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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.

You've read articles and white papers, sat in on Webinars and perhaps even attended a conference on business process management (BPM). Maybe you've even talked to people who have already gone down this road and examined ratings and reviews of leading products. You think you're ready to select a process management suite (BPMS), but you're not entirely clear on next steps.

This article takes you, step by step, through the BPMS selection process, from clarifying goals and objectives, and forming an evaluation team to structuring a request for proposal, evaluating demos and selecting the right suite.

Clarify Goals and Objectives

Once you're satisfied that key stakeholders have a shared understanding of the basic principles of BPM (see "Business Process Management 101"), it's time to clarify the overall goals and objectives of your BPM project. Most organizations have priorities such as a need to cut costs, increase customer satisfaction, improve compliance or integrate back-office systems.

At Tenet Healthcare, which operates hospitals and related health care services throughout the US, a BPMS was implemented in 2003 to support common pricing, supply chain and invoicing processes across multiple, disparate IT platforms. At the start of the project, Tenet mapped out where it wanted to go over the next three to five years.

"We wanted more self service, more flexibility in [process] design, and good fit with overall IT trends [like services-oriented architecture]," says Todd Coffee, Tenet's Director of Business Process Management. Support for self service enabled business people to make changes in processes without waiting for IT support, says Coffee, while process flexibility accommodated variations in business processes by city and state.

Be sure that you're clear on your goals and then take time to estimate quantifiable benefits you hope to achieve understanding, of course, that you will revise these estimate as you go through the selection and implementation process.

Form an Evaluation Team

It's essential to form an evaluation team that will collaborate on the RFP, the evaluation and the final selection process. The team should be small enough for effective decision making while including representatives from all key stakeholders, including business sponsors, product managers, business analysts, system engineers, IT architects, IT operations and the support desk. The input starts with finalizing goals and writing the RFP and continues through the vendor review, product demo and final selection and implementation phases. At Enterprise Rent-A-Car, a BPMS implementation completed early this year has turned a formerly paperwork-intensive IT product-and-service-request bureaucracy into a highly automated, online process. Constituents included representatives of the company's 65,000 employees as well as the 1,500-person IT team, but Pat Steinmann, Department Manager Request Services, says it was crucial to have high-level input from an IT architect throughout the project. "He ensured that we incorporated appropriate technical evaluation throughout the process so we didn't end up with a product that met our functional requirements but wouldn't play nice in our IT environment," she explains. "His input ranged from asking key technical questions in our RFP, so we could quickly eliminate incompatible products, through to the final step of conducting a technical proof-of-concept project with the product we selected."

When the evaluation team is ready to start drafting the functional requirements of the BPMS, it's useful to examine the specific problems your trying to address. You know you need BPM when…

-- Processes involve many complex steps
-- The business lacks process control and auditing features
-- Exception conditions are handled inconsistently
-- Transactions are plagued by high error rates
-- You can't view and track all process-related data and documents
-- Information flows slowly or inconsistently across the organization
-- Disparate IT systems are in need of integration
-- Processes require manual paperwork
-- Work in progress can't be traced across multiple departments
-- Reporting on work steps and end-to-end processes is cumbersome
-- Decisions take too long

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