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.
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.