BPM in the Real World
Improving Internal Processes and Your Company's Competitive Advantage
By Buffy Schnurbusch, Senior Project Manager, BP Logix Inc.
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.
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
IT, like many other departments, is measured on how well it improves productivity.
When the information flow across the organization is manual, IT can (and does)
face many additional challenges. At Better Widgets, the IT staff works diligently
- Ensure new employees have access to applications
- Ensure employees have appropriate levels of security
- Provide a consistent approval process for processing requests (hiring, purchase
orders, leave of absence requests, expense forms, etc.)
- Coordinate requests regarding facilities, vendors, and suppliers.
IT strives to eliminate errors and miscommunication -- and to be as responsive
as possible to internal requests.
By automating its processes, IT can improve its own productivity, as well as
impact the productivity of the departments it serves -- and the customers Better
Widgets seeks to retain. Because automation provides a more consistent method
for routing and tracking the flow of requests and information, when BPM tools
are applied to IT processes, they provide immediate visibility into:
- The status of requests
- The location, storing, and accessing of information required for company
- Inventory, outstanding orders, and new equipment requests
By improving the business processes of one core group-in this case, IT-Better
Widgets can operate more effectively, efficiently, and competitively.
BPM has been defined as a "method of efficiently aligning an organization
with the wants and needs of clients. It...promotes business effectiveness and
efficiency while striving for innovation, flexibility, and integration with
technology." The results of an AIIM MarketIQ report for the third quarter
2008 indicated that only 25 percent of survey recipients believed BPM was understood
and embraced overall within their organizations. They considered this lack of
knowledge as the biggest hurdle to BPM adoption.
Other factors inhibiting an overall BPM strategy include:
- No clear BPM strategy in place
- Difficulty implementing BPM across technological and intra-organizational
- Internal politics and scope creep related to BPM initiatives
- Lack of leadership for BPM strategy
Achieving operational excellence
In a recent posting on the Intelligent Enterprise blog, contributor and independent
systems architect Sandy Kemsley, concluded that successful BPM implementations
are dependent on "...leaders with a vision, a disciplined culture, BPM
expertise and standards, as well as the tools."
Kemsley pointed to another key strategy requiring business leaders to make
the same level of contribution, thus "bringing the 'B' back into BPM."
Likewise, Clay Richardson, senior analyst with Forrester Research, observed
that "in today's economic climate, BPM teams are being pushed to meet the
growing demand for process improvements that impact the bottom line." Richardson
recommends that companies match their process improvement requirements to the
right BPM tools, and connect process improvement initiatives to key value drivers
within the organization.
The impact that BPM can contribute to a company's operational effectiveness
can be felt throughout the organization. Interestingly enough, as BPM initiatives
mature, efficiency gains become the baseline and innovation the next target.
If you're being encouraged to implement BPM at your company, please remember
to look for a department that provides tactical gains, and does so within the
company's strategic vision.
About the Author
Buffy Schnurbusch, Project Management Professional (PMP), is a senior project manager at BP Logix in Vista, CA. She has more than 25 years of experience spanning project management, IT development and implementation and management, primarily in the newspaper publishing industry. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.bplogix.com.More by Buffy Schnurbusch