BPM The Missing Link Between Business And IT

Any good process improver knows that processes don’t manage themselves. It seems just about everyone selling technology or, management consulting services have put BPM lipstick on their products and services. Yet, how we define business process management (BPM), is different, depending on who you ask. Which is why business leaders have not always appreciated the value of considering their business processes when it’s not always clear what they’re supposed to be managing.

This confusion around BPM has been unfortunate as business and IT groups all need each other to have a major impact on the results yielded. Skipping the planning the development of processes to achieve your goals faster may be appealing, but it doesn’t work.

Some people think that BPM is about software development: you start with requirements, you determine the pieces of information that need to be stored and retrieved from variables, you might have a drawing of the relationships, and in the end, you have something that can be installed and executed by users on a system.

Yet, the very reason BPM came into existence was to promote a discipline of business practices, techniques and methods that could help companies create and innovate process models to improve. Before using IT to assist with standardising these efficiencies.

What is BPM

BPM is all about identifying and optimising the way a business delivers its products and services, how its employees work, and how well it serves both the people who work there and the people who buy its products. Naturally, not everything is going to be right the first time. Over time, a business process evolves that’s more efficient and optimised for the business who uses it.

BPM is ‘in itself’ a methodology. It is just about any process improvement discipline or, an activity that looks to improve business results. It is not a one-time fix. It’s about identifying how things work and then continuously tweaking to achieve measurable results for the business.

  • BPM is a competence within the business that supports process design and redesign with process architecture and modeling conventions.
  • It supports business implement process changes. Not just by publishing them but, also by helping people impacted adopt them.
  • It can help the business identify longer-term opportunities for automation.
  • Help business monitor processes via critical Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) on a management dashboard in a process-oriented way.

How to manifest BPM in reality

For effective BPM a business needs the expertise in a process improvement discipline e.g. lean and six sigma methods. Every business is different, in how they apply BPM in their own situations but, at a minimum should align with the following format.

Step 1: Define the problem and identify what specific business metric you’re trying to improve.

Step 2: Map your existing processes.

Step 3: Analyse process bottlenecks and inefficiencies as well as risk.

Step 4: Create the ideal process focused on solutions to address process issues.

Step 5: Test different improvement strategies to see how change impacts outcomes.

Step 6: Deploy selected process changes and monitor outcomes linked back to the original KPI.

Step 7: Continuous improvement e.g. if you’ve improved your KPI by a factor of 2, can you tweak the processes to improve it by a factor of 3?

How BPM Helps Technological Change Succeed?

BPM and new technology implementation dovetail for a few reasons which is why it’s worth considering how they relate to one another. First, when a company embark to transform its technology, they’re not just buying new technology. Rather, they’re considering how they can make their systems more efficient by:

  • Changing how people work
  • Changing the attitudes people have
  • Giving them the tools that empower them to be more efficient
  • Automating boring tasks so employees can refocus on high-value, non-automatable jobs.

All this means that businesses are usually looking at changing their processes anyways, which is why it’s the perfect opportunity for using BPM as a powerful tool for creating business improvement.

Basically, it’s better to fix your processes when you’ve popped the hood on how a business works and revolve to-be processes around how technology can be used to assist users to design out mistakes, errors, or manual processes. This then leaves more time for employees to do other tasks and be productive.

Wrap Up

BPM is more of a methodology. It’s about working to understand how your business works, where the problems are, and what you can do to change them and move the needle for the business. And that’s often easier said than done. BPM and new technology transformation, if executed in tandem, can be quite the combo to reshape how a business works, what tools it uses, and the lives of the people who work there.

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Achieving The Benefits And Minimising The Costs Of BPM

Business Process Management (BPM) isn’t always easy. For as long as there has been BPM, there’s been a revolving door of challenges, objections, issues, and problems, from skepticism over new technology to an entrenched reluctance to think and behave differently.

Moving beyond Tech deployments – companies often see BPM as simply a tool or, a consultant brought in to recommend new technology (or, sell the technology itself). When in practice, to make a meaningful contribution to the business, BPM needs to think holistically about the changes it recommends and put in place. BPM is about the end-to-end business process, not just the technology.

Poor buy-in from executive leaders – Often business leaders need to be convinced, having been burned in the past (regardless of whether it was the fault of BPM or, a failure of the organisation to change). BPM has a bit of a history of promising the moon and not delivering. And while there’s some truth to that, the current climate is different: there’s more pressure to do more with less; there’s more opportunity for automation to drive process efficiency. Combined, this means there’s more need for BPM and a higher chance of BPM success since the tools are there to realise the vision.

