Business Process Management: 3 common mistakes companies make when embarking on BPM

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Don't let these common mistakes sink your BPM effort

Proponents of Business Process Management (BPM) have a long list of reasons why it makes sense to invest in it. They say that the implementation of a Business Process Management System (BPMS) can achieve substantial cost savings by automating repetitive manual tasks and reducing the time it takes to carry out a process.

However, others remain skeptical of many of these claims, arguing that companies can become locked into a particular technology, which can lead down a slippery slope to sub-optimal ways of working and expensive changes when processes need to adapt. BPM as commonly implemented, they would claim, fails to live up to its promised return on investment.

The truth is that both the proponents and the critics have valid points. When implemented successfully, with a clear vision of how BPM and its associated technologies will help the business achieve its strategic goals, BPM can reduce costs, time and errors significantly.

But there are three common errors that companies can make when embarking on a BPM journey that may sabotage their efforts:

Mistake #1: Investing in BPM technology before defining clear business requirements

Everyone in the C-Suite is on board and the new BPM technology initiative has been launched to great fanfare. Everybody’s excited about this revolutionary new technology that’s going to save money and make life easier for employees and customers alike. But has anybody really thought through how it’s really going to work?

Some companies will embark on BPM by buying a fancy BPMS and then wondering "now what?" Technology alone is not the silver bullet that will resolve all business problems and elevate the business to quality and efficiency Nirvana.

It’s crucial to begin with a clear-eyed view of what you want any technology to achieve. Map the "As Is" processes and identify which parts of the processes you want to be supported by a BPMS. This will help you derive the features you need in the BPMS system and make it much easier to evaluate software products on the market against your needs.

Putitng the technology first is a recipe for frustration


Mistake #2: Not improving processes before implementing a BPMS

Once you’ve mapped your "As Is" processes it is critical to look at opportunities for improvement before automating. It is all too common to simply map existing processes into the IT system - in effect, simply automating poor processes.

Implementing a BPMS gives companies an opportunity to examine what they’re doing and identify where the process could be improved. Does the current process always generate the desired results? If not, why not? What is currently being done that does not need to be done? Is there duplication in this process? What can we automate? What will need to remain manual? How can we make the transition between automated and manual as efficient and seamless as possible?

At this stage, Lean and Six Sigma process improvement techniques prove extremely useful as they provide a structured approach to identifying the sources of process variation (Six Sigma) and inefficiency (Lean). Ensuring that process improvement experts work hand in hand with both technical (IT) and business users from an early stage will help to ensure that improved processes get automated – rather than the old, inefficient ways of working.

Mistake #3: Making BPM an IT project

Yes, Business Process Management does often have a significant IT component to it but outsourcing responsibility to the IT department is a recipe for disaster. IT staff are highly skilled, competent people. But do they know the business processes better than the business users?

Ultimately, BPM needs to be about the business processes and not about the technology. That’s why not only the involvement but also the ownership of business users is crucial. BPM can’t be just a technology initiative that is imposed on the business.

To give yourself the best chance of success, start with clear idea of what you want to achieve with BPM, improve processes before you even think about automating, and make sure that the business retains significant ownership of any deliverable in partnership with IT and process improvement teams.

Did we get it right? What are other common errors that companies make when embarking on BPM? Let us know by leaving a comment!