Put the Emphasis on "P" for Process in Business Process Management

When working with BPM tools, it's essential to emphasize that the effort is about business processes (not just the tools).

Mon, May 07, 2007

CIO — The problem: You need to simplify people-intensive business processes such as managing approval for loans or ensuring proper billing for insurance claims. The answer? Most commonly, companies look for an automation solution, based on workflow management, document management or business process management (BPM) tools. But this technology-first approach doesn’t work—and could even increase your costs.

Too often, says Ron Wince, CEO of the business process consultancy Guidon Performance Solutions, companies that implement a BPM tool are left wondering why their ROI was so small or why their headcounts increased after jobs were supposed to be automated away. They didn’t choose the wrong tool, he says: They forgot that BPM is first and foremost about processes. However, other companies are demonstrating how to succeed with BPM—and proving that if you’re thinking of BPM narrowly, you need to regroup.

Motorola, for one, offers a model for how an enterprise should approach BPM. The communications equipment manufacturer has long been process-driven, using techniques such as Six Sigma to understand and continually improve its processes. Three years ago, CIO Patty Morrison saw that BPM technology was becoming mature enough to give her group a process-oriented tool in addition to the Web services and enterprise application integration (EAI) tools widely used within Motorola at the time to help achieve three major goals: improve integration within the company, link departmental processes more closely and standardize processes across units where possible.

Download a one-page "Overview of BPM Capabilities," from The Hartford insurance company written to help managers think about using business process management software. Click here to download the PowerPoint slide.

But for Motorola, the Savvion BPM tools it ultimately chose were not a silver bullet, but a way to do what the company has always done: think through the processes, test out different process approaches and then implement them. “Looking at processes is so important before you can do BPM. [Not doing so] is why a lot of organizations haven’t got much value from it,” Morrison says.

“You get in trouble when you start coding things, rather than modeling for the business processes,” concurs Judith Hurwitz, president of the Hurwitz & Associates consultancy. Drug distributor AmerisourceBergen takes a similar approach of assessing, modeling, testing and finally deploying. It too adopted BPM technology three years ago on a pilot project, and then in January 2006 acquired an enterprise license so it could use Metastorm’s BPM tools as it needed anywhere it needed, notes VP of Application Architecture and Strategy Peter Ruggerello.

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