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Business process improvements, customer relationship management and business analytics are high on CIOs' to-do lists this year.

#1: Business Process Management/Improvement">

Project #1: Business Process Management/Improvement

Participants: Usually a joint effort of I.T. and a business unit. In a few isolated instances, BPM initiatives do not involve any technologists.

Price tag: From $20,000 on the low end to tens of millions on the high end.

Time line: A department-level pilot could be started and finished in five days. An enterprisewide project could take several years.

The project area that technology managers put first this year is also the slipperiest. "BPM is one of those things that mean 20 different things to 10 different people," says Chris Curran, chief technology officer at Chicago-based Diamond Management & Technology Consultants. "It's a term that has popped up because of vendors."

What BPM projects boil down to are efforts to break down business functions, figure out better methods of executing them, and build technology systems in support of the new methods. The business functions undergoing evaluation are industry-specific, but some common ones include order-processing and getting a new employee up and running.

Of course, there are actual BPM tools. The tools—from companies like Oracle and BEA Systems—help companies understand their existing business processes and design new ones. This is something companies have done manually for years, by having a business analyst define requirements and hand them off to a development team.

Some of the newer software tools can automatically generate code to run the improved business process. Canned code, however, only goes so far at big enterprises. So, while billions will be spent on BPM in 2007, look for the spending to be primarily on consultants and staff salaries, not software.

Next page: Project #2: Customer Relationship Management

This article was originally published on 2007-03-07
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