The financial industry harnesses BPM to manage growth, decrease time to market for new products and ensure customer satisfaction. When implementing and maintaining BPM software, champions within the industry have learned to focus on the customers, start with small projects and always keep an eye open for talent.

A rapidly-changing regulatory landscape, economic shifts and changing customer expectations all add to the challenges faced by financial services companies, in addition to the typical BPM issues like getting buy-in from other departments, planning for the initiative properly and coordinating between IT and the business side. Regulatory changes in particular have been a sticking point for some companies.

“It’s difficult to have a clearly defined, integrated enterprise-wide BPM strategy when everything’s changing,” says Chander Sharma, director of the BPM Center of Excellence at Manulife Financial, a major Canadian financial-services company. To evolve with the shifting landscape, he advises redefining BPM strategy as the company moves forward.

Keep the customer front and center
Manulife started its BPM initiatives with smaller projects like taking paper-based transactions and digitizing them, which improves the customer’s experience because there are no more lost slips of paper, Sharma says. The company also implemented metrics for better business planning to identify bottlenecks in the process and plan in advance for customer demand, he added. These initiatives focused mainly on leveraging the BPM software suite and were small projects with short-term goals.

Moving forward, Manulife plans to focus more sharply on its customers to better understand what works for them, as well as what doesn’t work, Sharma says. The company is also putting systems in place to measure critical, customer-facing metrics, he says. “We’re not just optimizing but also defining some of the right metrics which are not just internally focused and functional but end-to-end in nature, which translates into [customer experience] measurements.”

Aim for the low-hanging fruit
Like Manulife, CME Group started its BPM initiatives with smaller projects. “BPM could be right out of the gate,” says John Verburgt, director of BPM at CME Group, a leading derivatives marketplace. Some of the processes that were quick to automate included email management and workflow management, he says. BPM took ad hoc measures used by the organization and added a protective science, which added more predictability to the workflow. Instead of spending a lot of time on administrative items, employees can focus on money-making activities, he adds.

Typically, it takes 90 days to deploy a new process. But with the simpler, smaller processes, CME Group was able to shorten the time to 30 days by deploying in segments, Verburgt says. New features become a roadmap for future releases. “You don’t have to deploy the whole thing,” he explains. “What worked really well was being able to put the framework in place.”

Have a holistic approach to BPM
Just having the technology doesn’t mean that processes will run optimally. Manulife has focused its BPM efforts around existing processes, but wants to take a more holistic approach to BPM from the business side. “When you're looking at a small area, you automate existing workflows, but [the automation] does not give you complete benefit of the BPM suite or the technology because the process is still suboptimal,” Sharma says. “If you’re looking at a small section of the process, that closes the door to address the process again in the short-term because you just looked at it.”

Going forward, Manulife plans to continuously improve its internal processes and leverage management best practices across the entire enterprise, Sharma says. “There is a huge opportunity to deliver outstanding value to our clients and business impact for our shareholders by harnessing the power of optimized processes, leverage Lean Six Sigma, use metrics-based thinking and have a balanced scorecard” enabled with technology, he says.

It’s important to use an end-to-end focus, rather than a piecemeal one, he adds: “There are a lot of organizations and teams making small tweaks under the continuous improvement umbrella, but these do not add up to a measurable impact for the customer or for the business,” he says. “That's where having a holistic approach strategy would deliver more business impact.”

Expect a talent shortage
When CME Group was getting ready to implement BPM, the company realized that the market had a talent drought. Their projects were ready to go, but they couldn’t move forward because the marketplace simply didn’t enough labor available. As Verburgt puts it: “I had all these games and no one to play with me.”

To leverage existing talent and foster a new BPM workforce, CME Group is working with a local university to develop a process modeling curriculum and internship program. The company hopes that the program, scheduled to begin in the winter of 2012, will develop into a BPM certification program, Verburgt says. CME group is also are working with U.S. and international partners to build training centers; the company is also training its workforce internally on both the process and technology side.

Plan for success
If all goes well with implementation, the enterprise’s internal customers will be clamoring for more from the BPM system. “You have to plan for success because you create a demand, and when you deploy something in BPM, you’re delivering a permanent institution,” says Verburgt. That means making sure you can continually improve on the system and have enough internal support for the software and processes.

In fact, sometimes addressing the low-hanging fruit can lead to the demand for more features and an oversubscribed service. “Most folks that I’ve worked with always want to avoid failure, but meeting the internal demand from the organization is something we’ve experienced just because some may say we were too successful too quickly,” he says.

Foster collaboration between business and IT
Because of BPM’s process-focused nature, enterprises need to keep lines of communication open between the IT department and the business departments with plenty of transparency, according to Sharma. “The fundamental advice is that BPM has to be a collaboration between business and technology,” he says. “The focus has to be on optimizing processes first, then enabling them with the right technology.”

Finally, Sharma emphasizes optimizing processes, then looking for BPM vendors with the technology to enable those processes. “Sometimes being tech-agnostic and process-focused could unleash more benefits for the business,” he says.

READER FEEDBACK: Are you in the financial services industry? If so, what are some BPM best practices or challenges you have come across? ebizQ editors would like to hear about your experience. Contact Site Editor Anne Stuart at editor@ebizq.net.



About the Author

Christine Parizo is a freelance writer specializing in business and technology. She's based in West Springfield, Mass. Contact her at christine@christineparizo.com.

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