Why buying BPM Software is a bit like buying a car

When you get to the point of purchasing Business process management (BPM) software, you can quite quickly find yourself overwhelmed with the wide availability of choice that’s out there. How can you make sense of it all? Here’s why it helps to think about it like buying a car…

All cars promise similar things – they get to you to a destination far faster than if you attempted to walk. They all have wheels, engines, seats and operate on either petrol or diesel.

But when you get into the details of it cars vary immensely and many will not be suitable for you. The interiors can vary, the power of their engines can vary, the range of functionality they offer can vary significantly (self parking vehicle, anyone?).

The type of car you go for really depends on what you want to use it for

The car that you choose will ultimately depend on three key factors:

  • What you will use it for
  • Your budget
  • Your competency at driving

For instance, a two-seater sports car is probably not appropriate if you typically toodle around the city running errands with your kids. A Formula 1 race car won’t do the trick if your heart starts beating with dread as you approach the 70 miles an hour mark. And even if you have the driving prowess of Mario Andretti you might not have the corresponding budget to let you purchase that car of your dreams.

Purchasing BPM Software - while it may seem infinitely complex - boils down to the same three factors (with one important addition, which we’ll get to later). What will you use it for? What’s your budget? How much can complexity can you and your organization handle?

What will you use it for?

Business Process Management (BPM) is a broad category of software that includes many different types of capabilities such as process modelling/mapping, simulation, automation, integration, monitoring/management, and reporting. Additionally, BPM Software may have support for mobile, document capture, business rules, and many more functionalities. But what are you trying to achieve? What types of processes are you trying automate?

There has been a lot of consolidation in the BPM Software industry in recent years so many of the vendors are now offering a wide range of functionality. However, the more clear you can be about what you’re trying to achieve with the implementation of a BPM Software, the easier it will be for you to decide what specific functionalities the software needs to have for you to achieve your objectives.

What’s your budget?

This one is pretty self-explanatory. We’d all like to own a Porsche, but some of us have to settle for less. If you have a limited budget and are prepared to tolerate a certain measure of risk, it might be worthwhile exploring relatively new BPM Software vendors or those specializing in companies with implementations or budgetary restrictions like yours. Meanwhile, if you have a large budget and are very risk adverse, you’re probably going to want to stick with some of the big and established players in the market.

You might also want to explore different purchase options such as Software as a Service, where you effectively rent the software from a vendor rather than purchase it outright. Most BPM Software vendors now offer this as an option and it can be a lower cost and more flexible way of getting a BPM tool up and running at your organization.

Your competency at driving (aka how much complexity can you and your organization handle?)

Complexity here refers to both how complicated the BPM Software tool is to use (for the business users) but also how complicated it is to deploy, maintain and update. Software useability has come a long way in a relatively short period of time. Computer users now expect software to be relatively easy to use with nice interfaces.

But we all know that some software is more intuitive than others and there are often trade offs between functionality and simplicity. The culture of your organization - along with other software with which your users are familiar - will dictate the level of complexity your users are prepared to tolerate. For instance, a computer interface that will be used by front end retail staff will need to be lighter and easier to use than one used by nuclear physicists.

Equally, software can be complex to deploy, maintain, and upgrade. How prepared is your IT department to support the software? How prepared are they for the changes that will inevitably be required as processes change?

Many software vendors now are developing systems that have a high degree of flexibility and allow processes to be reconfigured with only minimal IT involvement. The benefit is that this puts the hands back in the business process owners to adapt the process as business needs change.

There is one important difference between buying BPM Software and buying a car: you don’t need to worry about whether a car will integrate into your existing infrastructure (unless you’re incredibly fashion conscious and worried about whether your car will "go" with your house).

With a BPM Software purchase you also need to take into consideration your existing legacy software. Does the BPM vendor use open standards that help facilitate integration with legacy applications (e.g. BPMN, SOAML, WSDL, or TOGAF)? Do they specialize in connecting to a specific software application (e.g. Microsoft Sharepoint or SAP)? How many integrations with applications similar to those you have has the software vendor actually done?

Are you in the market for BPM Software? Come and kick the tires and take the top BPM Software vendors on a "test drive" at PEX Network’s BPM Open House. This free, online event brings you daily real-world BPM case studies and snappy product demos to help you make BPM Software selection a snip. Sign up here.