E. Scott Menter is thrilled to have recently joined lean BPM software leader BP Logix, Inc., as Vice President for Business Solutions. A member of the company’s senior leadership team, Scott contributes in a number of areas, including product strategy, customer advocacy, and social media.
Prior to joining BP Logix, Scott led the technology organization for WaMu Investments, Inc., a retail brokerage with over half a million customer accounts. He has also held technology leadership positions at Lehman Brothers and the University of California, Irvine. Scott founded and led ESM Services, Inc., building and supporting enterprise software solutions in the workflow automation and identity management space.
Scott holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Brandeis University and has served on the boards of several non-profit organizations.
2009 was seen as a fairly turbulent for most but towards the end year many kicked off major change programs focused on process transformation. How do you expect 2010 will unfold for the BPM industry generally and for BPM Vendors ?
We saw the same thing at BP Logix. In their rush to cut expenses, companies had already shed all the employees they could spare, and then some. On the lookout for less painful ways to make ends meet, smart firms turned their attention to improving their bottom line through better management of their processes.
That trend can only accelerate. Even in good times, companies are highly motivated to capture, examine and improve their processes. There are a number of reasons this is so:
1. The psychology of corporate leaders has undergone a significant change as a result of the turbulent environment of the past couple of years. I think of my grandmother, who, half a century after the end of the Great Depression, still washed and reused plastic drinking straws. Once you have to skimp and save in order to survive, your habits do not easily change, even in times of plenty.
2. The regulatory state is only getting more oppressive. I come from the financial services industry, perhaps the most heavily regulated business in the US. Over the past two decades, the proportion of time I spent dedicated to regulatory compliance as an IT executive grew from perhaps 10% to around 90%. In such an environment, BPM plays a vital role in creating and managing repeatable, predictable, and reliable processes that can be examined by auditors and regulators.
3. Companies without BPM are simply behind the adoption curve at this point. Firms may be comfortable as late adopters, but nobody wants to be last on the block to realize the benefits of the technology and underlying methodologies.
At the same time, pure-play BPM companies are disappearing, gobbled up by big software suite vendors. This trend may accrue benefits to the acquirers, but it is not favorable to customers. Most companies are interested in acquiring lean, flexible, best-of-breed solutions built by subject-matter experts. Look, if you want a spreadsheet, by all means, go to Microsoft. If you want a database, go to Oracle. But if you want BPM, don’t get it from a vendor that, until a month or two ago, didn’t even offer a solution—a vendor that is at this very moment trying to figure out what they’ve acquired, how to price it, and when and how they will train their sales force.
Do you expect clients to alter their buying criteria as a result of the downturn and concentrate on initial cost first rather than ROI or indeed the need for BPM itself to support strategy ?
Ultimately, the math will always revolve around ROI, though the acceptable time before realizing that ROI gets shorter and shorter. Customers will continue to look for solutions that help them accomplish faster and higher returns. At BP Logix, we introduced predictive analysis into Process Director in order to help business managers identify bottlenecks and wasted time in their processes, and react immediately. That capability accelerates time to value, improving ROI.
Of course, companies are increasingly sensitive to up-front capital expenditures, regardless of predicted ROI. Lean solutions are in: bloatware is out. Along the same lines, we’re going to see growth in the development of BPM solutions requiring very little capital investment delivered through SaaS, cloud, or other on-demand models. You’ll see this from BP Logix very soon, and no doubt you’ll be seeing it from other vendors as well.
What’s your definition and philosophy towards BPM ?
You know, when we talk about “processes”, what we really mean are the set of things that companies do over and over and over again. So even a small inefficiency is multiplied several times over, resulting in significant waste, thereby driving the creation of process improvement strategies like Six Sigma and Operational Excellence. I’ve led OpEx projects, and I can tell you that if you don’t have a solid understanding of your process, or if you aren’t measuring baseline time to completion and comparing that to what you achieve through re-engineering, you’re not engaged in process improvement: you’re just experimenting. No process improvement, no savings.
So BPM is about doing the routine (but important) stuff more efficiently, with less errors, in a way that can be audited, measured, and improved. That may be a simple observation, but there are some interesting implications:
1. Although the decision to use BPM may be strategic, the actual implementation is tactical. In order to benefit from multiple, small improvement to a process, it’s got to be pretty straightforward to identify and implement them. There’s no use in creating an even greater drain on resources by deploying a bloated platform suite requiring dozens of developers, analysts, and managers.
2. One size does not fit all. We have customers who did, indeed, spend substantial amounts of time and money to deploy large-vendor suites, only to turn to us when they needed to solve problems quickly and flexibly at the divisional or even d
3. Quantifying improvement is how you justify the effort in the first place. In order to support this requirements, BPM solutions must enable you to predict, measure, and adjust the performance of each activity within a given process.
Do you see an eventual convergence between BPM, CRM, ECM and other similar process-centric markets given recent activities with Pega and Salesforce ?
