Business Process Management for Dummies
What is Business Process Management?
How do you know what to do about a task after it is done? Simple: you pass it along to the next person or role, whose job it is to handle the next stage.
Now, how do you know who that person or role is?
In most organizations and companies, a certain chain of actions and reactions evolves naturally to carry out processes and needs. As organizations grow, these processes multiply and new processes are born, to accommodate new needs and address expanding events and actions.
This is a natural, inevitable process. But is it also the healthiest course of action for the organization? When it comes down to that, many of these work processes may be shaped as the path of least resistance, or as the result of a good personal relationship. The natural process does not always consider efficiency, cost effectiveness and professionalism.
Enter, the Business Process Management (BPM). BPM is an approach to optimizing performance in companies and organizations. It is methodical, analytical and straightforward. The system is built on a 5-stage cycle that should be repeated, head to toe. Let’s start with the headlines:
- Model – figure out the process
- Implement – set the wheels in motion
- Manage – help the dust settle
- Monitor – evaluate, benchmark, measure
- Optimize – change what needs changing
How to plan and carry out a successful Business Process Management
The process itself is essentially intuitive: analyze, implement, see how it works, tweak to improve. Like every business management practice, it works well when structured into a methodical strategy.
Why the Modeling Stage is So Important
The modeling stage is the most interesting, challenging and eye-opening of the entire operation. It is a singular opportunity for to open the lid of this enormous, complex machine that is your organization and profoundly understand what all the levers do and how the cog-wheels run.
To successfully carry out modeling of an organization’s work processes, every imaginable work process needs to be scrutinized and mapped. One option for dealing with a task of this magnitude is to outsource it to a strategic consulting firm.
PRO: consulting firms have a lot of experience in process analysis, employee hours will be spared.
CON: an outsider, no matter how experienced, is not acquainted with the company’s process tunnels and burrows as intimately as someone from within.
How to Model BPM in your organization:
If the organization ends up engaging a team of employees to do this, they will need to conduct a series of thorough interviews with representatives from every unit in every division. Each work-flow should be mapped out separately as a stand-alone, whether it is linear, circular, hierarchical and so forth.
Measure the work put into these existing processes: in work hours, expense, other resources spent, and outcome. This will be your benchmark later, to see how effective your BPM is, so measure well.
Next, sketch a giant organization tree to portray all the interfacing work processes and procedures. You will need this to get perspective on the volume and length of task-journeys. Only then can you proceed to restructure and design optimal task journeys for designated work processes.
- Identifying the process-owner
The process owner is the person whose responsibility it is to make the process run smoothly. Identifying and naming them for each process is critical for a well-managed process.
And now, to orchestrate the entire operation. You have the process owner and have sketched the different processes. It is now time to work out the most efficient, cost-effective course of action for each process and re-shape the way the organization thinks.
Implementation and Management
Most people don’t like changes. This is a universal truth that applies tenfold to employees and their work process, especially ones crafted carefully to fit personal preferences. Proper implementation will need to be sanction by senior management. It will also need to be accompanied closely by the team (internal or external) who did the modelling and supported by appropriate technology. We will elaborate on technology in the BMP Technology chapter.
How to Monitor Your Newly Implemented Process
Once the dust has settled and the new processes are steadily underway, it is time to check: is the theory delivering?
Remember the metrics you took while modelling the process earlier on? This is a good stage to revisit them. Measure everything again and compare to previous results. It is important to do this methodically, while comparing every parameter you took:
(per work process)
- # work hours
- $ spent during this process
- Other resources spent
- Quantifiable outcome
But metrics are not enough. A truly thorough approach will be to hold another (shorter) round of interviews and get the employees’ take on the new system. Has anything changed substantially for them? Do they feel like they are more productive and effective in their work? What are the new bottle necks?
Smart Process Optimization
Bottlenecks, weak structural spots, failed restructures, friction points that do not resolve themselves, task journeys that throw out the baby with the water. All of these will be discovered and are an inevitable part of restructuring work process management.
