Business Process Management: the key to process improvement
BPM is a straightforward and robust model for improving business processes. But how does it work? Read on and find out its main pillars and how to get started.
Gartner describes Business Process Management as “… a discipline that uses various methods to discover, model, analyze, measure, improve and optimize business processes. A business process coordinates the behavior of people, systems, information and things to produce business outcomes in support of a business strategy. Processes can be structured and repeatable, or unstructured and variable”.
But what does this mean, exactly? What are BPM’s main pillars and applications? And how can companies begin implementing it? Read on to understand all that and more.
What is Business Process Management?
The idea behind Business Process Management is simply to take note of and map out how processes within your company work within their own specific context. This means that it takes into account the inputs that certain processes receive from other processes before it, as well as the outputs that it delivers to other processes down the line.
BPM can be used to address every aspect of your company, on a macro level, but it can also be used on a micro level, taking a look at individual processes that need a helping hand. The concept is collaborative and encourages knowledgeable workers to share their insights and opinions on current processes. All this is done in order to identify opportunities for improvement in order to optimize workflows and procedures.
The BPM Lifecycle: how to implement it
The BPM Lifecycle includes five steps that take a look at current processes and identify room for improvement. While most procedures like to group certain steps together, we’ve added an extra “semi-step” to one of them.
Step 1: Design
The first step of the lifecycle is to identify how the current process takes place. The purpose of this step is to gather as much information as possible about the process in question. What are the stages of the process, who is responsible for each stage, what inputs are necessary for it to begin, what are the outputs generated by the process?
The best way to gather this information is to interview the workers responsible. Poorly optimized procedures can often be supported by human ingenuity. These “workarounds” can sometimes make procedures seem more efficient than they actually are but can also provide managers with insights into possible positive process alterations. Remember, no detail is too small to be left out.
Step 2: Model
The second step involves taking all the information gathered in the first step and translating it into a visual model. This can be done through flowcharts and diagrams and can help managers understand how information and outputs flow from one stage to the next as well as how different processes interact with each other.
Details such as deadlines, conditions, and regulations should be labeled clearly to provide viewers with a concrete sequence of events. It’s also a good idea to include notes about the process, such as locations of possible bottlenecks and any other issues that your interviews have brought to light.
Step 2.5: Redesign
This step is normally coupled with step 1, but we believe that modeling the current process, redesigning it, and then modeling the new process can bring about more insights than simply modeling the new process. It’s time to sit down with your team and discuss what changes could be made to the current process in order to make it faster, easier, and more efficient. We highly recommend that this be done in a group setting to brainstorm ideas.
Some alterations might be too complex to implement, or require investment and approval from employees in upper management. If that’s the case, we suggest that you prioritize improvements based on how impactful the change will be in relation to the process, as well as how difficult it would be to implement it. Keeping a detailed list of possible improvements can also help sell more expensive ideas to higher-ups.
Step 3: Execute
Once you’ve identified what improvements you would like to apply to your process, it’s time to map out the new workflow and implement it into your team. If the original process is normally done by several teams in parallel (all doing the same process with different inputs), we suggest you test out the new procedure on a single team first.
Your best bet is to use team members that were involved in the redesign of the new process, to make adaptation smoother.
Step 4: Monitor
This step can oftentimes be overlooked, especially if the new process is significantly better than the original, but just because it’s working doesn’t mean you don’t need to keep an eye on it. In fact, a successful process change can give you a lot of great insights that can help improve other processes in the future. Detailed monitoring can also help show upper management your progress and convince them of the ROI associated with Business Process Management.
Make sure that your team uses the right metrics to identify progress, measure efficiency, and locate possible implementation misfits. Keep in mind that just because a process works for one team, it won’t necessarily work for another. Instructions and SOP should be easy to explain and train new workers adopting it.
