Companies have been focused on understanding and improving their business processes since the days of Adam Smith and F.W. Taylor. In the 1990s the term 'business process reengineering' (BPR) swept through industry, driven by Hammer & Champy's blockbuster book Reengineering the Corporation - along the way practically creating today's multi-billion dollar packaged business application suite market (enabling companies like SAP to rise to prominence) and driving huge investment in distributed and client-server style IT systems. So far so good, then - at least for the IT industry.

When Howard Smith and Peter Fingar wrote their book BPM: The Third Wave in 2003, the microscope was once again turned on the management of business processes - but this time the talk was all about enabling a whole-lifecycle approach to managing processes, and automating them through specialist technology toolsets that have come to be known as BPM Suites or BPM Systems (BPMSs). Large IT vendors like IBM, Oracle, SAP, Software AG and TIBCO, as well as a large group of specialist players, now sell BPMS tools.

The market for BPM-related tools and services is one of the fastest-growing in the IT industry at the moment, with many vendors reporting year-on-year revenue growth of 15, 20 and even 30 per cent. In tough economic times, the lure of technology which promises to help companies become radically more efficient and effectiveness can be awfully strong.

Nevertheless, in our own ongoing research into business process improvement practice in organisations we find that the most commonly-used tool wielded to analyse and design business processes is the general purpose diagramming tool - think PowerPoint or Visio. The second most commonly-used tool is pen and paper. The most commonly-cited "implementation platform" for business process improvements is packaged business application suites (like those provided by SAP and Oracle).

So with that in mind, is the current wave of interest in BPM all it's painted to be? Is the current wave of technology innovation driving real and sustained improvements in business performance? And lastly, for those organisations which are seeing real value from their BPM investments, what does it take - in terms of people, skills, methods and so on - to deliver that value beyond the scope of a one-off project? We've got a number of interesting data points of our own from our ongoing case study programme, but we'd love to hear what you think, if you agree oor disagree with the above points, please contact the Editor.

If you'd like to explore our BPM research programme, you can do so by visiting www.mwdadvisors.com/bpm

Response Summary

The market for BPM-related tools and services is one of the fastest-growing in IT. CIO UK Debate part 1

Full Response

The market for BPM-related tools and services is one of the fastest-growing in IT. CIO UK Debate part 1