Jeff Rodek shook up the software world in 2007.
He was chairman of Hyperion when Oracle bought the company for $3.3 billion, setting off a frenzy of deals for the largest business intelligence companies, as SAP soon acquired BusinessObjects and IBM bought Cognos.
Since then, Rodek's been on a much different, some might say thankless, mission: to get business people to use all those tools and information a better way.
"There's so much data out there that they're swamped in data, but they lack insights," Rodek says.
Enter business performance management. BPM. Rodek's goal, working with the Fisher School of Business at his alma mater Ohio State University, is to make BPM a discipline that's widely accepted in businesses, and an idea that goes way beyond buying analysis and reporting tools. (Here's a BPM description from the school's Center for Business Performance Management.)
To Rodek, BPM means giving people in accounting, supply chains, marketing, IT, and every other part of the business relevant data so they know what to do in their jobs, and how they're doing. "In many ways it's all about the culture needed, and the processes and technology to help you manage better," he says. It ties in planning, modeling, analysis, and operations, and gives people just the key performance indicators they need. (My colleague Doug Henschen has done excellent coverage of this trend, profiling real-world examples.)
One problem with BPM as a discipline is it sounds a lot like:
a) Just plain management, or
b) What ERP was supposed to deliver.
"For a long time, a lot of executives thought 'If I spend $200 million on an ERP system, don't I get that?'" says Rodek, who was Hyperion CEO as well as chairman for almost five years, from 1999 to 2004, before giving up the CEO role. In recent years, there's been more recognition that something like BPM--providing insights from data so they're part of daily business decisions--goes beyond those ERP transactional systems.
Ohio State this year started granting certificates in BPM that business students can earn along with their MBAs by taking BPM courses and doing real-world projects. "It'll be a very nice salary offered to students," predicts Rodek. The certification's developed through the Fisher school's Center for Business Performance Management, which is also reaching out to other business schools to develop curriculum and to companies to provide input. (And funding. Hyperion and Oracle provided initial funding for the Center.)
BPM faces the same problem in academia that it does in companies: It doesn't rest in just one area, crossing accounting, finance, IT, operations, and more. So add that to the thankless task facing Rodek--getting professors to change how they teach. "The beauty and the beast of academia is it's not very fast to change," says Rodek, who's a senior lecturer at the Fisher school.
Scoff if you want at BPM as just another three-letter acronym. But the reality is that people and companies need these frameworks, and we need people like Rodek and fellow academics to help shape them. We need common language to rally change.
The U.S. auto industry embraced total quality management--yep, TQM--in the '90s to conquer systematic quality problems and lower costs. That couldn't happen by telling everyone "Make better cars and car parts." People needed tools and processes and culture change to get there.
BPM's similar. We might want to manage better, to use data smarter. But we need to know how.
That's the mission Rodek's on.
Chris Murphy is editor of InformationWeek.
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