Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Ethics in Business – Not in BPM

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Judging from some of the emails I have seen lately, I am not the only one who is really starting to question the position with regard to "ethics" in BPM. Hardly a day seems to go by at the moment with being able to read or hear about something that brings into question the ethics of business.

I don't even want to consider the issues surrounding BPMG (and who thinks they invented what!), but they are not alone. Only recently I was asked by a conference organizer to help them put together a program for an event. I explained that this was how I earned my living, but that as part of a deal including speaking at the event then I would of course be happy to help. They assured me that this would be the case and the financial side would not be a problem. Now as the program finalizes and they have everything they need, surprise surprise! They don't have the budget to cover the expenses. This in turn of course means that I won't travel. So be aware, trust in the conference space is not there either.

While on the subject of conferences, it is perhaps interesting to note that very few organizers are getting repeat visits or additional delegates from companies at repeat events. Yet despite this lack of repeat business they don't think to question whether they are really focused on successful customer outcomes – do they really care enough about the experience of delegates at the event?

IQPC, by way of example, have a very specific model and many of you will have noticed that they rarely have industry experts or guru's at their events. The reason is very simple, their business model is to a) sell as much sponsorship as possible b) sell the opportunity to provide workshops to vendors and consultants c) sell the opportunity of chairing the event and d) charge the delegates to attend. Then when they can see the revenue they then ask as many end users to speak as they can (no costs attached to that) usually against a title and bullet points that the organizer puts together.

I must add here in defense of IQPC South Africa, that this does not appear to have been the case with them, they do appear to have approached things differently and when last I heard as a result they have seen their own BPM event grow each year for the past three years.

The business model is of course very profitable, except when delegates stop returning and start talking about the lack of professionalism around the conference. There will always be a few good sessions and IQPC rely on this to keep them ahead of the chasing pack. But is interesting that in the BPM space their US and UK conferences appear to be failing to generate bigger audiences and it is getting harder to interest the sponsors. All of which suggests that perhaps yesterday's business model is still being applied to today's problems. As we all know this is a sure way of causing a business to fail.

I should point out that that IQPC are not alone in this respect and that conference organizers who focus on the delegate experience first are in the minority.

Then we come to the vendors! Well marketing is of course key to them, but some of the things that are being said are just untrue. Only yesterday I read a statement in a press release from a vendor claiming that they were the "only pure play BPM vendor" in a particular geographical market, which is simply false, in the market they are talking about there are at least two locally well known players in the space. How are users supposed to work out who they can trust if people stretch the truth to such limits, or beyond.

These examples do not of course apply to every vendor or conference organizer, but sadly the number it does apply to is too big. Don't get me wrong I am not talking about a bit of spin on messaging, which we all know is an everyday part of our lives. I am talking about those who blatantly seem to set out to mislead people.

In reality this apparent lack of ethics may explain the relatively slow revenue growth in the BPM sector, as buyers if we don't know who to trust we trust no one and keep our money in our wallets!

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