IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

BPMaaS Spells Revenue for Systems-Minded Channel Pros

Business process management as a service is a margin-rich opportunity worth exploring, experts say, if you’ve got the right mindset. By James E. Gaskin

NEW SERVICE REVENUE areas are always welcome, especially as hardware sales slide and margins on traditional income sources slip. Once the province of international enterprises and national consultancies, business process management (BPM) has become the latest member of the as-a-service club. Should BPMaaS, as it’s commonly known, be the newest addition to your service portfolio?

Plenty of your customers are potential buyers anyway, observes Jim Sinur, vice president of research and Aragon fellow at analyst firm Aragon Research Inc., of Morgan Hill, Calif. Definitions of BPMaaS vary, he notes, and the field overlaps some with ERP and workflow. “If you include workflow, then it’s in almost every company, probably embedded in something else,” Sinur says.

It can pay those companies enormous rewards, too, when done right. “BPM is technology used to drive business processes more effectively,” says Neil Ward-Dutton, research director of U.K.-based IT researcher MWD Advisors. “We’ve seen client organizations get 100 percent ROI in as little as three or four months.” For channel pros, moreover, BPMaaS is more than just a one-time sale.

“Don’t think of BPMaaS as just an application development project but more of a long-term partnership,” Ward-Dutton says, adding that providers should explicitly market it that way.

“If you sell the service as just BPM it’s hard,” he observes. “Sell it as a front end to the digital transformation that provides better customer interaction and satisfaction.”

As a bonus, he continues, channel pros can put their BPMaaS skills to work on their own customer onboarding, service provisioning, and customer query handling processes.

Still, BPMaaS isn’t for everyone, according to Faun deHenry, CEO of FMT Systems of Texas Inc., a BPM consultancy in Plano, Texas. “If you’re not a systems thinker and don’t know how to translate that into benefits for your customers, you’re going to have a very tough go of it,” she says.

Look for the Right Platform

Choosing the right BPMaaS platform is crucial. “The open source versions are a little more difficult, but are free until you go into production,” notes Sinur. “And there are so many freemium models now [that] customers can find enough savings to pay for it.”

Also, look for vendors with a good partner program that provide training, counsels Ward-Dutton, who especially likes the transparency practiced by BPM vendor Appian Corp., of Reston, Va. “They certify implementers on their platform and post the certification test scores,” he says.

Knowing which processes to optimize is as important as selecting a good platform. According to deHenry, BPMaaS providers should focus on the 20 percent of business processes, formal or informal, that differentiate a client from its competitors.

“Most people have the back-office stuff handled well already with ERP,” she says, “so start with the customer-facing processes that make them unique.”

Sinur, for his part, adds that if he were starting out in this business, he’d focus on providing bundles of prepackaged processes for generic, rather than mission-critical, operations, which will save customers time and money right out of the gate.

“I’d come up with my own process I could sell to someone as a solution,” says Sinur. He suggests avoiding processes likely to be covered well by software vendors already, like CRM and salesforce automation, in favor of vital but more complex disciplines such as governance, risk management, and compliance.

“You could make some money with those services inside a BPMaaS implementation,” he says.

DeHenry advises newcomers to begin their BPMaaS journey by learning about BPM more generally. BPMInstitute.org “is a great organization and is one of several groups involved in certifying analysts,” she says, pointing to BPM.com as another good education resource.

“Start with those two groups and you’ll see why those of us in this business believe BPM is such a big deal,” deHenry says.

About the Author

JAMES E. GASKIN is a ChannelPro contributing editor and former reseller based in Dallas.

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