Poor buy-in from end-users – BPM consultants and workers both need to work together to ensure they secure buy-in from end-users before a change is deployed. Only by securing buy-in can BPM consultants and champions hope to see their projects succeed. And this buy-in starts at the beginning. BPM managers need to: meet and collaborate with end-users during requirements gathering and process mapping. Explain where the bottlenecks are and what opportunity exists for improvement. Assuage concerns that change will design out positions – rather, focus on the fact that employees aren’t being replaced, but are going to have the chance to do their job more efficiently. Explain the technology – how it works, why it was chosen. If possible, try and get end-users to trial it and provide feedback. Set expectations around deliverables and output. Make sure end-users and executives both understand productivity will dip immediately following implementation of the new process, as people get used to it – and that’s okay.

Being agile (enough) – Business challenges change rapidly. While BPM might be brought in to solve one problem, it’s important that projects can pivot to try and solve another. For instance, a business might try and use BPM to reduce costs, only to discover that halfway through it needs to focus on closing more business and increasing revenue. BPM project owners must be ready and shift their goals to constantly align with changing business objectives. Otherwise, they risk losing executive buy-in and eventually, their budget or, contract.

Setting a core KPI – A BPM project must have a clear success/failure metric. If this sort of clear-cut success/failure parameter is set out, it becomes much easier to justify further optimisation processes. By setting a clear KPI (usually a core business objective), BPM processes can clearly articulate their value in a way that businesses understand.

Wrap up

Business process management is experiencing a resurgence. There’s more enthusiasm for BPM, getting buy-in is easier, and there’s just more need as new technology is available for businesses to optimise previously un-optimisable processes. But that doesn’t mean it’s without its challenges.

BPM still face challenges around buy-in from executives and end-users, conveying the holistic view of BPM, and being dynamic enough to respond to a changing business landscape. These challenges aren’t going anywhere. But with a well-run and well-executed BPM strategy, overcoming them is just a matter of time.

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Technology Implementation Challenges

New technology can provide significant benefits to the business by making its people and processes more effective and productive, but only if the technology is applied effectively and your people actually use the new technology. However, there are many examples where technological change worsened a company’s situation by hard wiring the functional silos with technology.

Problems arise for companies attempting to absorb these new technologies efficiently because they were not adept in managing the challenges that go along with implementing the change effectively. The Business-IT gap still represents one of the biggest opportunities for improvement in business.

‘The Reality’

User involvement in shepherding technical innovation into routine operations is a key ingredient for the successful delivery of technological projects. Yet, the proper extent, timing, and type of user involvement vary greatly from company to company.

Oftentimes technological change projects fail to deliver because their project team is focused on resource management, not the work required to deliver value. Improving processes often means changing them, or, creating a new one altogether and technology can assist in making these improvements.

Many companies still focusing their resources on the purchase or, development of the technology but, very little into its implementation. In practice, many companies employ project teams to develop the technology and then hand it off to users. With, the result that users are not willing, or able, to take on responsibility for the technology at the handover of a project.

What has happened is that new IT initiatives have tended to worsen matters by hard wiring the functional silos with technology – rather than deliver the breakthrough business changes the new technological change could have yielded.

 Business-IT Gap Explained…

“Businesses are increasingly dependent on information systems.” Users’ can’t improve business process designs without collaborating with developers on how to use technology to assist. “Technology exists to serve the business.” Developers’ can’t build and design effective enabling technologies without understanding the new processes or, improvements ‘users’ want the technology to automate.

Whether manual or automated, companies have learned that the piecemeal process improvement methods and techniques scattered within their organisation don’t produce the breakout results they expected. All change projects are made from many parts, more than the three, albeit major ones, budget, deadlines, and features.

While it’s true that strong project management governance is an important part of running any successful change project, it doesn’t determine success in the implementation!

Strategies To Address Implementation Difficulties

Introducing technological change into an organisation presents a different set of challenges to management than does the work of competent project administration. We have learned the higher the organisational level at which managers define a problem or a need, the greater the probability of successful implementation. At the same time, however, the closer the definition and solution of problems or, needs are to end-users, the greater the probability of success.

Some of the strategies, businesses must surmount for successful technological innovation development and change: the inescapably dual role of business and IT in BPM, the variety of business levels to be served, legitimate resistance to change, the right degree of promotion, the choice of implementation site, and the need for one person to take overall responsibility.

