There seems to be much confusion in the world of Business Process Management (BPM). If you run a web search on “definition: BPM”, you will probably come across more than 50 different definitions. Sure, all those definitions may have important points to them, but they may very well end up confusing people as well. Confusion is the way of the analysts, the way to protect what they do and make their knowledge sound important and out of reach.
I have been working in this industry for the past ten years, first implementing and supporting BPM, and later helping to evolve a BPM platform. My two cents on the definitions would be that BPM is essentially a productivity tool. It’s a way to help companies to do things better, cheaper and faster.
By better, or more efficiently and effectively, I mean to streamline processes by removing redundancies, automating where things are done manually, and eliminating the guesswork from the many exceptions to the rules people encounter while working.
By faster I mean to pre-fill and calculate things automatically, to notify people that they need to attend to urgent work, to keep things visible and easy to track, to avoid loss of paperwork. Business Process Management allows people to report on processes in whatever way makes the most sense to their daily routine.
All of these combined should result in “cheaper”. The steps are very clear:
- Streamline while discovering and implementing processes.
- Automate wherever it’s possible by pre-filling, calculating and integrating in the back end.
- Track and measure so further efficiencies can be gained.
- Adapt. Because processes aren’t static. They change. In fact, the only constant in life is change.
So, in my opinion BPM is a very complex productivity tool. For more information on the Ultimus definition, check out What is Business Process Management (BPM Software)?
Workflow Automation – Remembering Where BPM Came From
The Greater Good of BPM: Taking a Step Back
Director, North America Product Management
While MS SharePoint is often the answer for various tasks or workflow functions where the process or workflow is kept within a small team of individuals, it falls short in its ability to automate intricate, mission critical processes. For instance, think of an Excel spreadsheet. With only a few people using and updating the information in the spreadsheet, it is rather easy to manage by utilizing SharePoint.
However, expanding this same process of updating and obtaining information from one single Excel sheet across multiple departments or an entire corporation spells chaos. Managing processes, users, and applications across the enterprise is where a BPM suite becomes necessary to implement, as it has several key functions:
- Process administration and management capabilities across the enterprise
- Organization and job function management capabilities distinct from process definitions
- Business rules engine where rules can be reutilized and repurposed across all processes
To learn more about how to improve your business processes using SharePoint and BPM, register to attend our New York City Corporate Efficiency Breakfast on September 29, 2010 at the Microsoft Offices in New York, NY. The event is free for attendees and will begin promptly at 9 am EST.
During this "Brunch and Learn," attendees will discover how cost savings and productivity improvements can be made by focusing on business processes. Starting with just one process, your company will be on course toward continual process improvement and sustainability.
Experts from Ultimus will address the following questions:
- How can you get a clear view of all processes within your organization?
- Which processes can be automated within your organization and where to begin?
- What is Business Process Management (BPM)? How is it different from workflow?
- How can you make sure that your process improvement system is adapted to your company and not the other way around?
Attendees will also learn to:
- Determine methods to quickly identify which processes are working efficiently and which are not, as well as how to remove the bottlenecks causing inefficiencies.
- Realize how your organization can quickly respond to changes, industry shifts, and new competitive threats.
- Find out how to leverage your investment in SharePoint if you're already using it.
Gartner Portals Content & Collaboration Summit: Thoughts and Reflections from Last Week's Conference
Microsoft SharePoint 2010 Is Good For BPM
Marketing & PR Specialist
A recent Gartner post from Jim Sinur suggests that “Big Fish” vendors new in the BPM space are introducing new competition for the already existing “Smaller Fish” BPM vendors. The maturation of a market space, IT or non-IT (BPM or otherwise), where big vendors finally enter into the space to compete is inevitable. And I agree with Jim on two points he makes:
- “Big Fish” vendors have impact on all other vendors in the space
- Other vendors in the space must find their technological niche / place / specialty
It is this second point that I wish to explore further, especially within the BPM space.
Jim goes on to make the points that speed to innovation, finding a niche in an innovation vein, and then “duck[ing] into a niche” would be the ideal approach for the “Smaller Fish”. I argue that besides just taking a technology perspective to the livelihood of the space, the “Smaller Fish” BPM vendors can remain competitive and even thrive by providing values to customers not suited for “Big Fish” vendors. “Smaller Fish” vendors have unique abilities to sell and service customers in the areas of:
- Pricing options best suited for focused implementations
- Personal customer service
- Responsiveness to needed BPM product changes
An example of the previous points: We were recently contacted by a prior opportunity that chose to go with a “Big Fish” over a year ago. The opportunity admitted that their original BPM vendor choice was highly influenced by how well known the name of the “Big Fish” was. After nearly 8 months in failed efforts to model and automate their first enterprise-wide business process, the company’s director grew frustrated with the high cost of professional services, multiple project managers, and inability to solve even the simplest of problems without multiple conference calls and planning meetings. Nearly $400K has been spent to this point with nothing to show for it. Ultimus has now been asked to lead their BPM project in the way we feel is best for any sized company: start small but think BIG. By providing one single price which includes the BPM software license and a packed automated process solution, as well as a detailed project plan (that is based on weeks, not months) that is committed to by our solutions team, the opportunity’s executives now have the confidence to promote a BPM solution and direction within their company.
