For a pharmaceutical company like Wyeth, no function is more important than research and development\u2014the process of finding \n\nthe new drugs that will lead to patents and profits. And for the information systems group that supports R&D, business \n\nprocess management (BPM) is emerging as a key technology and management strategy to make that function more efficient.\n\nMore on CIO.com\nPut the Emphasis on "P" for Process in Business Process Management\n\nTools for Business Process Management\n\nWho Offers Business Process Management\n\nIn fact, R&D's early success at using this technology and methodology to cut software development time in half has sparked \n\ninterest from other divisions of the company that are looking to start their own BPM projects. But for Wyeth, the real payoff \n\nlies in BPM's potential to help the company define business processes and unify its information systems to break down \n\nbarriers between organizational and geographic divisions and to improve collaboration and innovation.\n\n"The demand is very high for connecting what used to be stovepiped systems," says CIO Jeffrey E. Keisling.\n\nThat demand is driven in part by the global nature of the pharmaceutical industry, in which virtual teams from different \n\nbusiness units around the world work together to develop new drugs and related innovations. "As we develop products, that \n\ndevelopment is happening on a worldwide scale," says Keisling.\n\nFor example, one current BPM project targets the process for developing medication labeling documents, which involves \n\ncollaboration across many stakeholders and approvals that have to be obtained from regulators worldwide, Keisling says.\n\nThe process is almost as involved as the application for a new drug approval, he says. Wyeth has to detail the composition of \n\nthe medicine with molecular diagrams, explain restrictions on its use and document known drug interactions\u2014all to produce the \n\nfolded piece of paper you find inside each package. The application, which is still under development, will need to reach \n\nacross R&D, clinical trials, and legal and regulatory review.\n\nThe fact that Wyeth would trust such a critical, regulated process to BPM is a vote of confidence in the approach, says \n\nKeisling. (A Wyeth BPM project was selected to receive a 2008 CIO 100 award.)\nSo far, Wyeth seems to have avoided the technology and governance pitfalls that have dogged some other implementations (see \n\n"Business Process Management: A Hot Area That's Still Immature.")\n\nKeisling says the main governance issue he sees is connecting the BPM expertise emerging within the company with the projects \n\nthat will deliver the greatest return on investment. "Right now, our biggest challenge is portfolio management," he says.\nBPM is definitely a to-do list item for companies today. But many CIOs and businesses have struggled to make it work. Wyeth's \n\nexperience offers a window on what makes a successful BPM initiative.\n\nPut Business First\n\nPart of the reason for Wyeth's success is that its BPM projects have been defined with the emphasis on the business process \n\nrather than on the technology. They are driven by a business mandate, either born out of a regulatory requirement or an \n\ninternal need, Keisling says.\n\n"Our business partners have absolutely no bias in terms of the tool we use, but they have a strong bias toward seeing that we \n\ndeliver results," he says.\n\nWyeth's BPM initiative aims to fill in the gaps between systems, promoting smooth hand-offs from one to the next, and \n\nshifting more of the responsibility for defining processes to business analysts, rather than programmers. Although the \n\nemphasis is as much on the business processes as the technologies to enable them, products such as the Metastorm BPM Suite \n\n(which is used at Wyeth) help by offering a combination of visual process modeling, process modeling, workflow, automation \n\nand integration tools. The BPM software can orchestrate processes that cross multiple computer systems, taking advantage of \n\nWeb services and other integration technologies to route transactions from one system to the next.\n\nAnother important goal of implementing BPM is to identify parts of a business process that aren't automated. Often, these are \n\nchoke points where an employee is responsible for taking the information from one system, performing a manual task or \n\nanalysis requiring human judgment, and then kicking off a process in another system. In these cases, the BPM tool itself can \n\nprovide e-mail notifications and reminders, in combination with Web-based forms, to prompt workers to perform those tasks and \n\nkeep things moving.\n\nThis layer of workflow automation also provides visibility into processes that otherwise would occur away from the watchful \n\neyes of corporate information systems. Since Wyeth is in the highly regulated drug development business, having better \n\ndocumented processes and auditing of how they are carried out could help the company in its dealings with regulators.\n\nBPM is also helping Wyeth improve the efficiency of routine administrative processes. For example, one of its BPM initiatives \n\nis related to research projects that Wyeth conducts with the help of physicians. Rather than dealing with regulated medical \n\ndata, it is focused on improving the interactions between Wyeth Medical professionals and the clinicians they work with \n\naround the world. The BPM solution provides significantly improved levels of management, collaboration and timeliness of \n\nmanaging these clinical research studies. Previously, Wyeth R&D personnel used a variety of systems and tools to track the \n\nactivities of clinical investigators, including the number of patients seen and whether their reports on those patients met \n\nthe requirements of the research protocol. Clinical grant payments were also handled in multiple ways by the research teams \n\nat Wyeth, leading to a payment request in SAP. Using the BPM tool, Wyeth can now introduce business rules to initiate the \n\nworkflow for seeking approval for payments.\n\n"The value is in the process consistency. Rather than relying on individual knowledge to make sure things get done, we can \n\nrely on an automated, documented process to get things done," says Jazz Tobaccowalla, Wyeth's vice president of information \n\nservices, the technology group that supports the R&D division. "This is particularly important as we're going more global \n\nwith our workforce and trying to leverage every hour available in the clock. It gives us a consistent way of doing things and \n\na way to capture knowledge\u2014everything that we can lose when people leave or people forget."