Blog post

Five Reasons Why BPM Isn’t Just About Technology

By Samantha Searle | February 23, 2012 | 8 Comments

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“What tools would you recommend for our BPM project?” The Gartner BPM team still receives a significant number of client inquiries that focus on implementing BPM as a technology and miss the wider benefits of BPM. Technology can certainly be a key enabler of BPM, but treating BPM just as a technology won’t help you succeed; in fact it could do quite the opposite!

A colleague of mine shared a nice horror story with me where a company implemented a BPM tool without first gaining a thorough understanding of how their processes were currently performing. As a result, they succeeded in not only doubling the time take to complete the whole process but also quadrupled the number of errors!!

Just in case you need further convincing, here’s 5 reasons why BPM should be viewed as a management discipline, not just a technology:

  1. A key obstacle to succeeding in BPM maturity is people and politics. Technology won’t help you overcome that (unless it involves brain-washing, which is not a recommended approach!).
  2. Technology won’t help you guide the organization from functional silos to a process-centric way of thinking and overcome natural resistance to change. Organizational change techniques such as Kotter’s 8-step change model will.
  3. Installing a BPM tool doesn’t necessarily give you full visibility of the most important end-to-end processes. What about parts of the process that happen outside the system, especially manual workarounds and shadow processes that might conceal process painpoints?
  4. Technology doesn’t give you accountability for end-to-end process performance; establishing the role of the business process owner does. If you don’t measure how your processes are performing, how do you know which ones are operating poorly? Installing a tool blindly could make things worse, not better (see the “horror story” example at the beginning of this blog)!
  5. BPM is about agility and a tool alone won’t deliver this. It requires the whole organization to shift from a “build-to-last” mentality to a “build-for-change” mentality when it comes to finding solutions for existing business problems. BPM is crucial to enabling an organization to respond to rapid change effectively.

This is why people, politics and process is the theme to our 2012 BPM Summits – why not come along and discuss your BPM efforts with us? We can help you avoid the pitfalls that trip up other organizations and you can hear firsthand from other companies who have succeeded in BPM.

Our sponsors will also be on hand to advise you on how technology can enable you to achieve your BPM goals. Follow the links below for more details and to register:

Gartner BPM Summit, London, 14 – 15 March

Gartner BPM Summit, Baltimore, 25 – 27 April (N.B. $300 Earlybird discount ends March 2nd!)

Leave a Comment


  • Couldn’t agree more. Successful BPM implementations reqiure a solid product, great people, a sound methodology, an open collaborative environment, executive committment and a meaningful budget.

    • Samantha Searle says:

      Exactly Garth – you make a good list of essentials for BPM implementation there. I would also add meaningful objectives that will generate results that clearly add business value – this will help you define a meaningful budget and get a good ROI.

  • Joel Kiernan says:

    I couldn’t agree more. As a BPM practitioner, I see BPM tools as just that – tools. Tools are things we use to perform particular tasks in more efficient ways but you still need to know what you want to do. A hammer won’t help you build a house unless you have a blueprint and know where to use nails. Once you have the plan, a hammer can be big help and maybe the same is true of BPM tools.

    It is much more important to understand how your process are doing, how they relate to strategy, and establish a process culture where there’s process ownership and process performance is understood to be part of the overall enterprise performance.

    • Samantha Searle says:

      Thanks Joel – I like your “hammer” analogy. You also reiterate the two key aspects “process ownership” and “process performance” which I will blog about more in the future!

  • The ability to change and a structured program around change management where BPM is a core discipline is best approach to moving forward for most companies. The realities are that many companies know they need to change and jump right to technology as the silver bullet not thinking about how to systematically change their organization, culture and people.

    I like the focus of the summit, it’s important topics paint the picture of success through a focus on people (politics implied when you have more than one person in an organization :), process and change.

    • Samantha Searle says:

      I completely agree Chris – it is crucial to employ the right change techniques to help guide the organization out of functional silos and towards a more process-centric mindset. However it is hard and some might think that technology offers a relatively easier silver bullet, which it does not!

  • Pearl Zhu says:

    Hi, Samantha, good five point note about BPM as management discipline, and 3P theme for upcoming BPM event, I would say, BPM is to help separate the voice from noise, manage the knowing from flowing, to amplify people’s capability, and reduce culture inertia or negative political effect. thanks.

    • Samantha Searle says:

      Thanks Pearl I like the idea of amplifying people’s capability – we refer to it as empowering the business user to make process changes to match business requirements as the users’ needs change.