BPM portends to make process work easy and some activities / technologies are fairly simple to work with in process improvement. Process modeling is a great example of this principle. While getting the correct process model and getting all stakeholders to agree to it is certainly a challenge, but the BPM tools supporting process modeling are deceptively easy to work with in the modeling arena. Business professionals get real excited when they see their processes and find ways to cut costs and time out of them. It’s all good, right?
The problem is that this gives business professionals the impression that this is pretty easy stuff. When the processes involve composite processes that require significant IT support to complete, things do not move that fast. BPM actually gives the false impression that things are easier than they look... It gets much more difficult when the some of the process goes below the water line a needs web service orchestration, integration transformations, and composition logic.
Recently I heard Kiran Garimella of Software AG describe BPM as the “SOA Killer App”, and I must say I strongly agree. Indeed, BPM shows how easy it can be…if only the underlying service structure is in place to allow BPM to do it’s job.
Otherwise, building out the services necessary to support the BPM processes can be a costly and time consuming endeavor, essentially destroying the ROI potential of BPM.
In my former U.S. Fortune 50 environment, we decided 3 times to NOT invest in BPM due to that exact realization. However, that was with BPM attempting to be sold to IT management as a way to leverage abilities for the business.
In a way, IT management was relieved that senior business management was unaware of BPM technology. For when business management sees what is possible and the tremendous benefits available (not only modeling the processes, watching KPI's and gaining process control, but also taking snapshots and performing process adjustment simulations [what happens if sales increase, or decrease, if delivery time goes up, or down, to realize where to invest, focus, save, and change] ) they will very validly ask HOW DO WE GET THIS?
The answer is, we change our IT development paradigm and begin to emphasize SOA. The business driver being I WANT MY BPM and the full process view and control it offers. If you're looking for a business driver for SOA, go demonstrate BPM to your line of business managers, your CFO and your CEO. It may not have an easily definable "traditional" ROI, but it has a tremendous business value that is clear to see.