Why CIOs love BPM

In my last posting I pondered the (admittedly rhetorical) question, “Why CFOs Love BPM“.  This time I’d like to move the focus to an individual I sometimes think of as the natural enemy of the CFO in the wild: the CIO.

Why are the CIO and CFO so often at odds?  Well, I could spend a lot of time on that subject (and, no doubt, eventually I will).  But what’s important here is not what separates the corporate leaders of finance and technology, but rather, what unites them.

Today, CIOs are shedding infrastructure faster than my German Shepherd, Bella, sheds her winter coat.Bella: a canine furricane  Corporate technology organizations are getting leaner, budgets are getting tighter, and as a result, hardware, software, and networks are packaged as commodities and handed off to somebody else to worry about.

But why stop there?  Having plucked the low-hanging fruit, CIOs are turning an increasingly jaundiced eye towards the dozens, even hundreds, of business applications that their teams acquire, maintain, and operate.  Each application represents incremental expense, over and above the initial procurement cost:  Vendor management.  Training.  Maintenance.   Furthermore, because every app has its own approach to security, role-based administration, and change management, the risk profile of each app can be quite different, leading to an expensive, complex, and never-ending audit challenge.

The growth of the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model is, in part, a response to these issues.  And, indeed, SaaS will remain an increasingly important weapon in the CIOs cost-cutting arsenal.  But SaaS only addresses part of the problem:  take another look at the list of IT and risk management costs noted above, and you’ll see that few, if any, are significantly remediated by moving a particular app or set of apps to SaaS.

Enter BPM.  Unlike most other business software–invoice management, say, or travel expense processing, or purchase order approval–BPM tools are malleable into a huge variety of applications.  In other words, by using a single BPM solution, a CIO can replace her existing inventory of dedicated apps, one by one.  Got a dedicated time and project tracking solution?  Customize a more efficient one using your existing BPM product, and say goodbye to training, annual maintenance fees, and one more vendor.  Same with new hire onboarding.  Same with customer service requests.  And so on.

At the end of the day, by leveraging BPM, the CIO has reduced her expense base, improved her processes, and minimized her audit overhead.  And she can take on each project opportunistically, starting with eliminating the most expensive application, perhaps, or the one that creates the most audit challenges each year.

Finally, in order for this approach to make sense, the choice of BPM solution really does matter.  In a future post I will discuss why lean BPM is the way to go.  But for now, I’m hoping that the very idea that CIOs and CFOs can agree on the value of BPM is intriguing enough to get you started, dear reader, down the road towards investigating what BPM can do for you and your business.

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