Demystifying BPM for Enterprise Users

May 16, 2011 No Comments


The past year has seen business process management (BPM) achieve tremendous growth in the enterprise, but there continues to be a good deal of misunderstanding about BPM itself. At its core, BPM is about automating and streamlining manual processes. These processes may represent a diverse range of tasks, from citizens renewing their passports via online Web applications to an employee requesting paid time off from the HR department.

The overarching idea with BPM is to automate manual processes that consume employees’ valuable time and energy — time that would be better spent in other capacities. As simple as this may sound in theory, there remains a great deal of confusion about BPM and how to properly deploy it within an organization. You can ask five different experts for their definition of “BPM” and receive five distinctly different answers.

To that end, it’s helpful to illustrate specific BPM use cases to give a better idea of how BPM works when successfully implemented.

Reality Check

One major point that’s often overlooked at the beginning of a BPM deployment is how to properly model a process. You should model processes after how employees actually work, rather than how they should work in a perfect world.

The first step to this end should be to identify a benchmark for how people currently perform a given function at an optimal level of output and fix a model of that — you can do this graphically, though it can also be done in a simple document. Once you’ve established these benchmarks based on actual performance, you can establish a workflow model that you wish to implement.

There’s a lot of knowledge at work that goes undocumented in an unstructured way, through emails, phone calls, chats and other means. Organizations can use BPM in order to surface that information, and capture it in a basic flow model that shows how people are currently working. Before deciding which tasks or steps performed by people in an existing process can be improved — with integrated software, for example, or even automated entirely — it’s important to recognize the realities of their environments.

Individuals in an organization, department, or group may not realize how the process in which they are involved is connected to another process, which is connected to another process — and so on. End-to-end business can be complicated, and it’s important to take a graded approach, rather than focusing changes on the “big picture” from the get-go.

That’s not to say the big picture isn’t important. But while keeping the larger focus in mind, start with a smaller, more easily managed project that will produce measurable results. Some common examples of processes that are easier to manage include internal processes like filing expense reports, purchase orders and other administrative tasks.

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