BPM’s Here to Stay`

“Of all the words in the e-business dictionary, none is more overworked today than ‘process’. Take the words ‘business process’, and add any one of the following–‘integration’; ‘optimization’, ‘automation’; ‘modeling’; ‘simulation’… All combinations have some meaning and historical context, but mainly, they’re flung about interchangeably, often by vendors positioning their products for maximum implications in a business setting…”
Jim Ericson, Line56

There’s a new kid on the block, and while he isn’t very well known–or understood– yet, he is beginning to build up quite a fan folowing. The kid has a name–BPM (business process management)–and he is the new hot thing that Indian enterprise CIOs are experimenting with to impart greater visibility to, and control over, their operations. Philips has used BPM to good effect, as has Max New York Life. The Bharti Group is following suit, with an internalized avatar–the ‘Rule of Six’. Wipro Spectramind is well on its way with BPM too, as is Patni
(BPO operations).

So what is BPM? Posed to panelists at a recent Dataquest CIO Meet in Delhi, the question brought forth a consensual definition–“BPM is a solution that provides clear visibility to, and control over, the contributing parts of a multi-step information request or transaction, and those contributing parts could and should include applications, people and partners.” Minus the jargonese (sic), a BPM solution allows companies to monitor organization-wide operations, any of its division at any given point of time, throwing up warnings (on say, inventory and delivery issues, stockpile problems…) and/or seeking human intervention when required.

The Dataquest event was the perfect platform for a bare-all debate on BPM for Indian enterprises. While one lobby felt the time was ripe for enterprises to take to BPM in a big way (“90% of Indian companies will have to take to BPM in the next two years to remain competitive,” they argued), there was another school of thought–“…what revelance does BPM have in a country where automation itself is yet to make inroads?”

It’s an acknowledged fact that 90% of knowledge in any firm remains tacit, with only 10% being “absorbed and prevalent” enough to act upon–explicit knoweldge. BPM-backers insist the use of the right solution can double the quantum of explicit knowledge to 20%.

Philips’ Santanu Mullick says this has happened in the company’s ‘Lighting’ division, with the solution paying for itself in quick time. Jai Menon of Bharti voices a similar experience.

Having said that, BPM adoption is some distance away. The three hurdles–wild costings quoted by most vendors; difficulty in analyzing RoI; and the fact that unless application integration can be achieved, the solution may as well stay in its box.
What’s needed in India is for BPM vendors to verticalize. Also, mini-apps to reach out to all sizes of customers–in our country, that’s where the long-term market is.

Another quote before signing off, this one by Scott Opitz, vice-president at WebMethods. “BPM is deployment, management once it’s deployed, the ability to improve thereafter. Everyone from application vendors to systems management vendors to integrators can do process optimization now.”

“BPM is a solution that provides visibility to and control over the many parts of any
multi-step info-request or transaction…” 

Rajeev Narayan in New Delhi The author is the Executive Editor of Dataquest

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