Holistic, Top-Down View Drives Greater BPM Benefits
A holistic approach to business process management (BPM) that crosses functional boundaries can provide greater value than traditional BPM that focuses only on automating point processes.
By automating and streamlining business processes, BPM can deliver 30% to 50% productivity gains for processes involving back-office and clerical staff, and between 15% to 30% productivity gains for processes involving knowledge workers.1 , However, in our experience, many companies do not approach BPM with a recognition that many important processes cross functional boundaries within the organization. The temptation is to focus exclusively on process automation within one business silo and consider BPM successful with each incremental bit of automation. This can result in many point BPM solutions that do not generate business benefits.
A more effective, holistic approach that spans departmental silos rests on three cornerstones: Process engineering, automation and ongoing optimization.
Process Engineering starts with a top-down approach of identifying the business goals as well as the metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) that relate to those goals. This is a departure from the traditional bottom-up approach to BPM that focuses on improving only one process within a specific business function. For a company wishing to improve customer service, for example, these metrics for a process engineering effort would include customer satisfaction, the percentage of customer service events handled through self-service channels and first-call resolution.
Next, identify the processes that drive these metrics. Look for manual processes that have a high profile and whose optimization will produce easily demonstrable benefits that can be achieved fairly quickly. Then identify the inefficiencies in the “as-is” process and prepare a recommended reengineering of each process, described as a set of process diagrams and process flows. Again, it is critical to examine all the processes that have an impact on a desired metric, even if those processes span traditional organizational silos.
Automation is where a BPM solution reduces or eliminates the manual effort required to complete a business process. Consider, for example, a customer calling his credit card company to dispute a transaction. Without automation, the call center agent would manually go through the rules to decide whether to issue a credit, forcing the customer to wait while he does so. With automation, the agent takes the details and then, depending on the transaction amount, is automatically authorized to either give the caller a credit or to investigate the matter further. This speeds customer service and reduces customer service costs.
This involves comparing the automated processes against the metrics and, if the goals have not been met, repeating the process engineering and process automation steps until the desired results have been achieved. This is where, in our experience, many companies fall short. Automating processes is not an end in itself, but is only successful when it has delivered the desired business benefit.
The Future of BPM: Social, Mobile, Cloud
While security has kept many organizations from leveraging cloud-enabled BPM, this will change as solution providers improve their security practices. One effective approach is to “test-drive” cloud BPM, or create a proof of concept to determine its viability in your organization. This will help determine how employees will access the cloud infrastructure, the security measures needed to ensure data privacy and whether partitioning of data is needed.
Mobile devices and social media are also becoming more important in the creation of holistic BPM programs. On the mobile device front, automating sales processes with mobile devices can give salespeople the information they need to answer customer queries on the fly. One use of social media is to monitor conversations about the company on social networking sites; identifying and resolving issues before they become critical.
Whatever the technology or the process, a holistic approach to BPM will continue to drive the greatest business benefits.