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4/28/2008
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How to Choose the Right BPM Suite: From RFP to Final Selection

You've decided that business process management is right for your organization. But what's next? Here's how to build an evaluation team, write a request for proposal, review RFP responses, evaluate a short list of candidates and choose the right BPM suite.

Make the Final Selection

The final vendor selection should be made based on hard and soft factors including:

-- Speed of implementation
-- Likely return on investment
-- Time to self sufficiency
-- The appeal of the vendor (its culture and people) as a potential partner

The pace of implementation will depend on factors such as the ease of integrating the BPMS into your IT environment, the complexity of the product, and the time needed for training. The return on investment will depend on the scope of the process(es) to be improved, hard and soft benefits, the required investment and time-to-break-even calculations.

If your firm has a history of making technology decisions based on high-level perspectives on what needs to be done, then you may not wish to invest a lot of time and energy in calculating expected ROI figures. However, if your leadership will want to see an ROI before approving the funding, you may have little choice. Accurate ROI estimates start with "baseline" estimates of current performance in terms of cost, time, quality and productivity. Only then can you gauge expected improvements. Cost-savings estimates are often expressed in full time equivalents (FTEs) based on eliminating manual work steps. Compressing the time to execute a process drives out cost, increases responsiveness and improves customer satisfaction. Similarly, reducing error rates lowers exception-handling costs while also improving customer satisfaction. Increasing productivity — as in handling more transactions with the same or fewer resources — has an obvious impact on the bottom line.

Framing The Benefits of BPM
Framing The Benefits of BPM
(click image for larger view)
"Soft" benefits such as increased process visibility or reduced risk may be harder to quantify, but they should definitely be weighed in the final selection process. To evaluate the cost of each BPMS, consider the required investment in software, people, training and hardware. Pay particular attention to staffing, training, and other incremental costs in quality assurance, capacity planning and production-related areas.

Once the benefits and required investments for each BPMS are understood, frame the choices in terms that executives will understand and support. The table at right provides an outline you can use in detailing the benefits of a BPM initiative.

Embrace 'The Three Vs'

Does this seem like a lot of work? It is. How can you make it flow better? That depends on the three Vs: vision, value, velocity.

An overarching vision of your BPM objectives is not an absolute requirement, but it can be a powerful force in galvanizing people around a BPMS deployment. Value creation is an absolute must. The deployment of a BPMS must be directly linked to improvements in operational performance. Only when you can demonstrate that the first BPM project has delivered measurable results will other projects follow. Velocity of execution — the ability to rapidly adapt to changing business conditions — is the ultimate promise of BPM and it's something the BPMS must deliver.

Choosing the product that's right demands that you go beyond the basics. You have to ensure adequate input and collaboration and take time to estimate the benefits and costs of each BPMS candidate. What's at stake here? Nothing less than competitive advantage.

Andrew Spanyi is the author of two books on process management: Business Process Management is a Team Sport: Play it to Win! and More for Less: The Power of Process Management. Write him at andrew@spanyi.com

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