laura Mooney advocates “investing” in business process management software.  Unfortunately, making yet another technology purchase will only contribute to the methodological problems in an organization.

Weak points in this argument appear in the original article:

Why cut [costs] blindly when there is a software application that will immediately improve process efficiency and employee productivity across the board? Business process management (BPM) software is designed to automate and improve people-intensive business processes—the processes that are often the most manual and therefore the slowest and most cost-intensive.

These two sentences are filled with dangerous assumptions and problematic claims. Consider the following points:

  1. “Don’t cut costs blindly” – Reviewing your options carefully is sound advice, not just about reducing expenses but for any major organizational changes. Ms. Mooney immediately suggests instead of blindly slashing overhead, companies should place faith in new software. Taking swift action without careful examination is always bad. Why oppose blind cost-cutting yet support blind software-purchasing?
  2. Software that immediately improves process efficiency and employee productivity” – Virtually all software systems should eventually improve productivity, but not until after all data is migrated, all personnel are sufficiently trained, all major bugs are identified and resolved, and everything runs smoothly. This transformation may take weeks. Or as in one case months, or even years. An increase in overall work output will not be instant, and in fact there will likely be a decrease in productivity during the transition. Change always requires extra time to adjust.
  3. Software designed to automate and improve people-intensive business processes” – The existence of extensive, well-organized public libraries do not make people smarter. The development of low-calorie, health-conscious meals do not make people thinner. Likewise, no BPM software product will automatically make employees more productive. Stakeholders must find enthusiasm and support to implement positive changes to workflow. The people, not the software, will improve operations.
  4. Processes are the most cost-intensive part of business – Actually, the most expensive part of your operation is probably elements which are not traditionally characterized as business process. How much time do employees spend battling email, listening in on conference calls or attending meetings? How many use tools without proper training? Most of the everyday costs and frustrations with business are tactical, not strategic. Acquiring BPM software sidesteps an important conversation about where stakeholders see waste and aggravation at work.
Indianapolis Consultants typing at a computer

© Flickr user LamenTa3

A great consulting firm does not sell one-size fits-all software solutions. Transforming the processes in your office will not magically occur if you buy an expensive, off-the-shelf product. Change requires commitment and passion, and the most effective agent for change are the employees themselves. Don’t be afraid of costly BPM solutions because you probably do not need them. Instead, contact the Indianapolis consultants at AccelaWork to focus on the everyday opportunities to work smarter.

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