Recently in the news, I saw The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released a RFI for automated technology that can help them reduce the number of incorrect payments it makes for fraudulent or flawed healthcare claims. In the report, it was stated that CMS paid out $10.3 billion in erroneous payments in 2007 (according to a review in 2008 by the Office of Management and Budget). It is astonishing to hear of reports like this one because of the magnitude of the costs, however it's good to see that CMS is recognizing their inefficiencies and starting plans to tackle the issues.
This point is one of the first steps to a successful new process improvement initiative. If you follow business process management (BPM) through any of the market analysts, you know that BPM is a discipline first and foremost (while a BPM Suite (BPMS) is a tool facilitating BPM). This might sound daunting to you....."BPM is a discipline". BPM as a discipline refers to the analysis, documentation and improvement of the procedures that describe how people and systems work together in an organization. This also might sound daunting, or at least like a huge project. But the root of BPM is simple and many people in your company today can be part of this discipline. Here's how to get started in three easy steps:
- Find a process drawing / modeling tool that is comfortable for you. One of the most popular process drawing tools is Microsoft Visio. If you choose a tool that is hard to use and difficult to understand, it will not be used.
- Employ your business line leaders to draw their processes initially (again, see my first point here). For example, for your accounting department, work with your Controller or Finance Team Leader to take the first cut at mapping out the processes they oversee
- Have a Business Analyst (BA) / Process Expert be the "project manager" and ultimate owner of the drawn models. This person will have a background in modeling processes and can then work with your other team members to ensure the drawn models are correct, consistent with one another, and accurately represent the constraints of your current daily processes
While I say the steps are easy, accomplishing these steps can be a lot of work. Your business line leaders are probably consumed with executing your processes on a day-to-day basis and may struggle to invest time away in documenting these processes. You may not have a BA on staff and may choose to bring in consultants or work with a BPM vendor who specializes in process documentation. With your processes mapped out, now is the perfect time for a BPM Suite to add great values to the work you have completed. A high quality BPM Suite will have modeling tools where:
- Your drawn processes can automatically be imported into the BPMS (you don't want to draw the processes all over again, do you?). A good BPMS will allow to you freely import and export processes into and out of the BPMS, as depicted below.
- Your processes can be simulated. Simulating processes allow the processes to be "run" while respecting the process inputs, resource constraints, and costs of those resources. A Simulation tool will allow you to see how your current daily processes execute from a high level.
After simulating (or modeling) your processes, you will have additional insight into how to streamline your processes. Now you can answer:
- What impact will my processes have if I double resources or cut resources in half?
- Why does it take so long to execute my processes?
- How much does it cost my company to execute my processes?
With these types of answers, and you taking actions to resolve these problem points, you have now begun your first process improvement initiative. Your work is far from over, as your processes will continually change due to a number of factors. Again, BPM is a discipline- a mindset- and should be a basis of how you engage in all activities within your company.
VP Product Marketing and Management