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What Are the Most Overlooked Processes in BPM?

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In this post, If BPM Is Important, Use It, a study found that while 69% of the 495 responding companies considered BPM to be significant, another 62% believed they have only addressed 1/5 of the potentially profitable processes in their organizations. So what are the most overlooked significant processes in BPM?

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  • No brainer BPM projects:
    - Expenses
    - Time Slips
    - Registrations
    - Travel requests
    - Purchase requests
    - Accounts Payables / Invoicing
    - Sales Orders
    - Employee on-boarding

  • Condsidering the distribution of work types in a modern business, (J. March, 1991) it is quite likely that only 20% are actually the low-value, high-volume processes that can be easily automated with the typical flowcharted BPMS and where the volume justifies it. Garth made a pretty good list of them. Another 20% are most likely well encoded into backend systems such as ERP. 40 to 60% are knowledge work and these can't be automated because they are unstructured and unpredictable. Maybe 20% aren't really processes but more like projects or programs and could be supported by a sufficiently dynamic process/case environment.

    So I don't think these processes have been overlooked, but current BPMS and the related BPM bureaucracy can't capture and thus manage them. This needs a new kind of process evironment that empowers management, process owners, actors and even customers to jointly create the process and adapt and modify it until fits current expectations. Embedded goals, rules and metrics ensure that they satisfy, are compliant and efficient. Some of it we see in social enablements and ad-hoc and dynamic processes, but I feel that it does nowhere near go far enough. Some propose the an all out 'social approach' might be the only solution, like i.e. Activity Streams. I wonder.

    Here is my take on it: http://isismjpucher.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/lipstick-on-a-pig/

    • I think Max' first paragraph is quite interesting. In fact, the one thing about this 1991 study that I'd point out - the 20% keeps moving. In other words, you automate something today in ERP. Tomorrow (next year or so), the market/business/organization change. Your ERP system is out of date. You've introduced new processes into the 20% that BPM can manage just through the "sh*t happens" principle.

      Also, knowledge work (some of it) becomes better understood, and more automatable (not automated, but more like power steering - automation-assisted). Take twitter for example. Quickly some customer service operations latched onto twitter as a way to find dissatisfied customers and immediately respond and engage with them to create fans rather than critics. Totally knowledge work, at first. But now there are tools - cotweet, etc. - to help you filter the signal from the noise, route the "incidents" to support staff to take on. We're assisting this knowledge work with increasing levels of "process" (which some call automation).

      So, the percentages may be fairly consistent (I'm not sure on that point), but certainly, the processes that fit in each category keep changing - new processes are born, old processes become irrelevant, etc.

      I guess the song remains the same :)

      Regarding the second paragraph - I don't think "social" is antithetical to the requirements of the process environment you mentioned. the question is whether "social" features like activity streams are "sufficient" probably not in isolation.

  • I wonder too - I think an activity stream helps in visibility and in providing fodder for analyzing activity holistically but I think the bigger issue is the unstructured nature of most things business people actually do to get their job done.
    Ultimately I think the solution is to think about providing a mechanism to support and encourage personal responsibility in getting the process completed in an effective manner. This requires ties to key job performance metrics which should tie to overall company performance. We do a lot better job at setting individual job roles than we do in describing process metrics. Most processes function more like people do - highly collaborative and expertise based so BPM tools should model that behavior and provide visibility into these activities over time to understand trends (both positive and negative) which will ultimately lead to recommendations on areas for improvement.

    Agreed that process is always going to change because there are infinite ways to get from point A to point B. The key is to define the roles and specialties of point A and B and understand how they relate to the business goal at hand. Point A and B are static - the key is to understand that static 'map' and build the routes or processes dynamically based on the any number of criteria. Having a stream of activity allows us to understand these specializations but it doesn't resolve how we will use this information to address ad-hoc processes.

  • Knowledge intensive processes that are highly dynamic and progressive are often overlooked in BPM. It is interesting to note that BPM was originally focused on automation (both for well-defined processes and routine work flows), but somewhere down the line, BPM failed to address the very promise of its origin - empowering knowledge workers in the organization and supporting process agility to the ever-changing business climate. This is slowly catching the attention it deserves to many developers.

  • Garth's list seems good. Along the same lines,I blogged yesterday before seeing this question, ranting how small, short workflows are now overlooked. Big software sales come from enterprise scale processes. This overshadows where the real benefits can come from, much like Max's research suggests.

    Read the full rant here: http://blog.consected.com/2010/10/fix-little-things-and-get-big-results.html

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  • BPM is used on an ongoing basis for business process improvement. It is meant to improve order, insight, and efficiency of the collective workflows that make up any given business process. BPM is meant to reduce any chaos within those collective workflows that make up a process and eliminate ad hoc workflow management. How to boost iPhone signal booster

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  • I agree with Max. I don't think these processes have been overlooked.

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