Just because a “Big Fish” vendor gains entry into a market and can create a technology solution, it does not mean it will be successful (think Google’s social endeavor with Wave). With this inability to execute, are we talking “Big Fish” or “Big Dinosaurs”? While the largest of dinosaurs of old did indeed rule the world in the past, they became extinct and the smaller reptiles survived, many of which thrive in the present day.
Successful BPM Suites Are More Than Subjective Technology Evaluation Grades
Think “Small” When Starting With BPM: Recipe For Immediate ROI
VP Product and Technology
Usually we try to position Ultimus as a Human Centric BPM Suite. And truly, Ultimus does provide strong human centric capabilities such as collaboration, activity monitoring and reporting.
However, in some cases Ultimus can be used to replace dull and repetitive activities performed by people. This will free people to perform meaningful activities while eliminating errors caused by human interaction and different types of costs. In one such case, one of Ultimus’ customers, let’s call it ACME Global, which had a large number of employees (over 10,000) decided to automate an Employee Performance Review Process. A version of this process is available for you to test drive.
Every month, the 31 department heads wanted to know which employees in their respective departments had their reviews upcoming in the following month. The reasoning behind this is so that the department heads could began to prepare for the review by doing research with peers and other managers who interacted with the particular employee.
Consequently, every single month, 31 different people contacted the HR department requesting a list of the employees whose performance reviews were due in the next month. I don’t have to mention that, except for the HR and IT managers, none of them had access to the HR system. These requests required that an HR employee manually generated paper reports and sent them via intercompany mail. This consumed about 20 hours a month of an HR employee, plus the cost of printing and physically sending all the files to each manager. Sometimes this request wouldn’t be completed for 2 weeks, which ultimately caused delays in the start of the performance evaluation (generating even more work to HR and Payroll for calculating pro-rated raises and so on).
The challenge for Ultimus was to come up with a solution to automate this entire process. Ultimus did so by creating an “auto-launched” process on the 1st of every month which would read the HR database for each department’s employees who had performance reviews due in the next month, generating an easy to read Excel document and attaching it to an e-mail for each department head.
So as a result, on the 1st of every month each department head received an automatic e-mail containing the same information that previously took one person 20 hours a month to produce.
The benefits of this process are clear and evident. No more errors, no more delays, no more printing and transportation costs while freeing 20 hours a month of one employee. The amount of time it took an experienced Ultimus consultant to build, test and implement this process was around 36 hours.
By the Numbers:
Time savings / month:
HR System Staff = 20
HR Staff answering follow-up calls for requests = 20
Dept Heads = 31 * 3 = 93 (assuming each department head spends 3 hours requesting and chasing the info from the HR Director)
This equates to 133 hours savings for each month.
Assuming that the average hourly salary across the employees is $25 / hour, the company is saving $3075 / month. Transportation/mailing savings adds $100/month.
.....resulting in a yearly company savings of $38,100.00.
Process Automation: Thinking Outside The Box
Don’t Just Consider Complex and Complicated Processes for Automation
Top 5 Reasons You Need To Automate Your Processes in 2010
Director, North America Product Management
In the article titled "BPMN for Business Professionals: Burn Baby Burn," Chris responded:
I have to agree with Jim here.
I recently returned from NYC where I had a conversation with a very frustrated CIO new to his company. One of his first challenges was to settle the internal havoc and chaos in the company regarding how their flagship process was to be executed. This is an enterprise process spanning multiple departments and included the company’s sales, marketing, professional services, and executive teams.
He thought he was doing the company a service by finally documenting the process visually….and he invested in the BPMN notation to do this. He presented the map to the company, stating proudly that the enterprise process was finally documented and in visual format. Unfortunately for him, all of the business people in his office simply took the BPMN representation as “pseudo-code”, and rather than the people argue over the actual flow of the process, they asked a million questions about the shape and icons used. He was resigned to having to go back to the drawing board and “simplify” the model.
This is a true example to me where the B in BPM must be respected….in fact, it is the first letter in BPM. Business people do not want to learn another application, much less a process notation. They want to either make more money, get their day-to-day job done faster, or make their own job easier….and they want to do this in the context in which they are already accustomed.
While BPM can ultimately lead the horses to water….it cannot make them drink.
To read the article and additional commentary, click here.
Chris Adams Responds to: "Stalking and Capturing a Business Process" by Dan Woods
Who Is Drive The BPM Initiative In Your Company? IT, Business, or Both?
VP Product and Technology