Australian managers labelled 'gutless innovators' with a fear of transformational change

New research has labelled Australian managers as "gutless" when it comes to transformational change with enterprises choosing to focus on incremental steps.

After polling 22 companies with more than 1000 employees on business process management (BPM), consultancy Technology Choices found Australian enterprises have no appetite for change. Products used by respondents include Websphere, Filenet, Documentum, Infopath and Adobe Lifecycle.

The consultancy's managing director Sara Sause said Australian organizations tend to choose a strategy of gutless innovation that generates predictable, modest results.

In comparison, Sause said North American firms are more likely to undertake projects that attempt to radically transform business profitability and competitiveness.

"Businesses have a terrible habit of purchasing flashy BPM applications for projects that inevitably fail after two years, [because] their internal management doesn't understand BPM," she said.

"Organizations looking to gain more from their investments in IT should pay less attention to IT vendors, and more attention to their internal business management discipline.

"Leadership, vision and persistence, more than technology and good project management, are the keys to ensuring successful business innovation."

Sause said there is no "natural home" for BPM innovation, with those undertaking these projects typically two to three levels below the CEO in the reporting structure of the organization.

By 2010, she predicted the next generation of technology, business rules engines, will become a standard element of IT infrastructure. Steve Mackintosh, Bunge Meat Industries IT manager, agrees understanding BPM is crucial to its successful use.

"[Because] we are the largest in our industry, often we can't rely on off-the-shelf products - we need to build our own and therefore we have a [good] understanding of [BPM]," Mackintosh said.

"I would definitely agree that [understanding BPM] would make or break a project; you can't dive into something like this and buy software thinking you'll come out fine."

A business process manager, who requested anonymity, said businesses considering BPM need to understand what is involved.

"It's not as simple as walking up to one of the thousands of vendors, buying [an application] and expecting that to be the end of it," she said.

"You need to spend just as long organizing and educating your management about BPM as you would on the project."