Q&A: A pivotal year for BPM

Terry Schurter, an expert on business process management, is lead analyst for the Business Process Management Group (, a global BPM community. He believes IT will make great strides this year helping implement BPM in the enterprise.

Q: Many believe business process management will cause upheaval in IT organizations. Do you see that happening?

A: I don’t think it’s going to cause that much upheaval. But I do think it’s going to cause a lot of corporations to include BPM software in their IT architectures. I think this will primarily be non-disruptive, but it’s going to push the IT folks to understand this space better and to make sure they realize how the software actually fits with the corporate objectives. And then they have to figure out from there what the best way is to actually get systems in place to support those objectives.

Q: What do senior software decision makers need to do to better focus on BPM?

A: It’s not primarily a technology question. It’s very much an understanding of what business process management is. The software products that are available to do BPM are extremely easy to use. You can jump right in and start modeling, drag and drop, which is amazingly easy. However, if you don’t understand the business side of things and you don’t line the model up properly with the metrics that represent the strategic direction of the business, then you have not created any value.

Q: What are the most difficult challenges in defining a business process? You alluded to that.

A: That’s exactly right. That is the number one challenge, and probably the greatest pitfall for the IT folks is to try and champion something like this without the rest of the executive staff buying in. You can’t push this on people…all executive roles, functional areas and departments have to be committed and they have to be an active part of the process. You’re redefining your business in a new way and if you don’t get that right, then everything else breaks.

Q: So, IT needs to learn the power of persuasion? .

A: They do. Although I think the biggest opportunity for IT is for any organization that already has executive interest in BPM. A lot of executives are starting to say “BPM, BPM. I see there’s value but I don’t know how to get going.” The really exciting opportunity in 2005 is that the technology side of the house will get the whole idea of BPM. It’s not hard for them to get it; their minds are aligned to it already. As soon as the executive staff says, “We need to do this,” the IT guy can step up to the plate and say “Great! I can lead the charge.” And that is going to be the big win in 2005.

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