A Guide to Business Process Management (BPM)
Cut costs, promote efficiency and better serve your customers: The path to efficient Business Process Management (BPM)
What is business process management?
Companies all over the world are practicing business process management (BPM) software to improve their business operations.
Regardless of the business you are in, whether you’re a vertical or horizontal, and regardless of the kind of customer you serve, business processes and their optimization will have a huge effect on the day to day running of your business.
But what is BPM?
If you view a business as the summation of various processes, Business Process Management (BPM) is a systematic method of improving business processes. It’s not a product, market, or application, it is the process of testing and optimizing your business processes to help you achieve your goals.
This practice can involve automation, execution, control, modelling, measurement and the optimization of business activity flows. BPM can promote efficiency in a wide range of business processes, but is usually best for tasks that are repetitive and follow a predictable path.
It is important to remember that automation often plays a role in BPM, but automating a process doesn’t automatically solve a problem. In some cases, you will just make a muddled process run a little bit faster. BPM is continuous and no process is ever 100 per cent optimized.
What is a business process?
Business processes are tasks that are intrinsic to the operation of your business. They take many forms, but the processes that are prioritized for automation are often repetitive, predictable, and rarely deviate from the task that preceded it. Business processes can be found across all industries, and all verticals and horizontals. For example, in finance there is business processes for invoicing and billing.
Another example is human resources. There will be a business process for scenarios like holiday requests, new starter processing, and leaver processing. Manually, these processes eat up a lot of time and can be a hurdle to efficiency.
You can probably think of a few more, and you’re probably thinking of the time you could save if these repetitive but vital tasks could be standardized and made more efficient.
Here is a rundown of the different types of business process.
- Operational: These are the most important processes that are essential to running your business. These processes offer value to customers and are vital to delivering a product or service.
- Support: Support processes do not offer value to customers, but are vital for ensuring that operational processes can function. Human resources processes would fall under the category.
- Management: Management processes do not offer value to the customer, but they are the link between operation and support processes. Management monitors, controls and coordinates all aspects of the business. Processes such as budgeting and communications fall under this category.
Business processes are often represented by a flowchart. Check out the picture below for an example of an IT business process.
Why BPM software is becoming more popular
Business processes that are time consuming, muddled and inefficient often result in rising costs, low morale, diminished and frustrated customers – which aren’t helpful to any businesses that wants to remain successful and ahead of the curve.
Issues with inefficient business processes
Here are some of the most common roadblocks and issues associated with completing business process. At its worst, an improperly managed business process can bring pipelines to a halt and can be a significant drain on employee morale and your business’s bottom line.
More often than not, management will have a hard time determining who is responsible for what, what the status of a process is or if there are any issues. The lack of visibility can lead to task abandonment and sluggish performance. This also hampers a business ability to improve performance. If leaders can't determine where a process went wrong and why it happened, what opportunity is there for improvement
- Lack of cohesiveness
We may know an over-reliance on business silos can be damaging to business. Siloing business processes not only eats up resources, but it also results in a work environment that is disparate and lacks interdepartmental teamwork. This makes it harder to capitalize on opportunities and advantages.
- Bottlenecks and stagnation
Businesses are liable to tunnel vision and often stick with the same way of process management even though it isn’t the best. This can lead to missing out on new and innovative technologies that competitors are turning to.
Over time, BPM will only get more complex as additional methods emerge. Failing to adopt new ways of working will leave bottlenecks in place that can adversely affect the outcome of other business processes.
- Lack of integration options
Another culprit in resource waste, a lack of integration options will force employees to switch from system to system while using multiple sources of information.
- Duplicated work
When a business process lacks visibility and interdepartmental unison, the duplication of work and process becomes a frequent occurrence. Not only does this waste employee time and confuse everyone involved, but it also fosters results in long wait times for approvals, error prone work (duplicated errors) and ultimately delays for the customer.
- Wasted time
Often, employees end up spending too much time on a business process opposed to the important things that that they were hired for.
All of the above can lead to a demoralized staff and employee churn. When an issue shows no sign of being resolved, employees will not feel invested in the smooth operation of the business.
Benefits of business process management
On the other hand, BPM has a wide range of benefits.
- Increased visibility
BPM enables visibility and scope for improvement. Managers will be able to monitor and discern what the inefficient processes are, why they’re inefficient and more. Organizations need visibility in order to improve.