Step 5: Optimze
This is the most vital step in the Business Process Management discipline. Think of this as the looping step. Even after you’ve improved a process, it will always have procedures and aspects that can be further improved. Take the successful process you’ve implemented, monitored, and standardized, and put it back into the BPM Lifecycle.
You would be surprised by how many opportunities for improvement are still up for grabs. No process can ever be perfect, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive for perfection.
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What are the benefits of Business Process Management?
Measuring the benefits of BPM can sometimes be a tricky task. While certain quantitative benefits are easy enough to monitor, like average turnover time, use of resources, and work hours, other qualitative benefits are more elusive.
More efficient and optimized processes have a direct impact on worker mentality, ease of work, and quality of life improvements. While these can also benefit measurable metrics indirectly, its long-term employment mental health benefits are immeasurable.
It’s also important to keep in mind that Business Process Management is not a “one and done” discipline either. It’s a methodology that brings about continuous and gradual improvement that will certainly have an effect in the long-run, but can be tricky to measure in the short-term.
That being said, BPM helps managers in the following ways:
• Provide transparency for internal processes.
• Visualize processes on a macro level, as well as how they affect one another.
• Continually improve processes and strengthen business strategy.
• Deliver leverage for greater impact on business outcomes.
• Help adapt business processes to current market trends and industry requirements.
• Capitalize on emerging technologies.
BPM isn’t just limited to benefiting managers and workers either, it can have benefits for the business as a whole, such as the following:
• Reduce resource waste by removing rework and inefficiencies.
• Cut down on errors and lower output variation, increasing consistency.
• Save time through efficient procedures and bottleneck management.
• Generate better and more accurate products and services.
One of the little known benefits of Business Process Management is its ability to lay the groundwork for process automation. Many businesses think that automation is a sure fire way to improve their processes. In reality, automation relies on well-oiled processes in order to function properly. Automating a poorly optimized process can set inefficiencies in stone, making it much harder to remove them and improve procedures.
If you’re looking into automation for your company, it might be a good idea to check out our ebook on Lean Six Sigma, which goes in depth into how businesses can clean up their processes in preparation for automation.
The different types of Business Process Management
While all types of BPM have similar procedures and implementations, there are a few different types out there. They focus on different types of processes and each benefit from a slightly different approach.
This form of Business Process Management handles processes that exist primarily as middlemen between your systems (e.g. HRMS, CRM, ERP) with little to now human interaction required. These processes are prime candidates for automation if they aren’t already automated. They have extensive connectors and API access to help move data as fast as possible.
On the other side of the coin you have Human-centric BPM. This is for processes that are primarily executed by humans. These processes often require approval throughout, and are performed by individual workers. They are best approached with the use of friendly and intuitive UI, easy notifications, and quick tracking. Remember, improvements should be made while taking into account not only the business strategy’s bottom line, but also the ease of use for the people executing them.
These solutions are usually implemented when a document, such as a contract or agreement, is at the center of the process. These process improvement strategies will focus on being able to route, format, and verify documents as quickly and precisely as possible, getting them signed and approved as they pass along the workflow. These kinds of workflows are notorious for having a high rate of bottlenecks and should be carefully detailed to make sure none slip by undetected.
Most Business Process Management systems will incorporate a combination of these elements, even if they each have a field in which they specialize. We haven’t gone in-depth into how each of these different workflows can be automated, it is possible to automate even heavily human-dependent systems through hyperautomation.
For more information, why not check out some of our material on Hyperautomation?
Final tips on starting your BPM journey
Business Process Management is an excellent way to find opportunities for process improvement within your organization. While it’s not the only way, it is also an efficient method for groundbreaking any automation project.
The final tip that we can share with you on the subject involves getting started. If you’re looking to start implementing BPM in your company, the easiest and most effective course of action is to hire a business consultancy.
Companies like MJV are experienced in implementing Business Process Management systems into a wide range of industries and countries. If you want to know more about what we can offer you, why not reach out to one of our consultants? Remember, you don’t have to go it alone.