Business process management (BPM) is all about optimizing the performance of end-to-end business processes, including both the methodologies of process improvement, and the tools used to aid those methods. For example, methodologies include the ways in which you gather information about processes, or “process discovery”, as well as process optimization methods; tools includes business process analysis (BPA) tools for process discovery, modeling and analysis, and BPM suites (BPMS) for process automation.
BPM isn’t a new concept, but it continues to evolve rapidly and deliver new benefits. In the recent past, we’ve seen the rise of social BPM, agile BPM and case management technologies; all which have dramatically changed the landscape for the uses of BPM. We’ve also seen changes in how businesses use BPM methods and tools, with greater collaboration and a higher degree of control by the business over their working environment.
The six articles to follow will range across a variety of topics, covering both business and technology areas.
We’ll start with a problem that faces every organization planning to implement BPM: how to pick the right process for the initial application of BPM methods and tools. Regardless of whether you are just modeling the process for manual optimization, providing some automated routing to human participants, or fully automating the process, you want to start in the right place for the optimal impact.
In this article, we’ll cover:
- How to select a process that is neither too big to be manageable, nor too small to be relevant
- Deciding between a line of business process and a non-critical administrative process
- Expected initial benefits and return on investment (ROI) considerations
Once a process is selected, it’s critical to obtain the support of the business areas that will be impacted by changes to the process. They understand the current state of the process, and likely have a lot of great ideas about how it could be improved. It’s not enough to just gather their requirements and ship them off to development; there needs to be ongoing collaboration between business and IT as the BPM project progresses.
This article will cover:
- The necessity of a good discovery methodology and approach
- Using collaborative process discovery to capture “tribal knowledge” from a wide variety of stakeholders
- How to maintain ongoing business participation in design, prototyping and implementation so that they don’t lose interest
- Putting production process configuration in the hands of the business for immediate runtime control
The quality and relevance of the BPM solution is important to user adoption: if the solution doesn’t do what the business needs it to do, or is difficult to use, they’ll find a way of working around it. Improving user efficiency is one of the key contributors to ROI, but don’t overlook the user experience factors.
This article will cover:
- Building a user-centric, user-configurable solution that suits the users’ needs
- Integrating with other technologies to reduce manual re-entering of information and “swivel chair integration”
- Enrolling users in the design-process to ensure that the solution best meets their needs while building user buy-in
As we automate more of the routine tasks in any business, the work remaining tends to be knowledge work: activities where the worker needs to use their experience and skills to determine what to do next, rather than following a pre-defined path through a process. Managing this sort of unstructured work is a challenge for traditional BPMS, which are focused on executing a fixed, pre-determined process map; instead, much of this work is done manually in an ad hoc fashion. Agile BPM and case management have emerged as technologies to help manage knowledge work, providing maximum flexibility while still maintaining integrity of the content and processes involved.
In this article, we’ll look at:
- Defining structured and unstructured work
- Mixing work styles within the same business process
- Addressing the unique challenges of unstructured work
Once a BPM solution is in place, you must be able to show the benefits in order to justify further roll-outs of BPM within your organization. Measuring your success requires some up-front work – such as baselining your current state process for later comparison – as well as calculating the hard benefits achieved through reduced costs or increased revenues. However, it’s also necessary to look at soft and disruptive benefits: although much harder to measure or even anticipate, they can provide much greater benefits in the long run.
In this article:
- Measuring the as-is state as a baseline for process improvements
- Doing a post-implementation review
- Calculating hard ROI
- Estimating soft benefits
- Considering disruptive benefits, e.g., new ability to outsource portions of process
Getting your first BPM project up and running is a big accomplishment, but you can’t stop there: you need to look at ways to implement BPM across your organization for greater benefit. Part of this will involve generalizing what you’ve done on the first project so that it can be more easily reused, possibly through the establishment of a BPM center of excellence; however, you’ll also need the right people to spread the word.
In this last article:
- Finding the internal evangelists
- Generalizing the benefits/ROI
- Exploiting reusable assets and infrastructure
In the spirit of collaboration, we’d like to hear your ideas for what should be in this series, and we’ll adjust the topics to include those that will appeal to the wider audience.
About the Authors:
Sandy is an independent analyst and systems architect, specializing in business process management, Enterprise 2.0, enterprise architecture and business intelligence. In addition to her technical background, she has worked on the business operations end of projects, often involved from business requirements and analysis through technology design and deployment.
During her career of more than 20 years, she has started and run successful product and service companies, including a desktop workflow and document management product company from 1988-90, and a 40-person services firm specializing in BPM and e-commerce from 1990-2000. During 2000-2001, Sandy worked for FileNet (now IBM) as Director of eBusiness Evangelism during the launch of their eProcess BPM product, and was a featured speaker on BPM and its impact on business at conferences and customer sites in 14 countries during that time.
Since 2001, Sandy has returned to private consulting practice as a BPM architect, performing engagements for financial services and insurance organizations across North America, and as an analyst working with BPM vendors. Sandy also creates and delivers BPM and related training courses.
Steve Russell is the SVP of Research and Development and CTO for Global 360 Inc., based in Dallas Texas. He has over 25 years of experience as a technologist developing enterprise process and document management software platforms. Steve has extensive experience with large, mission critical systems development and deployment within Fortune 2000 companies.