BPM Series: Are BPM systems failing to deliver their promise? – Part I

I am a bit disappointed by my recent experiences on BPM systems. BPM systems have been used by many insurance companies here in India to automate New Business application. The insurance business in India tends be such skewed that 50% of the monthly business comes in the last 7 days and 30% of the annual business comes in the last month. Typically, peak daily business for operations team tends be at least 10 times of average daily business. Peak period is typically the last 4-5 days of the financial year when the operations engine has to run non stop with full steam. These last few days are the most crucial period of the year. New Business being so mission critical process, the success and failure of the organization is solely judged by and depends on the capability of Operations and IT infrastructure to support and process business brought in by sales teams.

Although, I am a big supporter of BPM technology, my experience in the last 2 financial yearends have been below par. Some of the early adopters of BPM system in Insurance industry have had to shut down their BPM infrastructure and resort to manual process when BPM infrastructure was needed the most.

The experience suggests that those BPM projects have met with limited or no success where the process automated:
– is relatively complex
– involves integration with back office systems
– has either large volumes to process or huge user load
– is decentralized and dependent on availability of network

In addition to the “Year End” challenge, BPM systems have failed to live up to their promise of providing flexible and agile process management infrastructure. Typically, mission critical automation projects tend to be complex and involve high degree integration. So, both new automation initiatives as well as enhancements in the existing implementations require significant time and efforts. Agility, flexibility and dynamic or on-the-fly process changes in such cases remain a mere sales talk.

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