For example, to address common implementation difficulties companies must be careful to:


1. Align technology and strategy – when choosing which technology to implement for your business, think about how new technology will help you the business improve performance. Start with the goals you want to achieve, and then plan backward, finding a technology that best supports improved performance. People are more likely to adopt new technology if they can see how it helps them to achieve their goals and objectives. Involve top management and ultimate opinion leader users in the choice and/or development of the technological change to help smooth the path of implementation. Developers of the new process often know their tools very well, but rarely do they understand the business own processes the technology needs to assist. At the very least, provide some mechanism and time for such knowledge to flow from experienced worker to developer. Decouple process management at the enterprise level from the new technology that supports the business with shared language and tools for identifying business problems, designing improvements and delivering results. Do not skip early preparation steps with business to plan an almost accordion-like framework search for information to guide decisions about when and how to collect needed information from all groups affected by innovation to configure the right finished product for the environment. Involve process improvement designers to support the design and redesign of process models that solve problems the operators really faced without creating new ones.

2. Communicate for buy-in and engagement – achieving user adoption for new technology requires communicating with stakeholders early and often. Before you can communicate with stakeholders you need to have all your stakeholder groups identified. The way each currently performs their work, processes, should be documented. The impacts the new technology will have on them need to be identified and communicated. Ways in which your company will mitigate any negative impacts for stakeholders also need to be communicated. Do not skip the early involvement of the individuals or groups with tailored communications, marketing the benefits for each group accordingly.

3. Perform a current systems analysis – technology upgrades or introducing new technologies carries a huge compatibility risk – what if the new systems turn out not to be compatible with those you already have or integration requires more build time than was anticipated. To prevent system integration issues, make sure you review all your current technology systems thoroughly before you consider deploying something new. Don’t just conduct detailed requirements gathering for the new technology, make sure the functionality of your current systems can support and integrate effectively with your new technology. Performing this work upfront will prevent system redundancies, reduce costly build times, and help the budget from ballooning.

4. Develop training approach early – one of the biggest risks to user adoption is the lack of sufficient and customised training. Many vendors offer training options as part of your technology purchase, however, most of this training is standardised off the shelf and not specific to your business processes or culture. People need to see and play in the system, prior to go-live, in the context of their specific work processes. To increase adoption, make sure that training is specific to each stakeholder group and the way they perform their work. Consider offering multiple training methods – electronic, classroom, smaller hands-on training labs – various options ensure users feel most prepared.

5. Integrate technology deployment with change management – many companies are so focused on deployment and conversion, schedules and criteria, that they fail to deploy and integrate a change management process for helping stakeholders adapt and adopt to technology. To maximise adoption and minimise resistance, your deployment plan and the team must be integrated with the change management plan and team. If you don’t have a change management plan and resources in place then you may want to get on that pronto. Technology teams focus on building the technology, resolving technical issues, designing the architecture and deployment of the new technology. Change management teams focus on people. The change management team directly interacts with impacted stakeholders. They identify areas of concern related to workflow and process. They often identify specific training needs. They handle communication. Plan for the transfer of knowledge from the old operation, in which people knew, to the new process, which outsiders may initially design and run. They frequently advocate on behalf of stakeholder groups, raising concerns and issues to leadership, mitigating risks and alleviating anxieties that can lead to resistance and decreased adoption. To maximise adoption you must place an equal focus on both the technology and the people.

6. Create an effective governance structure – many technology deployments fail to establish an effective governance structure to lead and manage the deployment. Often project management and technology resources are assigned to govern the implementation, but the voice of impacted stakeholders and even customers are not represented. Effective governance can’t exist in a silo or a vacuum. The governance structure should consist of executive sponsors and a mix of all stakeholders impacted by the technology changes. Think of this structure as a mini organization designed with the mission to execute the technology, change management, communication, training, manage risks and issues, and make project decisions. It is imperative for the individuals serving in a governance role to have the ability to voice concerns on behalf of their stakeholder groups. When people feel they have a voice that represents them and addresses their concerns, they are less likely to resist the technology and adoption is likely to increase.

7. Monitor and course correct – introducing new technology is likely to cause a major disruption to workflow. Monitor your deployment and consider whether the implementation schedule may need to be revised into smaller more manageable stages. Provide stakeholders opportunities to offer feedback. New technology impacts everyone, so listening to stakeholder opinions and concerns and adjusting your deployment as needed, is important for achieving adoption. Not only does offering opportunities for feedback make everyone feel part of the change, but it also gives you important insights into what is working well and what may need to be adapted. Additionally, everything needs to be measurable and observable. Once implementation has begun, do not assume that things will run on their own. Develop measurable success factors and performance metrics. Assess and evaluate regularly, keeping the goals you set at the start, at the forefront.

