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Author's profile photo Philip Kisloff

Selling holes, not drills: and the principal-agent problem.

Is there resistance to using NetWeaver BPM from customers? I raised the question when I had a chat with Ruks Omar about collating use cases for the new wiki (this is an excellent endeavour, and to my mind sets and important direction for BPX to develop).

I have been a team member of several bids in response to large RFPs. All had a transformation element and then a support proposal. All required something to be included around innovation. The problem I found in these sort of situations is that new tools where never classed as an innovation. It failed the criteria that they should have resonance with the client, rather than it looking like something we pulled off the web to pad out a proposal.  Winning bids had to understand the clients’ processes, and show immediate value.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the benefits of BPM, I’m just telling you the hurdles that have to jumped to get support to implement it. Feedback I get from “suits” is that it is too generic and doesn’t seem relevant to issues at hand ( a “geeks tool?”) Also, the benefits are too marginal, given the investment required. If you are new startup, BPM might make sense, but not for the kind of engagements I’m asked to help on.

I wonder why there is a problem with BPM adoption, and thought of two overlapping issues.

1. Organisations buy holes, not drills. They’re interested in effects, not technology for technologies sake. So BPM may be the best tool for the job, but it’s not the only tool. There are other considerations that influence a deployment decision. Understanding these considerations is but a first step.

2. I heard about the principal-agent problem in economics, and it struck a chord. The idea is that strategies don’t get the buy-in they should because the principal setting the strategy does not understand the incentives bearing down on the agent tasked with carrying them out. For example, the strategy may be to maximise shareholder value by differentiating through innovation. The agent says (to themselves) “Oh yeah, and how am I going to sutain this innovation with my exisitng resourcing channels? Why can’t we use the [de facto] standard industry approach to solving this problem?”

It’s a chicken and egg type muddle, and one faced by a lot new technologies in a retrenching marketplace. SAP has an advantage, because they are not just a technology company, but have real-world value in solving process problems and an online community infrastructure able to leverage this experience. This is why I see The specified item was not found. as so important, and exciting challenge to the BPX community.

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      Author's profile photo Marilyn Pratt
      Marilyn Pratt
      Hi Phil,
      Glad you find value in Ruks' Use Case wiki and hope others will take a look and contribute/comment there as well.  Interesting that her inquiry raises up the specter of the question Who is a BPX? which Vijay, Somnath and others are revisiting as well as the Enterprise Geeks.  There is even a discussion on Solution Architects in if anyone cares to join.
      Could you further elaborate on "Retrenching marketplace".
      Also by looking at Ruks' wiki found Simple Sample applications and wondered if you or others saw these and found them useful.
      Thanks again for your post.
      Author's profile photo Philip Kisloff
      Philip Kisloff
      Blog Post Author
      Hi Marilyn, I used the phrase "retrenching marketplace" just to mean that project proposals need a stronger business case with an emphasis on cost. So it appears retrenching because the rate of adoption [for new technologies]slows. Although, to be honest, I don't have direct access to the figures to know if this is really true, it was just an impression I'm getting.

      Yes, I did see "Simple Sample applications" and saw both good and bad. Good in that it is a great start, and seems to cove a wide scope. Bad in that it lacks real world depth of experience. For example, I worked on a lot order approval processes. I went straight to where it was referenced

      But my experience tells me the devil is in the detail. Release strategies and approvals are much more sophistcated. Something about all the various strategies, with chain-of-command approvals, handling absenses, delegation of authority, self-approval of small amounts - (note to self: I should contribute something to explain it better). This sort of real world complexity is endlessly fascinating.

      Author's profile photo Clinton Jones
      Clinton Jones
      I think your comments suffer the same business malaise that was prevalent amongst a lot of customers and projects up to just a couple of years ago with respect to Solution Manager. Only when it became well nigh impossible to download patches, perform upgrades and get support from AGS did customers start to take Solution Manager seriously. Though BPM is increasingly popular there is still insufficient advocacy amongst the tech savvy and insufficient understanding of the benefits and rewards in the business and project governance organisations to see this through to widespread use. I think at the moment it is trailblazing effort and will take a lot more promotion and demonstration of tangible benefits before it gets the importance of place in new and renewal projects.
      Author's profile photo Philip Kisloff
      Philip Kisloff
      Blog Post Author
      It's an interesting comparison with Solution Manager. Now you come to mention it, I can see the similarities, but I think for BPM to become more ubiquitous in business blueprints it needs less of the advocacy but more tie-in to real world scenarios.