The 5 Biggest Pitfalls to Avoid when Selecting a BPM Software or Workflow Software Vendor

By | July 31, 2011 | BPM

In my first post in this series on selecting the correct BPM software or work flow software product, I looked at how the analysts recommend you should go about buying your enterprise software.  In this blog post, I want to go a little deeper on the flip side and explore deeper what NOT TO DO when buying BPM software or workflow software.  Here is what the analysts say you SHOULD NOT do:

1) Don’t pick a safe vendor or the enterprise standard brand just because the vendor is a known name brand

2) Don’t choose your workflow vendor based on a list of features or apparent technical elegance

3) Don’t choose the cheapest option just because it is the cheapest

4) Don’t ignore your specific requirements and then not take the time to try and figure out which BPM software suite matches your usage patterns for a particular project

5) Don’t select the BPM software or workflow software that your programmers prefer instead of involving the business analysts

Let’s look at each of these pitfalls in detail:

 

Don’t pick a Safe BPM Software Vendor  

You should not pick a safe vendor or the enterprise standard brand just because the vendor is a known name brand.  This is the easy way out and will often create problems.  The old saying was “no one ever got fired for buying IBM.”  However, today’s world is much more complex than it was just ten or twenty years ago. Twenty years ago, one size really did fit all.  But today we live in a world of personalized technologies that are just one small step shy of creating a totally personalized life experience where one person may have nothing in common with the next when it comes to consuming services, media, and more. 

For this reason, there is no such thing as a Safe Vendor in BPM Software.  The customer should look carefully at 1) specific technical requirements, 2) specific vertical industry requirements/experience, and 3) the specific experience of the specific team that is going to be doing the implementation.  The operative word here is “specific.”  As I mentioned above, we live in a tailor made world – for this reason the idea of the safe vendor is actually anachronistic. 

Don’t choose your workflow vendor based on a list of features or apparent technical elegance

BPM Software vendors tend to sell based on check lists and spec sheets.  Again, this is a rather outdated way of selling and definitely an outdated and dangerous way of buying.  MORE FEATURES ARE NOT NECESSARILY A GOOD THING.  I hope that that David Heinemeier-Hansson is not the only person in the world that understands this point.  Remember the 80/20 rule when buying software and try to favor simplicity and elegance over ridiculous feature stuffing.  Choosing your workflow vendor based on a checklist of features is just about the worst pitfall there is.  Oddly enough, 100% of the public sector clients in the developing world and at least 50% in the developed world still buy their software this way.  No wonder more than 50% of Enterprise software projects fail.

Don’t choose the cheapest BPM Software just because it is the cheapest

This should be obvious.

Don’t ignore your specific requirements and then not take the time to try and figure out which BPM software suite matches your usage patterns for a particular project

This point is very much like the first point in this list.  Problems are specific in nature so it is much more important to know which BPM Suite best matches your particular problem set.  In theory all BPM Suites can do everything – we all know this.  But in practice, some have already done it, and this can be a huge time savings for the client.  So, it is really important to look at the particular needs of your project.

Don’t select the BPM software or workflow software that your programmers prefer instead of involving the business analysts

The whole point of purchasing BPM Software is to be able to provide more power to your business analysts.  In today’s software driven world, programmers seem to hold an inordinate amount of power.  This can be a very bad thing when developing business systems.  Programmers are notoriously bad communicators so if no one else is involved in creating a system…well, then nobody will know what that system is going to look like when it is finished.  Programmers also tend to jump companies, especially in India and other off-shore hot spots where programming often takes place.  So, again, it can be very dangerous to have only your programmers involved in a project and not the business analysts.

Summary

In summary you really need to look at the particulars of any given BPM project in order to select the best vendor.  This actually seems pretty obvious.  If you were buying a vehicle would you automatically assume that the Mercedes-Benz S-Class is your best choice?  Well, if you needed a vehicle to haul rocks, dirt, and lumber then you would have made a very bad assumption, right?  Buying Enterprise Software is not all that different.  We need to know what we are buying it for.  And a list of features is really not that helpful.  However, as I said in my previous post on 5 Tips for Selecting the Best BPM Software Vendor for your next BPM Software Project, many companies still choose to buy their BPM software based on a laundry list RFI/RFP.  Developing world governments are particularly notorious for this type of purchasing as I will discuss in my next blog post.  No wonder they often make such bad enterprise software buying decisions.

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