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Forrester details 'secret sauce' for BPM success

Forrester survey data shows a direct correlation between successful implementation of BPM and having a center of excellence.

Setting up a center of excellence (COE) makes a major difference in the success of business process management...

(BPM) implementations, according to a report by Forrester Research Inc. published this week.

Primarily, the enterprise architects are a natural to act as a liaison between business and IT.
Ken VollmerPrincipal AnalystForrester Research Inc.

Having a COE doesn't guarantee BPM success, but it "significantly increases the odds of BPM success," writes Ken Vollmer, principal analyst at Forrester and author of the report, "BPM Has Become Mainstream." The 18-page report bases this conclusion on analysis of results from two surveys: one of 160 enterprise architects based in the US and UK, and a second of 400 IT decision-makers at North American and European enterprises.

The results favoring the BPM COE approach were not even close. Vollmer noted that "almost half (49%) of the enterprises that reported clear and measurable benefits from their BPM efforts had a BPM COE in place; only 10% of the group reporting mixed results had a BPM COE in place; and 4% of the group reporting no BPM success had a COE in place."

The ability of BPM to achieve project goals indicates similar correlations. Vollmer states that 67 percent of those reporting that BPM significantly exceeded their goals had a BPM COE, while only 14 percent of enterprises reporting no BPM project success had a BPM COE.

Given its value to BPM success, the report details what a good COE should be. Forrester defines the COE as: "A formally appointed and documented body of knowledge and experience on a particular subject area with the goals of providing expertise, managing governance practices, and supporting projects associated with the subject area."

Members of the COE would include "process visionary" who would understand the business needs, as well as a BPM project manager, a BPM tool expert, an enterprise architect and several domain project experts, who are business people called in to provide expertise on projects in their area, according to the Forrester report.

This, of course, is the ideal situation, but in an interview with, Vollmer said based on his practical experience it is not always possible to do a COE, especially in the case of small and medium businesses (SMBs), which may lack the necessary financial and human resources.

Based on his own career in IT working for one of the smaller retailers, Vollmer said, "I don't think I could have gotten a center of excellence through at that size company."

He did offer an alternative for IT professionals at SMBs lacking the resources for the formal COE.

"The second best thing you can do if you don't have a formal center of excellence is form a team to address the issues," he said. "These are people who are brought in as needed to work on the project. It's not as good as a center of excellence because it's not permanent, but it's the only option that the smaller-size firms have. In this case, for either SOA or BPM, you would have a team that is responsible to guide the installation and implementation of the software and controlling the projects that will be using the software."

Whether it is a COE in a large corporation or a team approach in an SMB, the responsibility for leading it is likely to fall on the enterprise architect, Vollmer said, although ideally it should be a business side visionary.

"What we're finding even in the business process centers of excellence, where I strongly recommend the business take the lead, in every case we've talked to it has been the IT operation," he said. "Primarily, the enterprise architects are a natural to act as a liaison between business and IT. Enterprise architects could also be the clearinghouse for SOA information."

Vollmer agrees with analysts and vendors who see BPM and service-oriented architecture converging.

"When I have somebody come to me and say they can't do BPM because they are working on SOA, I say that's the wrong answer," the analyst said. "You can do BPM and SOA together if you pick the right platform. For example, if you have webMethods Fabric from Software AG or Oracle Fusion Middleware or IBM WebSphere Integration, you would do SOA and BPM together because SOA capability comes imbedded in the tools."

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