Being a buyer of BPM and workflow software can be exciting − and sometimes daunting. Promises of greater efficiency, better margins and increased productivity make the process highly engaging. Selecting the right tools generally makes your job (and many around you) easier. If, however, you inadvertently select a product that is not the right fit or does not work as ‘advertised’ well that’s a different story.
Finding the right business process management solution is no easy task. You have to understand the needs of your users − and be able to determine how best to address them. You also need to understand the available products, how they work and what differentiates them.
Too often the conversation between vendor and customer gets directed early on to workflow management software features and BPM benefits. Many sales executives are quite deft at explaining what “our” features are, and how much better “our solution” is than competitors’ products. Throw in some demos and case studies, be a little overwhelmed at all the possibilities of a particular solution and voila! you (may) become a customer of that particular vendor (whether or not the solution is the best fit for your organization.)
Although that scenario is fairly common, it is obviously not the best way to find the specific solution you are seeking. The buying question ultimately is not really just about a product; it is more about you, your needs, your budget and how whatever you select can help you achieve your goals. The process of identifying the right solution should be more than mapping a list of requirements to a list of product capabilities. Your business is far more complex than that – and deserves a more in-depth approach and analysis.
While identifying your business needs is the first and somewhat obvious step, it is often a neglected piece of the process. Another neglected piece of the process is the time it takes to implement a solution. Long term projects are not popular at this time. Vendors are seeking to demonstrate results sooner through faster implementations and delivering projects on time and on target.
At this point, prospective implementers of BPM software might look at their organizations from the perspective of how different they could be if there was a more formal structure to initiating and managing business processes. Prospective users generally recognize that there are many parts of the business that could be positively affected by changing processes – and that business process management (BPM) software gives them the flexibility and functionality they need to create and manage new processes. The discussion at this point then is really about the business– and not so much about the product or solution. A good vendor recognizes that you cannot apply BPM solutions and workflow solutions until there is an understanding of the need.
Talking in the language of use cases is helpful. We find that this is where organizations start to consider the value of BPM. In looking closely at how other companies are implementing it, prospective users begin to see that the automation of processes, such as onboarding or purchase order authorization, can significantly improve efficiency. They note that different business groups can share certain processes — and that geographically distributed teams can participate in the same processes, irrespective of location or time.
These prospective new users may also start to consider that implementing a new paradigm may be disruptive. (For some organizations it is far easier to continue to do a process the same way it has ‘always been done’ even if the original purpose for doing so has been long forgotten – or the person who created that process left the company long ago.) Some organizations are basically pain-averse. With an understanding of what BPM can do to help them, however, these organizations often come to realize that some short term disruption can lead to long-term benefits (and, ultimately, greater profitability). At that point they are willing to consider alternatives.
It is at this point that a truly substantive conversation can begin. That conversation will be about what product(s) address the company’s process challenges. Objectives for business process improvement (BPI) can be detailed and reviewed against potential solutions. A good vendor helps the customer through this process with the understanding that pairing their solution with the customer’s scenario will only work if the vendor’s solution is of value to the company. The goal is to help the business to be more efficient and effective with its business processes — and only the right BPM application with help to make that a reality.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of what we do is talk with customers and prospects about their business vision and implementation. That helps us to not only become smarter about how Process Director is used but also enables us to bring value to our customers. We have never held the belief that a single piece of software can fit everyone’s needs. Rather, by understanding customers’ and prospects’ business vision, and learning what they truly want to achieve, our conversations become more meaningful.
Having that kind of discussion enables us to get a better sense of what is required to address your business process requirements – and achieve your objectives. From those discussions comes clarity which, in turn, sparks a conversation about facilitating change. For us, change is the result of a more thorough understanding of ‘process.’
–Marti Colwell, VP Marketing and Business Development