By Loraine Lawson
With Craig Schiff, CEO of BPM Partners, an independent consultancy on business performance management. BPM Partners is also a member of the BPM Standards Group.
This interview originally appeared in the IT Business Edge weekly report on Aligning IT and Business Goals. To see a complete listing of IT Business Edge weekly reports or sign up for this free technology intelligence agent, visit www.itbusinessedge.com.
Question: What changes should IT expect if a company implements business performance management (BPM)?
Schiff: Business performance management is a set of financial and operational processes (budgeting/planning, consolidation and reporting, analyzing, measuring, managing) that is supported by software. The BPM-related changes for IT include the need for infrastructure optimization. These systems have many users, often accessing the data at the same time during peak periods, such as month-end close, the day budgets are due in, so system performance is key. Also, IT will be heavily involved in source data cleansing and loading, because BPM systems need to pull together a subset of data sitting in multiple transactional and legacy systems. Finally, IT will theoretically have more self-sufficient end users. The application vendors in the space have focused on ease of use for business end users, often using Excel as a primary interface, so they can write their own reports and maintain calculations and structures themselves.
Question: How does BPM help with alignment?
Schiff: BPM is a major business initiative dependent on technology (and IT) for success. It also involves all of the major business areas of the company, not just finance. Business users are heavily involved in the selection of a BPM system and its implementation. Unlike some other projects, which are typically handed off to IT, with BPM it is more of a continuous 50/50 process. So, it is a great opportunity for IT to work closely with the business leaders throughout the organization. Politics will certainly enter the picture, with each department trying to push for its own priorities related to the new BPM system. In some companies, finance will take the lead, relegating IT to much more of a supporting role.
Question: CIOs have a lot on their plates. What's the payoff for being involved with BPM?
Schiff: Self-sufficiency for end users is key, potentially lightening the IT load. BPM becomes the primary access means for data sitting in ERP and other transactional systems, so there is less demand for IT to set up new users on those systems or write reports, etc. Career-wise, BPM is a key strategic initiative for companies that will help better manage the business. It is much higher-profile than the typical operational or transactional back-office-type system.