Companies love BPM. It’s a chance to address burning issues with a cohesive strategy, to turn a flagging and tired business model into a lean, mean operating machine. It’s a chance to engage everyone in the enterprise and teach them the values of process thinking.

And it’s also a chance to go horribly wrong when the attention is focused on a shiny new piece of software at the expense of that strategy.

What invariably happens is that the newly acquired BPMS becomes the focal point of all effort and automating everything or as much as possible is the overriding quest and definition for success. While some companies see the opportunity to improve process, operating model and strategy then align and use the BPMS to support that goal, others simply fall into the old trap of garbage in/ garbage out, lets chuck it all into the system and automate for quick gains and improvements. Automating process for the sake of it because you now can is never a winning strategy, nor will it show off the value of your BPM strategy.

We know that doesn’t work. They don’t know it doesn’t work. But are you prepared to tell them ?

What ?! You mean this expensive piece of kit doesn’t fix our problems ?! What do you mean it’s not a panacea ?!!

I’ve seen low level management and C-level execs over the years all clap excitedly at the mention and thought of automating the simplest of processes and integrating clunky systems for the sake of it to the point of obsession. It primarily falls down because there’s a lack of fundamental understanding of what good BPM can really achieve, or in fact what BPM means for that organisation. It boils down to education again (yes, yes, that drum I’ll continue to beat for a while still)

We have BPMS, decisioning engines, Adaptive Case, each piece of the overall expanding BPM landscape is turning enterprise into mere automatons, removing the human elements and judgements that add the core value to the business itself. There is a law of diminishing returns in BPMS that most won’t tell you, at some point the effort to automate and design increasingly complex decisions to capture and process all possible scenarios becomes greater than the efficiency and resultant savings you first aimed for. Furthermore, removing the human from the process and boiling everything down to just sets of values to return on a screen or automatically process removes judgement, removes the personalisation, removes the connection to your ultimate strategy: the customer.

BPMS is like any enterprise technology, it’s an enabler, a support for your overarching BPM strategy. It’s not the goal to aim for.

To paraphrase Shakespeare: To automate or not to automate ?: that is the question.