Six years ago, when Hyperion Solutions Corp. arrived with pioneering software in business performance management, finance executives at semiconductor maker International Rectifier Corp. made two smart decisions: First, they bought the software, and second, they didn't make every department sign on right away. According to Doug Burke, senior manager for financial analytics, the plan was to start with the departments that needed it most. "Our people in finance and sales would spend 80% of their time collecting data, and 20% of their time using it," Burke recalls. "Now, we do things in minutes that used to take us hours, and we're able to forecast sales and spot problems quickly."

Not only did International Rectifier's executives show great prescience about the ultimate utility of BPM, they also helped the company to avoid what has emerged as the biggest pitfall of BPM–trying to implement it across an organization all at once. As a result, the experiment proved so rewarding that the company proceeded this year to expand its BPM system into manufacturing and other areas. "What we're aiming for is to be fully automated," says Burke, "with exception-based reporting in every department to show us when there is a problem instantly."

If only all companies could report such stellar results. "There has been a high degree of failure in this space," concedes Lee Geishecker, research director at tech consultancy Gartner Inc. "People either get lost during the implementation phase, or the system gets rolled out and nobody uses it. They just revolt."

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