Recession Changes Everything

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The trouble with times of recession is that it makes survival considerably harder for the little guy. Economic pressures can become extremely severe and staying afloat every month can become an all-consuming goal. The shift of focus away from growth, R&D and a host of other activities creates a perfect environment for predators. Inevitably, weaker organisations fail or are consumed. At the present time there is a long list of BPM software vendors; some have been around for a long time, some not so long, and all have their respective merits. However, on any list of BPM vendors there are a few disproportionately large organisations with plenty of strength and plenty of cash.

Effective Business Process Management remains at the top of the list of CIO issues, according to Gartner.  The trouble is that a confused market and too much choice makes BPM projects a potentially expensive and challenging prospect.  Additionally, the CIO agenda is all too often focused on what can be automated as a means to higher quality and cheaper cost per transaction.  There are challenges to change current thinking.  For one, there is open source software available offering organisations new alternatives to expensive BPM software. No longer are they limited to Visio or PowerPoint and vast spreadsheets to control diagrams; dependence on IT provision from an overloaded CIO with other priorities is not so important.  There are also challenges to just who is being served by the process automation agenda.  More than one BPM vendor website points to the view that approximately 80% of process is actually not automated by organisations.  If this statistic is even close to being accurate, then there is a clear need to think again about who any process project is intended to serve.  Automation is fine for tasks where it is applicable, but what about the rest?

The effective engagment of people with an organisation's strategic goals and objectives is clearly essential.  A well-informed workforce that understands how things work, knows what has to be done and how to do it is considerably more likely to be successful than one which is poorly informed, disconnected and remote from organisational objectives.  What this means is that it is necessary to take a close and serious look at just what can be achieved through process projects and where the greater gains may actually be achieved.  It is undoubtedly possible to make cost reductions on transactions and improve quality and accuracy of information.  But the gains to be made by considering how to improve in the non-automated arena are likely to be very significant indeed.

The likelihood is that over the next few years there will be continued consolidation across the market for BPM vendors.  Some will fail, some will thrive, but there needs to be sufficient recognition for the gains that can be made from engaging employees, customers, suppliers and partners on a human-process level and not just through bits and bytes.  Companies with something different to offer can take advantage of the recession and change the game as me-too products in the automation arena fall by the wayside.  However things develop, the reality is that the fittest will survive - Darwin was right.



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