Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Survey says slow, kludgy business processes hamper competitiveness

Corporations, are your business processes slowing you down? If so, you are in good company. Seventy-two percent of organizations say their business processes take too long and need to be streamlined.

So says a new independent survey conducted by Vanson Bourne for Progress Software.

The survey had a single goal, to determine the tools and processes large companies have put in place to support operational responsiveness and the ability to make "real-time" decisions. Vanson Bourne surveyed 400 large companies in the United States and Western Europe to develop its findings.

The bottom line: An overwhelming majority of businesses still feel they have a ways to go before they are equipped to respond to market or customer changes quickly enough to compete well in a global marketplace.

“The quest for faster operational responsiveness is becoming more urgent now that external factors such as social networking have boosted speed of response,” says Dr. Giles Nelson, senior director of strategy at the Apama division of Progress Software. “If organizations can’t keep up with the pace of customer feedback, they will find themselves exposed to competitive threats.”

I recently reached a similar conclusion in a podcast discussion with IT analyst Howard Dresner, with an emphasis on business intelligence (BI) in the stew of real-time requirements. Other firms I've worked with, such as Active Endpoints and BP Logix, call the value "nimble" or the ability to quick orchestrate and adapt processes.

[UPDATE: TIBCO today delivered its iProcess Spotfire product for real-time BI aligned to business process management.]

Sure is a lot of emphasis on real-time data, analysis and process reactivity nowadays! No process like the present, I always say. [Disclosure: TIBCO and Progress are sponsors of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

On average, 22 percent of U.S. companies surveyed by Vanson Bourne admitted that, by the time they noticed it, they had missed the opportunity to react competitively to a change or trend affecting one of their processes. A lack of information seems to be fueling the problem. More than half of companies identified information gaps in decision-making as a cause.

The good news is that surveyed companies have solutions to the information gap in mind, namely access to real-time data. Ninety-four percent of companies cited the importance of real-time data – and the majority of those companies are making moves to gather it. Some 82 percent are planning to invest in real-time technology by mid-2010 in an effort to speed up internal processes, they said.

As Nelson at Apama sees it, bad news now travels very quickly – and companies need to make sure they’re not stuck in the slow lane when it comes to responding to customer issues.

“The overwhelming majority of people we spoke to recognize the importance of responding quickly to customers and to be much more responsive to changes in market conditions. Unfortunately, in most cases at present the process and information reporting infrastructure can’t match that vision,” Nelson says. “Business Event Processing is becoming the way of dealing with this decision-making lag.”

I'd add a bit more. What we're actually seeing is that corporations now see that they must be able to analyze and act in Internet time. Many of us webby and social-media types have known that for some time, but the urgency has now hit the mainstream bricks (not just the clicks).

Furthermore, the payoffs from becoming a real-time-oriented organization will go far beyond knowing what's being said about you on Twitter. As the economy has shown in the last year, those who can move fast and move well will survive and thrive. The others will find themselves in a downward spiral.

BriefingsDirect contributor Jennifer LeClaire provided editorial assistance and research on this post.