But these will be local issues that can be fixed without needing to go back to the drawing board. Business process re-engineering requires the ability to keep one’s eyes intently on the ball: the final results are not imminently changed, only the means to get there.
Hal’s Experience of the BPM
Business management practices can get quite abstract. We often need a tangible example to ground the theory in the day-to-day reality of how businesses work. So we will work closely with a use case that is common enough in most companies, cross-industries.
Meet Hal. Hal is a sales manager for a big software company. Hal interfaces with customers, product managers, senior sales management, billing, account managers and customer service. He is technologically inclined and a great fan of method and so an avid user of Salesforce, the various LMS aspects of the sales division and narrowly, the ERP system.
Before the BMP was set in motion, Hal’s work process looked something like this:
Conclusions from the Process Change
1. Hal is a talented salesman
2. …But his lead generation is not always aligned with high-level company policy
3. This is because Hal is not always aware of strategic decisions made by senior management re: target audience
4. Hal accompanies the newly acquired customers throughout much of the setting up process because he inspires trust and consistency breeds confidence
5. But this wastes quite a bit of Hal’s time, as he could be in the field, presenting to new potential customers, instead of attending conference calls with customer service
6. However, his involvement in the initial billing stage is critical, as he is able to soften the new customer to the organization’s billing terms.
7. The new business process design took all of these factors into account and tried to resolve the bottlenecks with creative technological solutions:
A step-by-step playout of what we changed
1. Hal now meets with management before he starts his lead generation process, so as to make sure he follows company policy about target audience
2. Instead of managing the query process with the product team, he puts the customer in touch with the product manager and touches base with them
3. Likewise, customer service
4. Instead of needing to pursue a hands-on approach with Finance to ensure his commission, a designated Salesforce module was set up that calculates the commission per deal and notifies Hal, his manager and Finance.
5. A dashboard was set up for management, so that Hal’s successes are now visible and accessible without having to take up any of his field-time for reporting
The assumptions that guided these changes
- Hal’s time is best spent pitching, presenting, selling – doing what he does best.
- Hal is the process owner and as such, it is his responsibility to oil the machine
- But that does not have to involve hand-holding for the customer
Re-engineering the business process in this case was about freeing up Hal’s valuable time for revenue increase. The psychological process involved was about getting the process owner to release his grip on a few of the stages. Will this cost the company customer loyalty and closed deals? This will be discovered in the Monitoring stage.
Technologies that support BPM
As shown in Hal’s case, technology is instrumental in designing new a business process. Sales management software, CRM, BI dashboard and reporting tools – all of these can be used smartly and creatively to bypass meetings and interactions that can be automated.
In addition to those, BPM vendors offer a plethora of voluminous software suits, designated to BPM. Most of these solutions help with mapping organizational structure and analyzing the results based on manual input.
Galen Gruman at CIO said it best:
“Analysis and modeling tools help enterprises map out their existing processes and optimize them. Modeling and management tools, often used in concert with a business rules engine, help enterprises test and deploy software that implements processes—either within a BPM application that manages an entire process (such as document management) or as an automation tool that interacts with other applications and data sources to run a set of processes (like a very sophisticated scripting tool).”
Among the top Business Process Management software solutions you will find the major league player Appian, IBM, all-encompassing Pegasystems and a few more, which Galen lists in his article.
The forte of these software solutions is also their Achilles heel: size and deployment. Easy to implement as some of them may be, they are another software solution the organization has to deal with in a time of transition.
Now, remember: think creative technological solutions. For instance, middleware that acts as a layer over the systems and application already in use. Interactive walkthrough guides can deliver that sweet-spot, half transparent tool that guides the employees through a newly adjusted workflow during Implementation stage. Read more about Iridize’s customizable employee training and adoption solution.
Don’t be afraid to introduce change to a heavy corporate machine. That is the only way to keep it vital and kicking.
Prepare for change management