- Increased agility
One of the most important advantages of BPM adoption is the increased agility. It will give you the structure to continuously improve over time, whilst at the same time promoting flexibility and making processes more efficient.
- Increased efficiency
BPM will go a long way in helping your business reduce silos. It will give leaders a greater idea of how different areas and departments are communicating (or not). It will also help departments realize that they are part of a whole, fostering an environment based on communication and clarity over responsibilities.
- Increased ability to capture and retain knowledge
Practicing BPM will give you the ability to capture your end-to-end processes - giving you a library of knowledge to draw back on when a process does or doesn't work.
- Higher employee engagement and improved morale
BPM will give leaders an overview of business process and the ability to discern areas of improvement. Employee productivity increase due to the minimization of repetitive and time-consuming tasks, giving employees more time to focus on the core aspects of their job.
BPM will help you integrate data from your different silos and departments. Whether if its finance, human resources or sales, ensure that your data is universal. Not only will this go a long way in reducing errors, but it will also increase data process speed.
Different types of BPM
As BPM is such a wide-ranging, inclusive, and dynamic practice, there is a wide array of software tools that fall into the category. Here are some of the more common BPM solution types:
- Collaboration tools
BPM collaboration includes communication tools that can facilitate messages and calls directly into the system. Communication tools often display the customer’s profile, giving users quick access to relevant information.
Task management tools are also big aspect collaboration. This kind of tool gives users the ability to plan tasks, projects, meetings and more. Tasks can be assigned to individuals or groups, and tasks synchronize with calendars so users receive deadline notifications.
- Drag and drop design
With a drag and drop process design capability, you will be able to plan and start processes without any knowledge of coding. Software tools that come with drag and drop functionality will let you start process optimization right out of the box, providing the additional benefit that employee training will be minimal.
BPM tools often have a wide array of integration capabilities. This can include the ability to pull and push data from various sources. Process triggers are also a key aspect. Triggers will give you the ability to engage certain systems without human input. For example, a BPM tool that integrates with a CRM will give you a full view of the sales pipeline.
- Process diagrams
Process diagrams are typically what people picture when they think of BPM. Process diagrams will give users the ability to structure processes; meanwhile, the system handles exceptions while the path is functioning.
Challenges to a successful BPM strategy
- Unclear criteria for success
For a BPM strategy to be successful, everyone needs to understand what the end goal is. In addition, BPM doesn’t have to be about technological change and automation (though it often is). BPM should involve an issue and an appraisal. If you automate or slap technology solutions onto a problem that is a mess, it will still be a mess.
- Lack of investment
Introducing new and innovative technologies can be expensive, but the sheer volume of cloud-based solutions that have flooded the market has made BPM inexpensive. In addition, BPM adoption leads to well-run processes and a reduction in operating costs in the long term.
- Failure to understand BPM is continuous
BPM isn't a one-stop solution. It is a way of thinking and for any business to see success, a continuous and constant process of improvement will be key.
- Not having everybody onboard
For BPM to succeed, everyone needs to be invested in it. This is especially true for the people at the top as they have the resources and power to follow through with change. It is up to them to communicate the benefits of BPM and how the solution will improve day-to-day operations.
Conversely, workers will also need to be assured that their job isn’t going to be replaced. They need to know that BPM will help them focus on the important aspects of their job and that no BPM technology or solution can replace complex human insight.
What is the future of BPM?
BPM is a well-established practice and no longer a trend; it’s simply something that businesses do to improve. But what are the key trends and technologies that are looking shape the future of business process management?
Virtually every sector that is customer facing is making use of chatbots. BPM is no different. It is expected that chatbots will become an integral part of many processes, as chatbots enable 24/7 service and near instantaneous responses to customer queries. Chatbots can have thousands of simultaneous conversations at the same time and they never get tired.
That said, they won’t be replacing humans anytime soon. Chatbots are great for answering basic questions, but can be flummoxed by complex questions that exceed the scope of their programming.
- Low code systems
Low code systems are increasingly in demand, as the ability to use fully working automated processes straight out of the box, has a huge appeal for businesses of all sizes. Low code systems are highly customizable as well, offering a high degree of personalization to suit different business needs.
- Increased collaboration
The removal of silos has always been a priority for business leaders. With the rise of chat and data sharing applications, businesses are one step close to increased integration. Chat is fast becoming the most popular way to communicate internally, as messages are instant and archived for future reference.
SEE ALSO: Top 5 BPM trends that will impact your Digital Transformation in 2018 or watch this explanatory video.