Why do BPM projects fail?

In my journey in the world of BPM over the past several years, I have seen many BPM projects fail. And today as I analyze the cause for these failures, a few unexpected ones stand-out…

But before I get into the reasons, I am compelled to take a step back to define when a project is a BPM failure?

* Is it when the stakeholders do not get the desired ROI (Return on Investment) from a BPM solution?
* Is it when there is a delivery failure of the BPM solution itself?
* Is it when the end-users of the process are dissatisfied after the roll-out of the BPM solution – Not because they resist the change, but because they don’t see / experience any real value of BPM?
* Is it when the end customer continues to be dissatisfied with your organizations processes? – And again I know that it is almost impossible to satisfy every single customer all the time.. But if you had to look at the overall trends, what would the Customer Satisfaction Index really indicate?

In my view all the above qualify as BPM project failures…

In this blog, I am listing the key reasons for a BPM project to fail based on my experiences and observations:
1) Lack of understanding on what BPM is
One of the key reasons why BPM projects fail is because there is YET a limited understanding on what BPM really is? And this is applicable for customers, end-users, BPM solution providers and BPM practitioners. And what amazed me was when a senior business leader of a leading global bank who has invested millions of dollars on BPM asked some very basic questions on BPM – Things as basic as “Is BPM a way of thinking?”, “Is BPM a management discipline?”, “Is BPM a product and can you show me how it looks?” – And I know that these questions were a genuine effort to understand the subject in greater depth – And I genuinely appreciate it!
But the point is If an organization is investing in BPM without understanding what BPM is, then what are the chances that BPM will really SUCCEED? Or rather how can you assess the success or failure of a BPM solution?

2) There was no need for a BPM solution

Again, surprising but TRUE! It’s sometimes interesting (and funny) to learn about why an organization is investing in BPM. Sometimes because X (who is in a position of power in an organization) said so, Sometimes because all our competitors are using BPM, Sometimes because we have some budgets which we need to consume by the end of the financial year… etc etc. And the point is that many times the problems which organizations try to address with BPM are probably something which can be fixed by simple measures like effective communication between key stakeholders within a process or an organization. And yet, the fancy route of bringing on board a high end consulting company which recommends BPM amongst many suggestions is preferred. And then implementation of a BPM solution over a span of several months to see no REAL difference at ground level for the problem you started out with!

3) Lack of customer-centric business process definition
One of the key reasons why many BPM projects fail is because the business processes defined are not “customer-centric”. And the point is that for you to define customer centric processes, you should first know who is your customer? (And customer can even mean sometimes an internal customer like your employees in case you are rolling out a BPM solution for your internal organizational processes like Leave, Payroll, etc.) And it always helps to have a visual image of your customer – For e.g.: If you are a retail bank, then your customer is probably someone like me who wants to avail the general banking services. And I’ve seen that many organizations don’t really know who the customer for their BPM solutions is. And if they know the customer, they do not understand what the customer wants and what the customer needs. Again this is a good case for a BPM failure; How can you expect success if you don’t know who your customer is and what your customer needs / wants?

4) The ROI (Return on Investment) Blunder
At the start of a BPM project, most organizations invest significant time and effort on the ROI assessment of BPM. And after the BPM implementation, if a project does not deliver the promised ROI, it is classified as a BPM failure. And then BPM itself is questioned? Sad, but TRUE!
The point is that several times inadequate due diligence goes into the computation of the ROI – Many times it is simply may be due to lack of time and lack of access to the right data points. Secondly, when you do an ROI assessment, it is ALWAYS based on a set of assumptions. And if your assumptions were wrong, so will the ROI computation – And hence naturally, the realized benefits you get from a BPM solution may not always be in line with the projected ROI.

5) Lack of long term focus on BPM
For any organization to get the real benefit of BPM, it is important to treat BPM as an organization way of thinking and functioning; And not just as a one-off automation initiative. And this requires a change of mind-set in the people – which is usually the HARDEST! When I say long term , I mean continuous and consistent focus on process improvement, process governance and process change management. Many BPM projects again fail because of the very myopic and short term focus of their BPM objectives, and hence they DO NOT realize the REAL BENEFIT of the promise of BPM…

On that note, would like to hear your views on why BPM projects fail! Leave a comment to let us know…

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By Nischala @ Wipro | June 14, 2012

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