I wrote last year that the business process market had essentially hit a wall, with organizations paying too much attention to process automation -- how work moves through an organization -- and not enough attention to the contributions of workers -- how work actually gets done. Industry pundits are touting 2010 as the "year of BPM," noting that process management is a top priority for CIOs.
But how do organizations break through the wall to achieve BPM success -- and prove the pundits correct?
It helps to think of BPM not as a technology but as a management discipline that involves actively managing the end-to-end work that organizations perform to create value for their customers, and if implemented effectively, for their shareholders. It is best implemented as a formal corporate commitment to improved productivity and competitiveness.
Executed effectively, BPM will deliver best-in-company processes, develop a "culture of winning" within an organization and distinguish a company within its industry. BPM should support a "business driven" implementation, led by both the dynamic needs of the business as well as the daily work of the business participants.
With that in mind, consider which type of process is the best fit. All have the potential to impact the bottom line:
Structured vs. Unstructured Processes
Processes such as supply chain or stock trading transactions tend to be very structured, requiring minimal human involvement. They are also known as integration-centric processes, in which BPM provides IT a toolset for doing development in a very process-centric way, with consultants typically helping with implementation.
To determine which type of process you're working with, ask if there is a lot of paper involved, many manual hand-offs of information -– do people need to be involved, collaborate and make decisions in order for the process to move forward?
Whereas processing a stock trade is fairly straightforward and requires minimal human interaction, opening a customer account, for example, is anything but straightforward and involves many changing variables. This kind of unstructured, less-scripted process requires a high degree of flexibility and the ability to let participants drive it.
Typically, unstructured processes are harder to automate, and most obvious processes that are more structured have already been taken care of. Many companies don't think of unstructured processes as processes at all -- but they should.
Low-Risk To Automate vs. High Risk
Here, the key questions to ask are how mission-critical is the process and how many departments does it touch. For example, employee on-boarding is relatively low-risk since it is not a customer-facing process and errors can be fixed manually. A customer service-related process, on the other hand, is likely to be high-risk since errors can touch the customer and have severe consequences. Opening a new customer account, for example, always involves a human touchpoint to initiate the process, and is very poorly handled by many companies for two reasons:
1) A new customer might open an account over the Web, by fax or by mail, by phone, or by visiting a branch where an employee types the information into a mainframe. Some of these channels are more error-prone than others -- they all should feed into the same process but usually don't or can't due to technology limitations.
2) Often an account opening involves multiple account types at once, and the processes for these are not unified. E-Trade handles this correctly: Its brokerage and bank are actually separate legal entities, but as a customer you do not need to fill out your name and address on separate forms to open accounts with both.
Where To Start
Before considering which tools are the right ones to break through the wall, it is important to understand the current process(es) that needs to be addressed.
Who does the work? What do the process participants do every day? What's working and not working? And most importantly, what are the organization's goals, and are they being met? When was the last time you broke away from board or customer meetings and walked the halls to meet with staff? Do managers know how employees do their work, why they do certain things, or what's holding them back day to day? When is the last time you experienced your processes the way your customers do?
Understanding these key facets of the business help to uncover productivity barriers and bottlenecks that result in poor performance, customer service and ultimately the bottom line.
Consider using a discovery tool such as Visio for mapping processes and determining where improvements can be made. The key when mapping processes is to use a tool that can help support the entire BPM project lifecycle and that has the ability to execute the processes, simulate changes to existing processes or new and improved ones, and that simulate user applications that address all the people who are doing the work.
The Right Tools for All Process Participants
BPM has traditionally focused on the tools, but what has been left out is how people need to use the tools. The average consultant or is not likely to be good at building a strong user experience and providing the baseline for participants to be properly served by BPM -- which is ultimately what determines the success of a given process. In choosing a BPM solution partner, it is important to work with a company that takes the time to research how work is actually getting done within the organization.
Tools now exist that let managers and supervisors focus on creating value rather than spending all of their time shuffling work around. Participants can report what they're working on and how busy they are, with this information becoming immediately available to their supervisor, who can then quickly, easily and remotely reassign work among participants -- and focus on working with customers and solving problems.
Selling BPM Internally
As the global economy begins to recover, organizations do not want to return to the business as usual of the past -– nor can they afford to. They demand a new normal, where more gets done with fewer resources. As such, BPM vendors must be able to support projects that deliver value faster.
Steering the conversation toward what actually needs to get done as opposed to speaking in acronyms will help simplify the process of selling BPM within an organization. Implementing with BPM simply makes organizational change easier, and doesn't lock you into any one application, process or rules. There is a financial value to this flexibility and reduced risk that isn't usually taken into consideration.
Choose a process that is measurable, has visibility within the organization and will make an impact. To help sell BPM within an organization, 'brand' the project: Give it a name and market it to key stakeholders, who will then help champion the project and make it happen.
Once you've chosen the project, don't over-analyze, just get started. Work with a vendor that takes the time to evaluate on-site with both managers and process participants where the opportunities lie and can provide insight into what it will take to secure executive sponsorship and the funding needed to get the BPM project off the ground.
Taking advantage of existing technology investments can help break down resistance to BPM implementation. Organizations can leverage , ERP or other legacy applications that support key aspects of the process, as well as existing document repositories such as SharePoint, existing skill sets, and end-user tools that employees are already familiar with such as Microsoft Office and Visio.
Armed with solid information and the right technology partner, deciding what type of BPM is the best fit for your organization –- and selling it to the right people –- doesn't have to be a painful process. This could indeed be the year of BPM.
David Mitchell is President and Chief Executive Officer of Global 360, Inc., a leading provider of Process and Document Management solutions, with more than 2,000 customers in 70 countries. Global 360 is headquartered in Texas with operations in North America, Europe, Asia Pacific and South Africa. For more information, visit www.global360.com.
Posted: 2010-07-04 @ 5:03am PT
"It helps to think of BPM not as a technology but as a management discipline ..."
Based on a thorough understanding of the BPM-approach, I strongly applaud your statement.
HOWEVER, 'thinking differently of' BPM will - obviously - not help. It all depends on redesigning 'BPM' accordingly, which means FROM THE GROUND UP.
As to the outcome of such a re-design, why call it BPM any longer? As a matter of fact, BPM - outside the stratum of purely functional automation (Logistics) - is a veritable nightmare or daydream, if you prefer.
Max J. Pucher:
Posted: 2010-06-16 @ 8:42am PT
Actually, I think BPM is still overhyped and about to fall on its face!
Only 20% of processes can be analyzed and automated and the rest needs much more than simple BPM. It also needs a consolidated functionality of BPM, ECM, CRM, business rules and E20 capabilities.
Do you still want to call it BPM? That is certainly a choice but you can call it ECM, ACM, social or anything else you want.
With ISIS Papyrus we focus on providing a consolidated customer service focused capability that is far beyond all these market fragments of products.