Cartesis[R]: As More and More Firms Recognise the Value of Business Performance Management (BPM) Solutions, Jonny Cheetham Answers Your Questions on Managing IT Projects

Article excerpt

We are starting a project to select a new BPM system. How can we ensure that this is managed properly?

Gartner estimates that IT project failures account for $75 billion of corporate losses every year; so strong project management is critical, and not only during the implementation. A 2003 research report by Cranfield School of Management, IT Investments: Effectiveness of the Appraisal Process, highlighted one of the most overlooked issues: 85 per cent of respondents thought that the IT investment process was often influenced by personal or political aspirations. In the UK at least, this doesn't mean that decisions are influenced by offers of free holidays. It means that too many decision-makers are unwilling to base their choice on an evaluation of the facts--they would rather play safe and stick with the market leader. This behaviour not only costs their firms the price of an inferior solution; it also undermines the competitive dynamic that leads to improved products.

The key is to have a rational, organised process, not one that's designed to give the result that the selection team wanted from the start. If you don't think you have the skills or time to drive a thorough process, there are experienced consultancies in every specialist field including BPM--that are well qualified to help.

What should be the main steps in selecting a system?

The steps are developing and validating your firm's requirements, building a long list, narrowing down to a shortlist, the final selection and the contract negotiation. As ever, there's a trade-off between the cost of the selection and the confidence you can have in the final choice. You'll probably live with the system for years, so it's worth spending time initially to ensure that you get a solution that meets your current and future needs.

The purpose of the long list is to ensure that you've given all potential suppliers the chance to show why they're qualified to make a proposal. There's no harm in making it long--10 or more vendors is not unusual. At this stage you don't need to tell them much about you; you simply want to understand the product offerings and client case studies that will convince you to take them further. From this information you can draw up a shortlist, which will almost always include the market leader if there is one, plus generally one or two other suppliers with the right offering and experience.

You also need to define your requirements clearly and articulate precisely your firm's needs for the future in relation to considered best practice. It's surprising how often a requirements document states what the current system does, rather than starting by describing the new business processes that the new system will need to support. …