More than a Buzzword: Business Process Management
BPM could be considered as the latest buzzword or piece of consultant speak, however in reality we have all been practising business process management in one way or another for years.
BPM is the application of standards and procedures, the coordination of business activities and the consolidation of information. It’s components include business standards such as workflow, document management, scanning, correspondence management, CRM and reporting. Typically BPM activity straddles one or more departments and indeed organisations.
The components of BPM are:
Business: The world in which we operate which is governed by the business imperative of making a profit.
Process: A series of instruction or tasks. Processes can be as simple as ‘call this person on this day and say this’ or as complex as ‘issue a 25 year mortgage’ and they can have values of a few pennies or millions of pounds. Processes are what we do and it is therefore important to do them as well as we possibly can. Processes are likely to involve multiple people in various locations and are likely to be dependent on various systems.
Management: Everyone is a manager. For some it is in their job title, some of us manage people, some of us manage information; all of us are managed by colleagues or customers. Management is the concept of applying your, or your organisations, decisions and wishes to others. In large organisations it is necessary to use technology or procedures to apply those wishes.
The real question should be what can BPM do for me?
BPM will deliver two business consultants favourites – cost reduction and improved productivity. Taking it down a level in terms of details, by adopting good BPM standards, you should be able to:
- Identify, apply and enforce best practice standards and/or policies.
- Generate powerful management information.
- Adapt to changing business needs.
- Manage resources more efficiently.
The technical detail is very clever but talking about it is unnecessary and can confuse the issue. The sophistication is there, but it’s below the surface and when it comes to considering profit, talking about technology only clouds the debate.
How LEAP from FLOvate can help
LEAP is a BPM tool which will, at the outset, allow you to define a set of procedures which you and your management team have identified as the best way of carrying out which ever business activity your staff need to do.
Once implemented, it will then present your people with all of the information and guidance that they need on a day to day basis. It will also give you all of the management information you need to be able to improve how your people perform.
Optimising your business processing is obviously not an overnight task.
The stages necessary are:
Understanding: Identify the business driver, components, people, systems etc. Set up an appropriate platform to accommodate these components (ie. LEAP). It is likely that this initial implementation will deliver improvements over the ‘before scenario’ but it won’t be an optimised configuration.
Operate: Get on with it. Use the platform over an appropriate period of time and begin to analyse what comes out. Identify opportunities to improve.
Improve: Take your learning and apply it step by step to the situation. Set achievable but valuable targets and then measure the performance in relation to them. This stage is repeatable ad infinitum.
Where to start?
The prospect of embarking on any substantial project can be daunting – particularly if it is a new concept. A project which challenges procedures and working practices that may have been in place for many years is bound to be contentious.
Given these factors, it is important to be able to rely on a flexible, proven technology platform, such as LEAP, and a supplier with in depth, practical experience such as FLOvate. Avoid inexperienced suppliers and cutting edge technology at all costs!
In terms of where to start as far as process and business areas are concerned, firstly avoid the temptation to dive in and attempt to fix your biggest organisational hot potato.
If there is a big problem that has been on the agenda for a long period of time, then it has probably been there for a good reason. As a novice, even with the best systems and the best advice, this could be considered high-risk.
A good place to start is with a simple, concise business activity where there is obvious room for improvement – but not a crisis looking for a new home. A particularly good area might be a process that is being performed adequately, but is resource intensive, or high cost. The process should be in a steady state and a clear understanding of the performance levels should be available for future comparison.
Once a clear indicator of the success of BPM has been demonstrated and the concept has gained a good amount of credibility, other more ambitious projects can be attempted.