Estimated reading time: 5 mins
BPM, or Business Process Management, is a growing sector of Business Technology. Forrester Research forecast growth over the next five years to be between 17.5% and 35.5% (why do they have to use fractions in these figures? We get the picture – Lots!) So if it ain’t happened to you yet, then there is a likelihood it will.
The thing with BPM though, is that it is quite a dry subject. It isn’t exciting for people who don’t know what it is or what it can achieve. It is still seen as an ‘IT thing’ and therefore an ‘IT problem’. Yes, to a certain extent that is true, but true from the perspective of delivery and maintenance. BPM starts with business. With time, effort and an attentive ear, business and technology managers can influence Execs to take it seriously and begin initiatives. It is a tough sell , as initiatives are not really initiatives, they’re about business transformation. BPM needs sponsorship from senior allies if it is going to have legs. So everything is stacked up against you to start with.
So what are you supposed to do to get the whole process going?
I recommend building a BPM Vision . I.e. something that exists only to whet the appetites of your organization, but it is more than a ‘concept document’ which traditionally plays that role. In particular, your BPM Vision is to attract support and sponsorship and to set out the vision for BPM. It should also be the basis of your pitch to move the vision forward. Your BPM Vision shouldn’t focus too heavily on analysis or gathering data – quite frankly that will take up too much time, and that happens during the creation of the real business case, once you’ve got the nod to proceed with sponsorship.
So, if you distill what really BPM is, it sets out to do three main things:
- Enable continuous innovation and continuous improvement, with measurement
- Maximize the effectiveness of human workers
- Reduce process latency – speed them up
And that’s it. Anything else is a derivative, by-product or combination. So your BPM Vision will focus on these three areas.
OK, so before you start writing anything, I strongly advise that you give yourself some thinking time by locking yourself in a room, put your ‘deep-thinking’ hat on and imagine what BPM means to your organization in these three areas. So ask yourself:
- Who are the workers that are most likely to generate ideas for continuous improvement?
- How will ideas be communicated through the organization?
- What kind of measures will your organization be interested in so you will know if processes are effective and efficient? E.g. number of errors, work units per hour, customer complaints, etc
- What activities require complex decisions, and which are based on simple rules, or even just ‘turning cranks’ (e.g. keying in data from a form)?
- Are their projects or initiatives your organization hasn’t the time or resources to undertake?
- Does the workforce complain about being overloaded?
- To put it bluntly, does your organization employ drones, who perform simple tasks, or are workers more capable than the roles they fulfill?
- Does decision making and communication inside your organization slow down the provision of services?
OK, these questions should get your thoughts going….
So once you’ve fried your brain with the deep thinking, it’s time to put together your vision. Your BPM Vision will articulate the opportunities that BPM can address in the 3 areas I described.
- Enable continuous innovation and continuous improvement, with measurement – begin by describing how workers in your organization are empowered to share their ideas on how processes should work and how they should be managed. In a BPM-enabled world, ideas from across your enterprise will be funnelled into an ‘idea factory’ (use your own name), implemented rapidly, and subsequently measured to check that changes delivered on the expected benefit. Workers will not only create the force for change, they will be motivated to implement them and they will be accountable for the results
- Maximize the effectiveness of human workers – describe how your BPM-enabled organization will make the best use of its human capital by driving work to the right people. Where possible, menial or low-impact activities will be automated, outsourced or delivered using inexpensive, low-skilled workers. Your organization’s experienced, highly capable workers will be allocated the high-impact, complex activities or projects using their skills most effectively. Paint the picture where your most expensive resources will be responsible for delivering the highest value services, or involved in the delivery of strategic projects that could not be allocated resource in the ‘old-world’
- Reduce process latency – speed them up – in this final section of your BPM Vision, articulate how business processes, end-to-end, will reduce in time because work is driven to people, rather than people having to find work. The data needed to perform an activity will be made available at the time it is needed. Rather than pieces of paper, emails or telephone calls, your BPM solution will take care of communication between teams so that workers only need to focus on the task in hand, rather than seeking notification. Overall, faster turnaround on services will increase customer satisfaction and reduce operating costs
What I’m suggesting above is your starting point for moving your BPM initiative along, which until now has likely to have been only loose conversations and good intentions, and possibly been an instinctive measure on your part. By starting with a vision, you’ll be provoking your peers and leaders to start thinking more deeply about what BPM means to them. Don’t start with a full-blown business case. Help your organization ‘see the light!’
I also recommend these books to help you create your BPM Vision:
- Business Process Management BPM 100 Success Secrets, 100 Most Asked Questions on BPM Implementation, Process, Software, Tools and Solutions
- In Search Of Bpm Excellence: Straight From The Thought Leaders
- Mastering Your Organization’s Processes: A Plain Guide to BPM