Trendlines from 5/15/08: New, Hot, Unexpected

In this issue: Sesame Street and Open Souce; More demand for wireless; Xerox goes green; ROI vs. TCO; Starbucks seeks feedback; Hacking the election; BPM obstacles; and Unified Communication by the numbers.

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BPM: Hot Tech Hits Obstacles

Business process management, or BPM, is a hot area. But BPM analysts say some CIOs and businesses are struggling with BPM initiatives.

Done right, BPM allows organizations to define, execute and refine processes that involve human interaction and manage dynamic process rules and changes, according to CIO's "ABC: An Introduction to Business Process Management." However, a 2007 Aberdeen Group report titled "BPM Convergence" says getting business integration and workflow software products to work together remains a challenge for companies. "The results have been islands of BPM functionality scattered throughout the organization, each serving a discrete function," states the report.

According to the survey of more than 160 IT and business executives and managers, the main obstacles to deploying a BPM system have less to do with technology and more to do with people and processes.

"Part of the solution is technical, but another part is organizational, and this is where many companies stumble," says the report. "It takes highly capable BPM products, a willingness to take a hard look at business processes to succeed and organizational maturity." As such, the top challenges are organizational: justifying a BPM investment and getting business buy-in.

Aberdeen's report makes several recommendations for improving BPM performance including:

Document processes. Understand your organization's business processes and how information flows through the enterprise.

Plan for enterprise convergence. If your company is already using standalone BPM applications, explore bringing them together into an integrated system. "New development should be capable of integrating into the enterprise BPM solution," states the report.

By the Numbers: Unified Communications:

Can You Make the Case for Implementation?

Unified communications (UC) is a hot topic in the corporate technology world. But the most informed CIOs know the market is still immature, says Forrester analyst Henry Dewing in his report Top Unified Communications Predictions for 2008.

According to the report, more than 50 percent of large enterprises are running, installing or considering UC solutions, defined as the combination of voice, video, e-mail and instant messaging to improve communication and streamline business processes. But Dewing suspects that the large enterprises and small and medium businesses he surveyed are actually deploying foundational UC infrastructure like IP-PBX or IM and Presence.

"The preparation of networking and computing infrastructure to support UC in the future seems to be the top agenda," he says.

Before deploying a full UC solution, explore whether it's right for your workforce. "CIOs want a solid business case before deploying," Dewing says, noting that some IT groups are reluctant to take the leap as they are not sure employees will actually use the tools or that predicted benefits will materialize. And yet many CIOs recognize the value of UC and the fact that eventual deployment is inevitable, he says.

Dewing's report predicts that in 2008, at least 20 percent of firms will buy hosted or managed UC services. "The newness of the solutions and the difficulty of integrating multiple features from potentially multiple vendors are making enterprises consider outside help in the form of hosted or managed UC features," he says.

Installing and configuring UC is a major challenge for CIOs, Dewing says. But it will pay off big-time, he says: "Getting a critical mass using UC tools can often cause a firm to reach a tipping point, where business suddenly happens more efficiently."

Best Practices

Link deployment to a business plan. CIOs need to show the benefits of smoother employee communication before they can sell the idea of a enterprisewide UC implementation.

Help users make the most of the solution. As UC is rolled out, make sure it isn't causing problems. For example, UC solutions should not show that a user is available following a meeting until the scheduled meeting time has ended, or the user has done something like type on his PC or make a phone call.

Track and encourage usage. Nothing encourages collaboration more than having your brightest and most respected employees use the UC and collaboration tools. Where the leaders go, others will follow.

-Thomas Wailgum

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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