Many business organizations are fighting for survival in their established business spaces as business declines and they lose employees. Those employees who manage to stay with the organization must worker harder, faster and produce products and services that must be delivered on time, within cost, and with higher quality. To meet these goals with fewer resources requires a methodology that offers a systematic and thorough analysis of existing processes to identify how to streamline work activities. That methodology is Business Process Management (BPM). Even though BPM is a proven method-ology, more companies in today's stressed financial environment are giving it a fresh look to determine how to become leaner and more competitive. This article is an overview of the methodology and how to implement it.
"What is BPM?"
Business Process Management (BPM) is a systematic approach to defining and controlling work flow activities through application of information technology methodologies. BMP encompasses methods, techniques and tools to design, enact, control, and analyze operational business processes. These processes involve humans, organizations, applications, documents and other sources of information. BPM focuses on automating and re-designing processes and differs from business process re-engineering (BPR) which focuses on implementing revolutionary changes to the way an organization functions. BPM promotes continuous process improvement.
BPM can be implemented in two levels â€“ one to identify sub-processes that can be quickly automated. Such sub-processes frequently include funding or document reviews and approvals. At the other level, each activity in the process is reviewed to identify details about how individual tasks are performed â€“ this level requires a much closer and detailed look at all activities in the process. This information provides the means to identify and continuously perform process improvements to evolve data integration for sharing by both business and information technology users.
"What drives the need for a Business Process Management Team (BPMT), and what skills must team members possess?"
Technology has enabled collaboration between and among people and businesses to improve the effectiveness and timeliness of conducting business in a fast-paced world. To ensure that information exchange is not only timely, but is also reliable, competitive business activities must be performed to ensure they are repeatable with controllable levels of variation.
A structured set of business activities repeatedly performed with low or no variation is a process. The BPMT defines process components, identifies roles of process developers and implementers, and identifies how information is exchanged through the process structure such as prerequisite inputs and results-oriented outputs, and entry and exit points in the process.
The BPMT is a group of professionals who possess specialized expertise that includes skills and experience in process improvement, analysis, design, development, training, change management and project management. The BPMT should be chartered to expertly employ the principles of BPM to solve business problems and continuously improve operations of the organization. You can recruit members who possess a mix of these skills to give the team more depth and flexibility. Conceivably, you need fewer team members if they are gained experience in the majority of the skills needed.
"How are business interests and Information Technology (IT) implementation bridged?"
Successful automation depends on complete, correct, and accurate data sources to be established and managed according to documented business requirements and rules. In the bridging process, verified data is converted to data objects through characterizations of the data. For example, business analysts create a paper form that enables information to be collected about a person's identify. When a person named "Bob" fills out that personal identity form, "Bob" becomes an object with distinguishing information about his physical appearance, marital status, residence, education, etc. The data collected in the form becomes "metadata data" (data about data). The IT engineer then creates code to handle data objects like "Bob" and the accompanying metadata in the process of automating the personal identify form for on-line completion, routing, and tracking. This is how information created through application of business requirements and rules becomes implemented in an IT solution - in this case, personal information collected through a manually administered form is converted to collection of the same type of information with an automated personal identity form.
"How do you deliver a Quick-Win solution and re-design a broken process?"
BPM can consist of two parts: one, automation of manual processes and two, process re-design that ensures opportunities for continuous process improvement. When BPMT activities begin in the Requirements Phase, information is typically gathered about all process functions that identify "what-we-do" at the task statement level. The task-based information covers all functions, not just those that support only forms automation. Through implementation of this approach, it will be possible to understand which process functions may be broken and could be re-designed at a later point in time when there may be reason, time, and resources available to collect process information at a lower, "how-to" level.
How is BPMT implemented in a phased approach?
Rollout of a BPM project follows a similar phased approach to that for developing software. The following chart shows a comparison of the percentage of effort by phase to complete automation and re-design projects considered to be "average" in size and technical complexity.
Activities performed in each phase of an automation type project versus those performed in a re-design type project vary significantly. The amount of effort spent during Implementation in an automation project versus a re-design project seems comparable. However, implementation in an automation project principally involves integration and testing of source code needed to perform conditional routing and tracking tasks. In contrast, implementation activities in a re-design project involve change management, training and mentoring activities with little or no software development, integration, and testing. In all other phases, the activities are similar but the effort to complete is significantly different except for Analysis. In a automation project more effort is expended to identify Requirements and to develop a Design. In a re-design project, three times more effort is expended in Evaluation than in automation to determine if re-engineered activities are yielding expected returns on investment.