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Shifting Paradigms is about the practical use of modern information technology to improve how business gets done; for improving enterprise performance by enabling better decision making by highly productive knowledge workers.

I invite anyone to contact me at if you would like to discuss this article or to talk about how SAP is enabling improved company performance through data-driven business process management.

Software Selection in the World of Business Process Management

I recently had the opportunity to listen in on a product overview presentation from one of SAP's technology partners.  The package was a manufacturing analytics application built on SAP Business Technology Platform.  Like many software products today, it was loaded with visual appeal with graphs and charts, intuitive navigation, and good use of the available screen real estate.

"Answers to these nine questions will help ensure that purchased software will be used as intended and not end up as shelf-ware."

As a former operations manager, I found myself imagining how a manufacturing company would use and benefit from this application.  But then I put on my business process management hat and asked myself a series of questions based upon the concepts of business process management.

Before the Purchase

North American companies have a reputation for being much less process-oriented than their European and Asian peers.  Frequently, software tools are procured, a few people are trained, and maybe the new tool will be used.  Or maybe it won't be used.  It is left up to the employee to decide whether to use the new tool in the execution of their job.

The more process-oriented companies will ask a few questions prior to the purchase of the software:

  • What does the software do?  This one should be obvious.

  • Does it address an existing business problem or opportunity?

  • Who within our organization would use it?  Collaborative assessment with the business users is essential.

  • When would they use it?

  • For what purpose would they use it?

  • In what business processes would it be incorporated, or would it be part of an entirely new process?

  • How do we perform those processes today?

  • Does this replace, complement, or supplement what we already do?

  • Is it better than what we already have?  And by how much?  This is a biggie.

Answers to these nine questions will help ensure that purchased software will be used as intended and not end up as shelf-ware.

During the Deployment

Let's assume we have gone through with the purchase of a new software component.  Someone has made the determination that the new software will help us improve our ability to meet some company performance objective and it's better than what we have had previously.  The job of the process manager is not finished.  The following actions should be taken based upon the answers to the questions above:

  • Assign responsibility of the new process to a process owner (e.g. Sales order processing manager)

  • Determine the people or roles of the people who will use the new application

  • Modify or design new processes where the new application will be incorporated (important to have business user participation)

  • Provide training of the new software with consideration for how it is to be used within the company

  • Manage the change

These activities will help ensure the new application will be used consistently as intended across the organization.  Information workers need to not only know how to use the application, but also need to understand why it is needed in order to improve company performance.

After the Deployment

The job of the business process manager does not end once a new process is deployed.  Although the process reengineering team may have moved on to the next project, measures need to be taken to ensure the newly implemented process has its intended impact.  The following actions are needed:

  • Monitor company performance (KPI's) and process performance of the new process(es)

  • Monitor actual execution of the new process(es)

And answer these questions:

  • Is the new process with the new application achieving the benefits we planned to achieve?

  • Are our employees following the new process(es) and using the new application as intended?

  • If applicable, why are employees varying from our standard process?

  • Does the new process need further examination and potentially redesigned?

These actions along with answers to these questions are essentially your feedback loop as to the health and effectiveness of your continuous improvement program.

Summary and Conclusion

As stated above, North American companies lag behind their European and Asian peers in terms of process-orientation and in realizing the benefits associated with modern business process management techniques and methods.  They miss out on the structure and performance consistency afforded my more formal business process management approaches.  These approaches apply to the purchase of business software, and applies to software tools or components as well as to larger enterprise software purchases.

These capabilities are the essence of what SAP Business Process Intelligence (BPI) is all about.  BPI provides the digital tools for doing the things discussed above.  It replaces many of the subjective manual tasks of traditional business process management with a more sophisticated, data-driven, quantitative approach to make business process management professionals more productive and effective in improving the performance of their companies.

Also see my previous blogs related to this topic:

Chet Harter is a member of SAP’s Business Process Intelligence team and can be reached at
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