What is business process management (BPM)?

Business process management can help improve business workflows through designing, modeling, implementing, monitoring, and optimizing processes.

According to Gartner, business process management is:

the discipline of managing processes (rather than tasks) as the means for improving business performance outcomes and operational agility. Processes span organizational boundaries, linking together people, information flows, systems, and other assets to create and deliver value to customers and constituents."

Its essential purpose is to design, model, implement, monitor, and optimize processes, both automated and non-automated—the process can plan and achieve various organizational and business goals.

Businesses completely transform with business process management, and goals can be met and implemented flawlessly.

Improves productivity

Cycle times can be reduced, and team members are molded into smarter and more efficient contributors. Improved productivity streamlines employee duties.

Improves agility

Business and market trends constantly evolve, and a successful organization is an agile organization. Business process management should be well-organized enough that any alterations in operations or workflows can be quickly changed, readjusted, or paused altogether. Agility also decreases response time, which can stimulate innovation and productivity.

Generates efficiencies

Efficient processes can be easily improved from end-to-end, and the proper integration of business process management can make efficiency possible. Business process management also involves constant data gathering to gauge efficiencies and determine whether new processes should be implemented.

Increases the bottom line

More efficient processes can eliminate bottlenecks, which can increase your bottom line over time. For instance, customers can have swift access to products and services when there is a reduction in lead times. The bottom line is also increased when you identify wastes or inefficiencies that can cost more than they should.

Provides visibility

Employees of all levels can have better access to information that they can monitor in real-time. Increased visibility can help enhance structures and processes while measuring goals and outcomes.

Strengthens safety and compliance

Workplaces can be subject to laws and regulations, and compliance to these laws and regulations is crucial. Business process management can provide an insight into processes every step of the way, which allows for any necessary documentation and changes to maintain compliance.

Designs for scale

Business process management can be scaled to apply from smaller teams to a wider organization, with possibilities for orchestration and optimizations along the way.

Maintains stability

Well documented and executed business process management can create a sense of stability and security within an organization, which aids in operations when consistency at all levels and stages is crucial.

Delivers security

Proper organization and documentation can make the protection of data and assets easier—it can also be easier to communicate the types of information to safeguard to staff. Business information can then be safeguarded from theft or misuse.

There are a series of steps along the business process management lifecycle that can help with organization along the way: design, model, implement, monitor, and optimize.

Design

The first step begins with documenting all processes. Take the time to identify past processes, current processes, and goal processes. Gather data from stakeholders and management, then analyze the data to gain an insight into desired processes, and how they are going to align with organizational objectives. Proper considerations along the way are alerts and notifications, service level agreements, task hand-over, operating procedures, and escalations.

Use this information to begin designing each step of the process, identify the owner of those steps, consider necessary resources, and think of whether or not current or past processes should be considered during the design phase.

Model

Take the design from the first phase, and introduce a series of variables or hypotheticals. For instance, changes in cost, changes in circumstances, or changes in staff. This is ideal for a “what-if” analysis for all levels of the design.

A good method for introducing the “what-if” scenarios is to take the design and create a physical model to help define the scenarios by physically representing changes in processes, business rules, or any important identifications.

Implement

This phase requires a very delicate balance between implementing on a wide scale and implementing on a small scale. Take the design as it was, really evaluate the modeling and the variables, and create a strong implementation plan. Sometimes, proper business process modeling requires careful consideration of whether or not it will roll out in phases, or whether it will roll out at a wider scope. No matter the plan, there must be a careful consideration during implementation for how the rollout will be tracked and monitored.

A few different methods for implementation include a manual rollout and an automated rollout. A typical manual rollout focuses more on human-level implementation of processes, while an automated rollout is at a software level. Ideally, automated implementations are based more in the software and presentation level than at the or backend level.

There are various software applications available to aid in a rollout—ideally, a software that executes the steps as programmed and customized by human intervention to ensure accuracy and efficiency.

Monitor

Business process management devoid of close monitoring can prevent new rollouts from performing optimally or being successful at all levels. Monitoring should occur at all levels and focus on each individual task as designed and modeled. If your rollout includes connection with an outside vendor, gather necessary information from the vendor to ensure that your processes are beneficial to them, and beneficial to their end users.

Part of the design and modeling processes should include the degree and levels of data to be gathered. For instance, a series of steps that move from a work order, to a deliverable of the work order, to successful payment from the end user. Consider whether or not the process has moved along as designed, any roadblocks that stand in the way of an optimized system, and whether or not these can be optimized.

