Should a BPM Methodology be Platform Agnostic?

The BPM methodology that is used to implement and improve a BPM solution is critical to the success of BPM projects. A BPM Suite is a platform that automates policies and procedures, and the features and capabilities of a BPM suite are significant. But equally important are the implementation methodologies, guidelines, and governance practices of the BPM project. 

I have seen several BPM projects fail because not enough attention was given to the methodology involving the actual governance and systematic application of lean principles in an end-to-end BPM project.

The key question is: should organizations adopt a platform agnostic BPM methodology, or should the BPM methodology be platform specific? On the surface it might sound reasonable to adopt a BPM methodology that is independent of the BPM platform or tool. Now, there are a number of “platform independent” approaches out there for BPM methodology, governance, and maturity models. In addition, there are agile and lean continuous improvement approaches that have introduced excellent principles for development process efficiencies.

While theoretically these could, and do, serve some purpose in elucidating different methodology and lean best practices, in reality  - given the state of the BPM industry today - you are much better off with a platform specific approach that incorporates industry best practices within the tool. The platform agnostic BPM methodology approach adds an unnecessary level of complexity to the BPM solution development cycles.

In addition to the continuous improvement change management, you also need to focus on the mapping of the methodology phases, change management approaches, terminology, scope, and overall philosophy to the specific BPM Suite that is automating the solution. Recently, Ovum’s Dr. Alexander Simkin stated that: “A lot of CFOs have heard that process improvement can cut the cost of IT processes, and in the current economic environment, that's very appealing. What they don't realize is that becoming Agile or Lean takes time and requires major change management.” In other words, the methodology of implementing change through BPM projects with continuous improvement itself needs to be lean! The best way to achieve lean is through a BPM specific continuous improvement methodology.

Ideally the BPM platform should provide tools and constructs to help you directly realize the objectives, guidelines, and governance practices of the BPM tool specific methodology. In each iteration and phase of the methodology, you would like to have the corresponding function in the platform that helps and guides you in realizing the objectives of the iteration or the phase. By the same token, the methodology in its execution should leverage the BPM platform and be consistent with its terminology, capabilities, and overall change management approach.  As BPM adoption increases, BPM platforms and methodologies – including governance of BPM projects – will coalesce.

There will always be useful recommendations and practices in platform agnostic methodologies from the industry – and these should be adopted in the platform specific approaches. But on a more practical level, BPM specific methodologies will always provide the more sustainable approach for successful BPM projects. P.S. I would like to thank Richard Fay – who specializes on agile methodologies at Pega – for our many discussions  and exchanges on methodologies, as well as his comments on an earlier draft of this post.