BPM Picks Up Steam as IT Readies for Recovery

In tough times and good times, IT needs to track the cash. That’s one reason why companies that invest now in business process management (BPM) software will be better positioned to take advantage of a recovery, according to a new survey by industry analyst firm Gartner.

And while they’re waiting, businesses can use the software to manage scarce resources, said Michele Cantara, a research vice president at Gartner (NYSE: IT).

“Companies don’t see BPM as a luxury,” she said in a statement. “Instead, BPM is quickly becoming an alternative and better way of developing solutions and improving processes for many companies.”

According to the survey, 55 percent of respondents expect to increase BPM spending by at least 5 percent over the next 12 months, according to the report.

However, the survey had been conducted among attendees of Gartner’s BPM Summits in London in February and in San Diego in March, and Gartner admitted that the respondents, since they “had chosen to attend one of the Gartner BPM Summits, then, by definition, they already had a strong interest in BPM.”

But Gartner also noted that these attendees represented the average IT shop, not early adopters: The company said that only 12 percent of survey respondents considered themselves aggressive technology adopters.

Cantara said that BPM will help companies allocate scarce resources now and recommended that organizations use BPM to help prioritize which existing projects, suspended projects and new projects will be funded and staffed when business growth returns.

The news comes as major software players move to capitalize on enterprises’ growing interest in BPM, business intelligence and related technologies as they work to streamline their operations to cut costs while positioning for an economic turnaround.

For instance, IBM last week announced a $1.2 billion investment in business metrics by acquiring SPSS.

IBM’s rivals have unveiled related ambitious software projects as well. SAP demonstrated a natural language search engine for business analytics at SAPPHIRE in Orlando in May.

Optimism despite mixed economic indicators

BPM is not the only enterprise software market poised for growth. A recent Gartner report said that spending on CRM is also growing.

Yet as enterprise software categories like CRM and BPM may be on the rise, economic indicators remain mixed, putting pressure on other IT segments. The market for mobile hardware, for instance, will continue seeing declines through the end of the year.

That still hasn’t caused enterprises’ — or BPM vendors’ — optimism to wane, however. According to Gartner, 23 percent of BPM vendors forecast a decline this year, while 35 percent expected the market to be stable and 42 percent expected growth.

The Gartner report recommended that IT organizations planning BPM projects use a mixture of in-house staff and consultants and strongly recommended against relying on consultants alone. “Consultants are wonderful sources of expertise, but use them to provide mentoring, to transfer knowledge, and to
accelerate time to solution. You still need to staff BPM projects with some in-house resources,” the report said.

The report added that the majority of BPM projects cost less than $400,000.

Gartner also said that IT organizations should measure results, but that many chose not to do so. “Customer satisfaction was the No. 1 BPM goal for the 2009 BPM Summits’ survey respondents, yet only one-third of organizations measured customer satisfaction results,” the report said.

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