The need for companies to manage their customer relationships or govern and control change will never disappear; however, the need to buy entirely separate solutions to each business problem is diminishing. Common off-the-shelf (COTS) software, with its wide variety of built-in workflow models, is a prime target for replacement by flexible, lean BPM solutions. It makes little sense to invest time, money, training, and personnel in acquiring, deploying, and mastering entirely distinct solutions for invoice management, employee onboarding, travel authorization, document routing and approval, and on and on and on, when you can deploy highly customized solutions via BPM. One system, one license, addressing numerous challenges.
A lot of mention has been made of dynamic and unstructured processes and workflow, and BP Logix covers this in Process Director, do you see a shift in traditional structured vs. Unstructured happening ?
There will always be structured processes, and so of course there will always be a need for technology to help businesses manage and improve them. In fact, for some of the reasons I mentioned above, and especially due to the growing need for corporate and IT governance, the proportion of structured vs. unstructured processes is likely to grow. Process Director helps you discover, automate, measure and improve highly complex processes that don’t lend themselves well to traditional flowcharting. I see this ability—to leverage the power of BPM technology to govern complex, multi-path, asynchronous processes—as even more compelling, and in greater demand, than that needed to manage unstructured processes.
An article in Forrester talked about turning to the process professionals more in 2010 and Gartner’s Magic Quadrant underwent a makeover in how they approached their analysis last year. Do you still see a need for the kind of high brow research which is perceived to be vendor led/ driven given the rise of independent professional blogs and insight columns ?
I’m pleased that Forrester, among others, have had so many positive comments to share about our products. And, indeed, we enjoy our relationship with Forrester, and have benefited from their counsel and insight. At the same time, Forrester themselves recently published research indicating that corporate buyers are turning to other sources, such as online fora, for guidance on their purchasing decisions. So there will undoubtedly continue to be a growing need going forward for independent research and opinion, especially for those customers who want to find the best solution, and not just the biggest. Similarly, for vendors like BP Logix, the personal attention and intimate relationship that can be achieved with an independent analyst are hard to duplicate with a larger research firm. Finally, though the social networks are not yet considered by many to be a venue for getting help with B2B purchasing decisions, I believe the number of buyers looking to Twitter, LinkedIn and friends for that type of information is bound to grow. Independent analysts are driving that shift by providing smart, timely commentary via the social networks.
There’s a shift towards Cloud/ SaaS offerings, Social BPM fever is starting to take hold after a few years in the wilderness and some are venturing into the Mobile space, are these viable roadmaps for vendors to look into or just hype for now ?
As we discussed earlier, low capital-expenditure, lightweight offerings will continue to grow in attractiveness, so SaaS is just around the corner. Social BPM basks in the glow emitted by all things social, though at this point it’s more of an idea than a product set. As such, the jury is out as to whether adding social features to BPM is going to be important to customers, although I’d go out on a limb and suggest that, in general, more collaboration is a good thing. Mobile is interesting. There’s no doubt it’s important, but the question is, what is mobile? When “mobile” meant “Blackberry”, there just wasn’t enough power to do anything interesting beyond email-enabled form submission. On the other hand, if the iPad defines the future of mobile, then we’re all mobile already. So it’ll be interesting to see how it all plays out.
But it’s all in the details. A well executed SaaS offering is going to be a hit, and a poorly conceived solution is not, regardless of the popularity of the subscription model in general.
If there was one thing you could tell someone who is just starting out on the BPM journey what would it be ?
You mean, besides “go with BP Logix”? 🙂 I’d tell them to do their homework. Paying more may get you a bigger solution, but it may not get you the right solution. Look for time-to-value measured in weeks, not months. Look for flexibility and ease of deployment, and remember that you will be using your BPM software to build and modify processes as rapidly as the business demands: don’t saddle yourself with a high-overhead, long learning-curve suite that makes that effort harder rather than easier.
What’s the next big thing you would like to see happening in BPM ?
BPM solutions have reached the point, in terms of product quality as well as customer acceptance, that businesses can legitimately examine the possibility of replacing some of their common, off-the-shelf (COTS) software solutions with custom solutions built on BPM. For example, when I was head of technology at WaMu Investments, we had a huge variety of COTS and home-grown products for everything from time tracking to invoice processing to employee reviews. Each of these solutions required separate oversight, separate training, separate software maintenance payments, separate vendors, separate hardware resources, and often, separate identity management. That’s a lot of overhead for each point solution.
Instead, I’d like to see customers taking advantage of the BPM software they’ve already acquired and understand, and leverage it to solve their challenges in a nimble, low-overhead, highly-customized way.
Finally, what next for Scott Menter ?
I’m looking forward to helping BP Logix customers succeed, and of course to helping BP Logix grow and succeed as well. I couldn’t be having more fun: our customers are enthusiastic, and my colleagues—some of whom I’ve known for many years—are great people doing a terrific job. Bottom line: I’m exactly where I want to be!