"BPM projects go wrong for the reason that all IT projects go wrong - if you approach them from the point of view of an IT installation, you're in trouble from the outset," explains Burton Group analyst Richard Watson. Not IT but the business case should be guiding the project, he argues. "Too often it's a case of: ‘Let's install the software and then find a project to support it'."

Colin Earl, CEO of BPM vendor EnterpriseWizard recommends starting a BPM project by picking a single business process and automating it. A company can then focus on the process that is causing the most problems or is most costly. "This means that the CIO can then define precisely what currently happens in that process and what needs to happen for it to be more efficient and auditable," says Earl. "At this point the focus is not on the technical solution, but rather on the business needs."

Increasing the flexibility of the way that a company achieves a business objective (aka: the business process) is often limited by IT systems. But it is first and foremost a business challenge. BPM failures often approach BPM as a project. "BPM isn't about buying an infrastructure. It's more like a lifestyle choice. That could require a top-to-bottom reorganisation," Watson says.

However, defining business goals is just the first step. "There are other areas where I can see clients struggling, for example if they have ineffective data management. And there needs to be clear communication between departments - one side of the business might have a completely different definition of a customer than another part. If they can't agree on a common definition, they're struggling," he says.

The development method too plays an important role. The recommended way to go is a so-called 'agile development' model where requirements and solutions evolve through collaboration between self-organizing teams. The agile process furthermore allows for frequent adaptations during the development process, thereby ensuring that IT meets the business requirements. "Sophisticated implementations are probably not going to be perfect the first time and will require several iterations to get right. So set expectations appropriately," advises Earl.

As the BPM space itself matures, the market is doing its part to tackle implementation issues. After years of standards confusion, the industry is now rallying behind the recently ratified BPMN standard that was drafted by the Object Management Group (OMG), points out Watson.

Vendor tools also have become easier to use, eroding the need to hire armies of consultants to ensure BPM success. "Previously there was a bit of a conflict of interest because vendors could make more from support," Watson says.