Downturn = BPM, Upturn = No BPM: Will an upbeat economy mean less focus on BPM now ?

I had an interesting conversation with Ian Gotts of Nimbus Partners this week that raised a thorny question. In a downbeat economy the focus is to drive out costs and improve processes a lot more aggressively, probably more so than in ‘normal’ conditions where continuous improvement already takes place, so the attention is immediately turned to what BPM can achieve for the enterprise and can potentially account for such strong results being posted by vendors.

However with noise from government quarters saying that the economy is reaching a turning point and some financial institutions posting profits again will the upswing mean CIO/ CEO/ COO’s divert funds earmarked for BPM to Business As Usual projects again because of the perception that everything is rosy again and cost cutting, rigorous improvements and the implementation of BPM solutions are no longer required ? It’ll be an interesting remaining 9 months to see whether it plays out in this way assuming the economy is indeed on the up.

What do you think ?
Is BPM doomed to be a cyclical solution; when things look bad BPM is where it’s at, when things are good BPM takes a back seat on the agenda ?


3 responses to “Downturn = BPM, Upturn = No BPM: Will an upbeat economy mean less focus on BPM now ?

  1. I don’t think this is really that true at all. Though from the outside looking in (so too speak) this may be a perception, but in reality many organisations looking to cuts costs etc dont actually then invest in something that will make them more streamlined and efficient. I would argue that even in a downturn the majority of organisations just look to lower costs and make general cuts and savings. I dont think I have ever had the luxury of finding an organisation that in hard times thinks "hey, you know what, if we invest in this now, we will drive down our operational costs tomorrow". Sorry, I just dont think that happens….In the media, arguments for BPM in a downturn probably do get more attention, but this doesnt translate to greater investment and adoption of BPM. Only in an upturn does real investment in IT happen – usually to try and protect against a downturn in the future….

  2. While it is certainly a valid concern for anyone in the BPM business to have, it is too early to tell what this turn of the wheel holds. An example. In 1994 a little company that sold configuration software to the makers of complex equipments (PBXs, servers, super computers, mainframes, etc) was growing like crazy in the midst of a tech downturn in the US. Why? Because those tech companies were looking to tighten the belt on costs, and accurate configuration at sales time could help them ensure they built what they sold, reduced errors by 10x, etc. Fast forward to 2001. Another tech downturn. But in this tech downturn, the strategy du jour was not to cut costs by being more accurate- it was to simplify the product line dramatically and reduce cost by increasing the volume of commodity parts and sell those at lower prices. Configurability was out, commoditization was in. What will happen to a space like BPM if the economy improves? Hard to say in advance – it will depend on how CEOs react to the new landscape- more hiring? more tech? more automation or capital spending?. But in general, I think we’ll all be better off if the economy does improve 🙂

  3. My thoughts were based on economic cycles in history. On each occasion that the economy has heated up in the last 10 years, BPM projects have take an back seat. And as the economy struggled, BPM became important.Now the only difference is the regulatory demands on organisations which will make BPM a must-have.Here’s hoping so, as I’m leading Nimbus a rapidly growing BPM vendor

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