Don't Stop Short With Workflow... Go To The Next Level With BPM

by MK Strupe on Wed, Apr 15, 2009 @ 11:39 AM

You just completed mapping out your company's business processes (which is no small feat in itself, as process discovery can be a huge project).  You now wish to automate these processes for all the obvious reasons such as online data capturing through web forms, mitigating the human error often part of manual process execution, automatic task escalations, etc.  Process Automation is another big step to ensure your company's business processes are as efficient and effective as possible.  But process automation is not the end-all in your business process initiative (BPI); rather it is just one piece of the puzzle.

An argument can be made that your current business process is not streamlined and efficient as it needs to be.  In fact, a very good argument can be made here, as many times, people consider the steps taken in the business process as "just the way we have always done it".  Additionally, if your business process was discovered through just employees interviews, as opposed to utilizing automated process discovery technologies, you will probably find that what your employees THINK they do to perform their tasks is quite different from what ACTUALLY is done.

Consider the case that you use a workflow tool, which is geared specifically to automate and manage business processes, to automate one of your company's business processes.  Because you did not model your business process or even test your automated business process in a sandbox environment, all of the great work you have done to get to the process automation stage is at serious risk.  You have now automated an inefficient, untested, and unproven process.  Meaning, the bottlenecks in your business processes are now much more of a problem than they ever were before (as your process users will start complaining about missing tasks, emails being lost, and not having any idea who is the person(s) holding up the process).  It will be quickly evident that you should have chosen a business process management suite (BPMS) rather than simple workflow.

In a BPMS, you not only have the ability to automate and manage your business processes, but you also can leverage two other vital concepts:  modeling and optimization.

Business Process Management, Process Automation

Modeling will allow you to test your process in a sandbox environment first (before the automation stage).  By modeling your process, you will be able to determine bottlenecks, inefficiencies, and high resource usage situations in your process.  Identifying and resolving these situations in your process first, and then proceeding with process automation, ensures all the work you have performed to get your process to the automation stage will result in success.

Process optimization is vital as your business changes.  Your business will change, and as a result, the way your business processes function will change.  By leveraging a robust process optimization strategy, you will be able to proactively update and change your automated business processes.  Moreover, using an agile process optimization strategy, you will be able to change your business processes more often and more quickly. 

By using process modeling and process optimization features as part of your BPI, you will not have to spend all of your time managing your automated business processes themselves, but rather focus on what you really need to focus on:  the business itself!

Chris Adams
VP Product Marketing and Management

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This post was written by MK Strupe