3 reasons Business Process Management is becoming more important

Sam Miranda

In spite of on going quibbles surrounding obscure jargon, maturity curves and definitions – a recent article on bpmleader.com questions whether the discipline’s latest guise is Kaizen 2.0 - BPM continues to trail blaze its way through 2013.

In fact, a case study of BPM implementation released by IBM in March revealed one of the most expansive projects yet. Facing a backlog of permit applications from entities wanting to use natural resources, the Alaska Department of Natural Resources turned to Agile BPM to streamline processes and execute swift decision making, leading to greater ROI through leases, water rights and material sales.

PEX Network takes time out to highlight three key reasons as to why business process management is becoming more important:

#1: Business operations are changing and getting more complicated

Industries are evolving, and coupled with the disruptive technologies such as cloud computing, mobile and social media being fired at enterprise, this creates a need for BPM.

The energy industry, for instance, is making a shift from a hierarchical "cathedral" fossil-based model to a decentralised, locally produced, locally consumed and sustainable model. Facing stringent competition and miniscule margins, agriculture needs to evolve from being a single link in the industrial food product and distribution chain to becoming an organic resource focused on the local market.

With industry development comes a change to company architecture. According to an Industrial Defender survey of 134 professionals in critical infrastructure companies (manufacturing, chemical, utilities etc) the "relationship between I.T. and operations is getting more complicated. 73% of those surveyed expect to see either significant or moderate increases in connectivity between industrial endpoints and corporate IT infrastructure over the next three to five years."

These radical changes require an overhaul of corporate strategy. BPM goes beyond outlining workflows, automation and I.T. assimilation by focusing on execution, and explicitly linking company processes to the desired goals and objectives.

Private enterprise isn’t alone in the search for an operational facelift. The month the U.S. navy announced plans to invest $30 million in BPM, auditing and workflow technologies, citing the need to meet the Department of Defence’s auditability guidelines. The Navy granted Accenture a 3 year, $25.5 million contract to instigate process improvement, deploy BPM technologies, reduce IT complexity and link financial operations to business outcomes across six units.


#2: Managing the move towards enterprise mobility

It’s not just the proliferation of mobile devices that’s ignited the move to enterprise mobility. Companies are realising the business benefits of increased sales, customer retention, brand awareness and productivity amongst remote employees. An Eccentex survey reveals that "58.6% of respondents said the use of mobile tools ‘increases productivity’ and 27% of respondents said working remotely makes work ‘easier.’"

Given this shift, mobile BPM can step in to empower workers. But as Medhat Galal, Director at Appian Corp stresses, fulfilling requirements can be tough: "An IT project exposes your supply chain to your field agents for direct tie-in with back-end systems for real-time data integration. But this focus on the field sales rep doesn’t consider whether the customer has issues. Now your CRM system has to know about supply chain events." Uniting the business silos in one, cohesive platform presents a major challenge for mobile BPM, as does ensuring visibility of complex data.

The cost of developing a mobile application - which Forrester Research places between $20k and $150k - may be a deterrent for some companies. But for industries like construction, it's hard to look beyond the merits of mobile BPM. The tablet trumps the laptop when it comes to weight and battery life, making it ideal for construction engineers overseeing a multitude of projects and needing accessibility on the field.

#3: The impatient customer

With purchasing power on his fingertips, the consumer scrutinises accessibility, availability and delivery like never before. This makes it critical to align business processes with the end goals of customer loyalty and retention.

Live chat software is one avenue companies are exploring to make the shift from static to dynamic website functionality. According to Forrestor research, 44 percent of online consumers rank live chat as the most important website feature. A live chat customer service rep can handle up to three people at once while the phone is restricted to one.

For one financial institution, meeting customer expectations regarding loan share financing products presented a tricky balancing act. Established in 2004, Emirates Islamic bank needed to revitalise its creaking, point to point programming system which meant it took two days to approve a customer loan request.

All product changes had be ratified by the notoriously conservative Sharia regulators and scholars. Impressively, the business process modelling initiative managed to automate credit checking and approve loan share requests in 30 minutes, also receiving the rubber stamp from Sharia authorities.