BPM Without Busting the Budget

Business process management requires BPM tools, right? Not always. In some cases, there are other process management tools that can do the job for less.

By Bill Snyder
Thu, September 11, 2008

CIO — BPM Without Busting the Budget Business process management requires BPM tools, right? Not always. In some cases, there are other process management tools that can do the job for less. Managing a global transportation network featuring shipments by truck, plane and ship is difficult enough. But managing the sea of data that surrounds that network can be even tougher, and that was becoming a challenge for YRC Worldwide.

Many shipments the $9.6 billion company moved were accompanied with corresponding paper documents, including purchase orders, bills of lading, tracking stickers, proof of delivery and, ultimately, an invoice. What's more, much of that paperwork was exactly that—paper, says Michael Rapken, YRC's CIO and executive vice president. (For more on YRC, see "Investing for the Long Haul.") "The [order-entry] process was manually intensive. Customers could make mistakes on forms. So could our order-entry people," he says. Mistakes were one issue, productivity was another. It was simply taking too long to complete each transaction.

YRC didn't look at the problem in isolation. Rapken and his team realized that the order-entry issue was an opportunity to rationalize key parts of YRC's business process and IT structure, parts of which run on mainframes. But the company was not about to rip up and replace its existing systems. Instead, it undertook a carefully modulated deployment of business process management (BPM) and document management software. The result: "A huge success. We saw an average increase in productivity of 50 percent for order-entry people," says Rapken. And the bill was not enormous; it was approximately $500,000 for the heart of the project.

Business process management can be a very scary phrase. It conjures up visions of a years-long project and multi­million-dollar consulting bills. But it doesn't have to be that way. Companies like YRC and others are discovering that you don't always need a traditional BPM tool when it comes to solving a specific business problem. While some situations absolutely require them, companies are finding that putting other process management tools to work can yield significant ROI without busting the budget.

First, Define Your Project

If there were a top 10 list of confusing IT buzzwords, BPM would be right up there. It's like the old story of the blindfolded men touching an elephant and trying to figure out what it is, says Forrester Research senior analyst Craig Le Clair. "Some BPM vendors feel like integration tools, others feel like rich human tools for participating in processes and others feel a lot like document management systems or packaged business apps," he says.

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