Wrap Up

Make it people first – when implementing new technology, if you want to be successful you need to plan for, identify and address implementation challenges early, and gain the buy-in and commitment for technology – driving engagement, enhancing efficiencies and improving user adoption – enabling you to maximize your return on investment. Otherwise, your technology is just an expensive tool that no one uses effectively.

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Why Process Improvement Is Critical For IT Project Success

Technology is expanding from its traditional role as a back-office enabler into becoming key to creating a digital user experience with expectations of fundamental business changes. If you ask business leaders ‘what’s there most pressing organisational issue’, 99% of the time the answer is ‘they are working with outdated technology’.  No matter what the size, companies are constantly looking to increase productivity, efficiency, and performance. Naturally, the implementation of new technology can accomplish that. However, as the ongoing push for efficiency meets the new reality of ‘every business becoming a software business’, many companies are struggling to find the right approaches to help them cope. You don’t have to rebuild your business from the ground up – there’s some kernel of merit that’s allowed you to enjoy success thus far. You just, need to understand how technology affects your business (for better or worse) and how to apply advancements in order to play them to your advantage. After all, you would not automate a poorly designed process in a system, in the first place.

Adopting new technology, overhauling existing IT systems, or, designing better digital services is not easy. In fact, if there is one way an organisation can lose a bundle of money quickly, it is in the failed implementation of a technology project. As with any initiative, problems frequently occur. Technology projects are particularly risky because of the number of variables, and there is often pressure, to push them through quickly, even when resources like budget, staff and time are scarce.

But many companies jump from a cursory look at “people” directly to the “technology” in their implementations. Still, other organisations just start with technology, hoping for a quick, out-of-the-box fix to their service management challenges. Delegating the responsibility for selecting new systems to ‘experts’ that understand the technology and the risks, but don’t have the business knowledge to ensure the technology delivers on business need. This can lead to project scope or, delivery expectations to be lost in translation between the implementation team and the business. It may be that adopting out-of-the-box functionality works for some clients, or, it could result in them losing their competitive advantage. Often times, the company finds out too late that the technology did not deliver the intended business benefit or, was over engineered.

Technology is not just about automating processes, it needs to involve ‘what’ you do and ‘why’ you do it.  What we call technology is usually engineering into the service of business (human centred design for efficiencies of scale). There is no cookie-cutter method of selecting the right technology investment. In fact, there is an increased chance of failure if, the selection process ignores the business outcomes that need to be addressed or, the risks of over engineering a solution.  Each situation must be assessed on its own merits based on business need and goals. And then, once the spectrum of technology choices has been expanded, to strategically choose the right tool for the right circumstance.

The best way to implement new technology is to first address the ‘people’, then develop ‘processes’, and then put into operation the ‘technology’. Companies need to design the solution around how ‘people’ work to get the most out of the investment and reduce risk of project failure. This means engaging ‘people’ in map ‘process’ to understand how things work, what activities are crucial to daily operations, and the organisational themes creating roadblocks that can be improved.

Process improvement is a science that uses sophisticated tools and techniques to systematically introduce and embed changes to service delivery. An important aspect of process improvement is the use of accurate and powerful measurement tools to make sure business outcomes are improving as a result of the change. It is easy to see when a business seeks to improve products, services, or, processes why a business would map their process. Yet, you cannot put into operation a new technology without first understanding the business and quality improvement issues that need to be addressed. Some companies in an effort to save on staff, time and cost skip the As-Is analysis, instead preferring to map processes as they should be. Causing delivery expectations to get lost in translation between the IT project team and business.  Costing them far more in the long run – where potential issues got missed until much later – where they will have a greater impact.

It is widely accepted that a company’s knowledge of their processes gives people the courage not only to weather change but, to embrace it with enthusiasm. Teams that clearly understand the process in context can spot problems and improvements more easily. Whenever you roll out a process change of any significance that impacts people – be it positively or negatively – they need time to absorb the change and become engaged to the new way. New technology and platforms are not the end goal; they are a way to make your team more efficient.

The proven case is that investing the time to understand and improve business processes – makes all the difference in the later success of the change. What some companies still fail to recognise is that their secret sauce is its processes and how they work (or, want to work) either underpins their success, or, it can be the weight that drags you down and kills your efficiency, profitability, and ability to grow.

Process improvement and new technology implementation go hand in hand. Business flow mapping is essential to set up any business or, technology change initiative for success. It provides a step-by-step understanding of the processes required to run a business – how each process is currently accomplished today ‘as-is’ and how ideally operate in the future ‘to-be’.


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