\n\nBust Silos and Tie Processes Together\n\nFor Wyeth, the decision to focus on BPM emerged from an analysis of where the research systems group was putting its energy. \n\n"The group I inherited had a big emphasis on software development, with the idea that we should build software from scratch \n\nwhere possible," says Tobaccowalla.\n\nTobaccowalla shifted the emphasis to buying and adapting commercially available software. Yet the classic "build versus buy" \n\ntrade-off was only part of the story. He also came to the conclusion that there was too much emphasis on the transaction \n\nsystems and too little on those that enabled the processes that were valuable to the company. "Development was focused on \n\nsiloed, transaction systems. We had integration technology that moved data from one system to another, but we did not \n\nnecessarily tie the processes across these systems together. What we really needed was for the process to flow with the \n\ndata," Tobaccowalla says.\n\nIn the R&D division particularly, "there's certainly a greater emphasis on efficiency," Tobaccowalla says, "so consistency \n\nand process and clarity of who is doing what is important." For example, the BPM system can include process-monitoring rules \n\nthat detect when a required approval is taking too long\u2014perhaps because the responsible person is out sick\u2014and notify another \n\nmanager.\n\nOne of the first benefits Wyeth saw from R&D's BPM initiative was that software development time was cut in half. \nTobaccowalla says that on the average project, the actual software development that would have required six months of \n\ntraditional programming work can be accomplished in about three months with a BPM tool. (This does not include the up-front \n\ntime spent defining how the process should work, which is sometimes the bigger part of a project.) So while he had only \n\nplanned to tackle three BPM projects in 2007, he wound up with eight underway by the end of the year.\n\nEven so, Tobaccowalla says he has not found that BPM completely eliminates the need for a software development effort on his \n\nprojects. While a business analyst can do more of the up-front work of defining a business process, there is still "a little \n\nbit of classic IT effort" to integrate the systems that must work with the BPM software.\n\nWyeth has also relied on consultants with expertise at configuring the Metastorm software to produce the actual process \n\nmodels, which is still a little too much like programming for the average business user. However, Tobaccowalla says Wyeth is \n\nplanning to purchase Metastorm's ProVision tool, which is designed to be a more business-user-friendly tool for visual \n\nprocess design and reengineering, with the ability to generate models that can be imported into the BPM environment.\n\n"Maybe with that, some of the hand-offs will become easier, and some of the simpler automations we'll be able to do with the \n\nclick of a button," he says.\n\nSuccess Speeds Adoption\n\nThe R&D group's success with BPM has attracted attention from other parts of Wyeth. In fact, Tobaccowalla is in the process \n\nof establishing a BPM Center of Excellence (COE) as a way for his staff to advise their business peers how to use the \n\ntechnology effectively. That's significant because "we don't establish COEs very easily," he says. In other words, the \n\ncompany doesn't devote those resources to every new technology fad that comes along, only to things it believes are \n\nstrategically important.\n\nIDC analyst Maureen Fleming wrote a research report on Metastorm that included a case study on Wyeth (IDC is a sister company \n\nto CIO's publisher). She says some companies who adopt BPM start with a grand vision for gaining better control over all \n\ntheir business processes. Others, like Wyeth, start with a specific application that happens to be a good match for BPM. What \n\ncan happen then, if all goes well, is that the approach goes "viral" and starts marketing itself.\n\n"When you have a good experience with a deployment, and it's on time and on budget, the uptake is very good. The heads of \n\nother departments start looking at it and saying, I want one of those,'" Fleming says. "And I think that's what happened \n\nhere, where the outcome was viral demand inside of Wyeth."\n\nTobaccowalla says that Wyeth originally hesitated over the decision of whether or not to license the Metastorm suite. An \n\ninternal technology review committee questioned the need for the suite, given that the company already had several other \n\nproducts such as Documentum and SAP at its disposal with workflow capabilities. Ultimately, the project team was able to make \n\nthe case that BPM went beyond traditional workflow to manage processes that have to span multiple systems and that the tools \n\nhad enough potential applications to be worth adding to the company's existing technology portfolio.\n\nWyeth's BPM initiative beginning in R&D is surprising to Pramod Sachdeva, managing director of Princeton Blue, a systems \n\nintegration firm that targets the pharmaceutical industry. "This is starting on the R&D side? I think that's tremendous," he \n\nsays, explaining that R&D technology groups are often too focused on specialized informatics technologies to pay attention to \n\nBPM. And that's too bad. "There's so much value to be created on the R&D side in pharmaceutical companies" where BPM could \n\nmake a difference, he says.\n\nPotential customers tend to be skeptical of claims made for BPM that "sound too good to be true," Sachdeva says. But it's \n\ncoming into its own as a technology and a discipline. What's changed is the quality of the tools, which simplifies the \n\nintegration required to orchestrate processes across multiple systems. "It's only in the last two to three years that I've \n\nfelt these products have reached the level where they can truly bring value to the business\u2014and not just be another tool for \n\nIT," Sachdeva says.\n\nStill, the tools can only do so much. Implementing BPM can be a way of identifying and addressing the gaps in a process that \n\ncuts across divisions. But those in charge of the different divisions still have to agree on how the new, automated process \n\nshould work, Tobaccowalla says. \n\nLacking that, the result is likely to be "a layer of bureaucracy that nobody is interested in," he says. "So the real magic \n\nis getting the business process right."