Interest in Business Process Management (BPM) has been growing at a tremendously rapid pace across enterprises of all kinds and sizes. However, many people still find BPM a mystery. At the end of the day, BPM is simply about automating and streamlining the manual processes that happen every day at work. Following a few simple best practices can go a long way toward improving your BPM implementation, both in terms of ease of deployment for the IT team and in terms of measurable benefits for the business.
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Automating Manual Processes
BPM’s primary aim is to automate manual processes that consume employees’ valuable time and energy—time that is better be spent in other capacities. As simple as this may sound in theory, many organizations are baffled by how to properly deploy BPM. 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.
At the beginning of a new BPM deployment it is important 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 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.
Surfacing undocumented and unstructured data
Establishing a benchmark for how workers are actually performing operations requires data. There’s a lot of knowledge at work that is not documented in any structured way. Phone calls, emails, chats and other communications can be difficult to properly record and report. Organizations can use BPM in order to surface that information, and capture it in a basic flow model that shows how employees are currently working. Before deciding which of these human tasks can be improved--with integrated software, for example, or even automated entirely--it’s important to recognize the realities of the environments in which they occur.
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.
Simple, visible and low risk
I recommend that companies start with simple, visible, low-risk internal projects before moving on to increasingly critical processes. However, the first implementation should be one in which real improvement actually makes a difference to the organization. No one will be impressed if the first application of BPM results in “improvements” like better handling of useless, unnecessary, or truly unimportant tasks. Some common examples of processes that are easier to manage include internal processes like filing expense reports, purchase orders and other administrative tasks.
As a concrete example, my team recently worked with a large local authority in France to help them better log and track requests to repair roads. We worked with seven members of their IT team to implement their initial process, which focused on requests to repair roads. After they became comfortable with that automated process, they started to model other small processes that are essential to managing their system, such as setting up and taking down user accounts. Modeling these common workflows offered them a way to manage all of the accounts and keep them synchronized.
When new employees join a company, there are a lot of associated processes to complete and emails to send. By automating processes, new users are able to enter an organization and instantly get access to a company intranet and/or email accounts with LDAP. Likewise, their system no longer has accounts for people who leave the organization. The overall aim here is to save IT teams a great deal of time, freeing them up to address other critical issues. This may sound basic but their technical team saw a significant return on their BPM investment when they implemented those automated on-boarding processes.
A Final Point
One final point to stress concerning implementing BPM in your organization: you should encourage as much collaboration as possible between developers and end users throughout the deployment process. IT can invest a lot of time developing the “perfect” BPM application, but unless they involve the end users that will be employing the process in their actual work, there’s no guarantee that the two sides will ultimately sync up. Quick-and-dirty test deployment during development to get hands-on user feedback and check the usability of online forms can make all the difference between a BPM deployment that is immediately adopted and one that is soon abandoned.
There is no end-all, be-all guide to successfully deploying BPM because organizations use BPM for many functions and to achieve a variety of goals. However, the best practices I've outlined here can lead to success when it comes to BPM,
About Miguel Valdés-Faura
Miguel Valdés-Faura has been Chief Executive Officer of BonitaSoft since its founding in June 2009. Miguel is also the co-founder of the open source Bonita project, which was created in 2001 with the intention of bringing a fully functional open source BPM solution to the market. Prior to BonitaSoft, Miguel led BPM R&D, pre-sales and support activity for Bull. Before Bull, Miguel was a workflow and open source architect for the French National Institute for Research in Computer Science & Control (INRIA).
A native of Barcelona, Spain, Miguel holds a degree in Computer Science from the URV (Spain) and a Master's degree from Nancy and Metz Universities (France).
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