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Management theorist Peter Drucker believes that process improvements transform business and lead to innovation -- and that they represent "the change that creates a new dimension of performance" for organizations. Business process management (BPM) empowers companies to align their internal processes so that they provide more value to both their internal and external customers and better fulfill the customers' needs. Well-designed business processes, moreover, become increasingly valuable in a difficult economy.



At a recent Gartner BPM Summit, keynote speaker Janelle Hill reflected on BPM utilization during a recession. She predicted that BPM was more likely to increase during a tough economy as it helps organizations to operate more effectively and efficiently. While BPM both encourages and supports innovation, it's the dual benefit of efficiency and effectiveness that is considered the greatest "value add" that results from deploying BPM within an organization.

It came as no surprise to many business leaders and analysts who had already begun to feel the downturn, when the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) confirmed that the U.S. had been in a recession since December 2007. The 2009 New Year's ball had barely dropped in Times Square before analysts started predicting which business trends would help companies succeed during this protracted recession. And, while the picture certainly looks brighter in 2010, companies are still looking carefully to determine which business imperatives will provide the greatest leverage and results for them this year and beyond.

Streamlining operations

With so many external economic factors outside their control, what can companies do to ride out the recession and "even" thrive? One answer is that they can redirect, automate and improve their internal processes. But how do they do that?

Let's talk about one example. We'll call our hypothetical company Better Widgets; however, the rest of the example is based on real-life examples.

At Better Widgets, the IT department deals with change on a daily basis, while providing essential services that support the organization and maintain its competitive advantage. IT addresses functions such as:

  • Installing and implementing hardware, applications, and configuration changes
  • Overseeing employee access to applications and resources
  • Enforcing and maintaining internal security and auditing policies
  • Managing compliance documentation

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