Optimize

Refer to the design, the model, the implementation, and the data gathered from monitoring to get a better understanding of optimization and what needs to be done to correct any phases that didn’t work as designed, or things that weren’t accounted for during the modeling process. The data from monitoring is closely analyzed and all bumps and successes are accounted for. Consider implementing processes that are successful to roadblocks along the way, and refer to your modeling to see if you accounted for any of the roadblocks.

This is the chance to steer business processes toward the intended goal while avoiding bottlenecks or breakdowns along the way.

Internal processes, efficiency, and the bottom line should always be heavily scrutinized. It is time to implement business process management when:

  • There are important business metrics that are measurable and can be improved by implementing business process management.
  • Exceptional processes that require a quick turnaround and manual handling.
  • There are multiple business units, departments, teams, or functional groups that use more complicated processes and require manual orchestration.
  • Processes that require compliance to regulations like changes in information storage, changes in privacy laws, or changes in financial reporting regulations.
  • A performance metric that can be improved by implementing new business processes.

  • Finance: Since finance teams monitor and deal with money every day, they can be easily overwhelmed with contacts like letters, paper forms, or electronic communications. An internal team may request new equipment for their department and provide the cost, or there could be a request for traveling to see a client or attend a conference. A business process management initiative could streamline these requests by automating the financial calculations vs. allotted budget for the organization and the teams. They can provide more customized services for different situations, and they may have access to one-click approvals or denials, which can easily be a pre-created template to send over email rather than drafting individual messages.
  • HR: The human resources department is just that—resource for the people of the company. But, HR can easily be overwhelmed by requests and questions that could easily be processed away and even automated. For example, there could be an HR portal where employees can track their own time off, request vacation times, account for their paychecks, manage a 401k, implement benefits, or interact with a timesheet. This can free up the time of the HR department to deal with more serious or more specific requests that can’t be automated away.

  • Customer service: Customers and businesses are always looking for an easier process. A business process can streamline the customer journey while providing services that are the most streamlined and accurate. An ecommerce company might provide a portal login that can outline the information about an order they purchased, both past and present. Shipping updates can be sent via text or email, along with confirmations of delivery. There can also be a customer portal that can answer questions in a single location without the need to contact a customer service associate, including an FAQ system or a fill-in box that spots keywords within the question that may have an answer on the site.

Business process management is about managing a process every step of the way while accounting for necessary changes and metrics. Business process automation can work hand in hand with business process management, but they are not the same thing. Business process automation is any application of business process management that is applied not using manual tactics, but by automatically applying tools that streamline productivity, agility, compliance, and performance at all levels of the business process management plan.

Ideal business process management tools can account for every step of the process (design, model, implement, monitor, optimize) while also being accessible and customizable to a business’s bottom line. A tool should be able to be designed and used without too much intervention from the IT team or too many coding requirements—hence, accessibility for all levels of the management process. While planning, design, and modeling are crucial before implementation, the tool should be able to be used each step of the way by people at all levels.

A great tool can also be business process automation, which can easily work in conjunction with organizational goals to ease the process by making software easier to use and more appealing to the end users, who may not have the time to deal with something more manual and rigorous.

Cloud computing tools are also widely available, and more ideal for accessibility and ease of use. While in-house systems can seem more secure, cloud security has never been more robust. Tools in the cloud can also be accessed from multiple locations, which may assist in remote work or collaboration from different locations.

There are tools that may be helpful in some areas, but more innovative management tools should be the ideal choice for an organization looking for a SaaS solution.

  • Artificial intelligence: workflows can be powered through machine learning so that more meaningful tasks can be the focus.
  • Performance management: build analytic dashboards with purpose and real-time visibility that can provide answers and insights quickly and accurately.
  • Low code: workflows need to be documented, visualized, and actions need to be added to process steps. An easy-to-us tool for business analysts to self serve is crucial for BPM productivity.
  • End-to-end platform: the more visibility an organization has across its business processes, the more it can optimize these processes for efficiency. Therefore BPM platforms designed for end-to-end process oversight can more effectively support a strategy of growth.
  • Process experience: once business processes are initiated, workers expect to experience a workflow that is streamlined to meet each moment of work along the way, regardless of the channel (web, mobile, chat, text messaging, etc.)
  • Chatbot: teams can quickly resolve issues while delivering a consistently great experience to customers, who are increasingly preferring the self-service that a chatbot can deliver.
  • Security: find a SaaS solution that cares deeply about security—especially when your organization houses private customer and business data. Seek a company that also takes compliance seriously, as any degree of data storage is subject to a type of regulation that a fault in security could violate.

ServiceNow is poised to provide you with business process automation services that can account for your business process management needs along every step of the way, while providing customized services and an excellent and knowledgeable team.

Learn more about process management

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