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What is success in Business Process Management?

May 21st, 2010 | No Comments | Posted in BPM implementation, Pragmatic BPM

This week I had a discussion about what BPM success is. The BPM project manager of a company was concerned about the future of BPM within the company, since they had been automating a number of processes but never really calculated the success of their projects. So they couldn’t demonstrate the value of BPM to the company and still had employees opposing every new process improvement. In the eyes of the BPM team, they hadn’t achieved anything close to the multimillion dollar savings that other companies were speaking about. While BPM does improve areas that have been left untouched by technology so far, it doesn’t come with surprise that great success is easy to achieve. This however doesn’t mean that improvements are always significant or measureable.

How do you measure the success of projects that change the way everyone thinks about the business? What if process improvement ideas start rising from every department – how much value do you associate? What if processes now provide transparency and accountability or even reallocate workload? Who measured process efficiency before defining what the process looked like?

A customer once automated a reporting process that gathers all data from different sources automatically and creates the reporting brief all by itself. The goal was to avoid the risk of including wrong information, since this might have caused significant impact on the investor’s reaction. Naturally the process worked flawlessly before implementing the solution. So where was the improvement? Not every company can name the exact risk and amount associated to the improvement.

Every company successfully implementing BPM substantially improves their business – if it can be measured or not. While pragmatic BPM might not achieve the single top hits for improvement, it exceeds any single BPM installation simply through the huge impact the quantity of automated processes have on the enterprise. My recommendation to the company was to hold an event and speak about the individual stories on how BPM improved the way they are doing business. This is a team effort and everyone will have something to tell.

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Pragmatic Business Process Management in Sales and Marketing

May 14th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted in Pragmatic BPM, Sales & Marketing

There are many client facing processes that have a substantial impact on how a company is perceived by potential clients. I believe every one of us can name companies where they had good and bad experiences when purchasing goods online.

But there are many more interactions with prospects in a business to business environment, where people need a substantial amount of information and interaction before even seeing anyone in person. Imagine you go to a website and request a brochure or other kind of information. You typically expect to download the PDF and approach the company if this is of interest for you. For a structured sales organization this however kicks off a number of processes that typically tie into a prospect development plan. Either a sales person follows up with you in a couple of days to see if you found all required information and what the purpose of your visit was or an e-mail is sent out to you instead. Then it would be great to enroll you in the newsletter distribution list and stay in touch with you on a regular basis. Once you have found the offer relevant, the company might want to set up an online presentation, a meeting or test access to their offer.

While this is easy to coordinate at low volume, it can create an administrative overhead with company size and demand. Fitting every customer into a standard process is impossible. Therefore this is a great area for Pragmatic BPM. Small individual processes that are triggered by events like website registration or sales people can be created to save time and increase customer satisfaction. In addition, human errors are eliminated and process metrics are readily available.

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Should power users automate business processes?

Today I had a discussion with a consultant on who can or should automate processes. Would you give power users access to the tools to automate processes themselves?

Let me start with the example the consultant brought up: A large company took a look at a BPM solution and found it very easy and intuitive to use. A senior manager then stated that this would be ideal for power users, since they would be able to implement their processes themselves, without having IT to get involved. Triggered by the experiences of large scale BPM implementations that require architectural discussions before implementing processes, the consultant pushed back on this idea.

I have heard this many times and I believe there are many projects in the IT space that failed due to a lack of experience and knowledge. But isn’t this a great place to start? Why don’t we make sure experience and knowledge becomes part of every implementation and empower people to develop processes themselves?   Children lose confidence in themselves when parents do or arrange everything for them. They miss out on experience and confidence that they can accomplish tasks themselves. Just like overprotective parents harm their child’s development, we limit business people’s capability to solve their problems and limit the competitiveness of the company.

Therefore the question is not whether power users should be able to implement processes themselves, but what we need to provide them with so every project they start becomes a success. This starts with training but continues with knowledge transfer, project support and recommendations for best practices implementation. BPM is the first technology that allows business to build their applications themselves. Empower them to be successful and force vendors to make BPM as easy as possible!

Other thoughts?

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What systems support pragmatic BPM

Implementing pragmatic Business Process Management requires a set of functionality within BPM Systems that supports the approach.

Easy to implement

Everyone in the company who is capable of using Office or other applications must be able to define processes and forms and specify rules within the BPM system without the help of IT or intensive training. The user interface needs to be graphical and code-free, making business process management accessible for anyone in the organization.

Easy to manage

Enabling everyone to change their business processes requires detailed access management to give permissions to the right people at the right time. A BPM system therefore needs to provide access management down to the step and form level. It is impossible to think of everything upfront. Therefore sophisticated roll-back mechanisms have to be available to change processes on the fly and have them continue from the corrected position.

Easy to change

No implementation can cover all possible cases. Therefore a process implementation needs to adapt to circumstances, situations and exceptions. The easier it is to make changes to the system, the more complete the solution. Therefore a BPM system needs to support change and make it as easy as possible.

While it is impossible to specify the requirements in detail due to the variety of implementations possible, here is a list of sample questions that you might want to ask when searching for a pragmatic BPM system:

1)    Can I return, forward, resubmit and confer out-of–the-box? The better the BPM client the less changes you have to make to the process.

2)    Can I graphically review and change process rules? The easier you can change process rules and test them, the more dynamic your business.

3)    Can I create an automated process with people, forms and rules without coding a single line? Every line of code is a liability making change more difficult.

4)    Do you support undefined process maps that can be completed during runtime? If you don’t know the exact rules or want to have them discovered, you can have the system learn over time and save specification time upfront.

5)    How many processes has the customer with the biggest process base implemented with your solution? The more processes, the easier it is to implement process automation.

6)    Do you have examples of processes that were implemented in less than one day? These are great examples of fast implementations and processes to automate.

7)    How do you manage access to the step and form level? The more detailed management, the more people can participate in improving the processes

8)    Do you provide online training? Giving end users access to training cost effectively and at their availability is essential for pragmatic BPM.

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Benefits of Pragmatic Business Process Management

April 14th, 2010 | 5 Comments | Posted in Pragmatic BPM

After discussing the benefits of process automation, this post is now focusing on the benefits of Pragmatic Business Process Management. A pragmatic view typically focuses on solving business pains, providing benefits and satisfying customers without making a science project out of the BPM project. As such, the benefits of process automation remain and are complemented by a number of benefits that deal with implementation and change.

What always strikes me when speaking to people in the BPM space is the dedication to discover and model business processes in detail and thereby spending thousands of dollars and up to years identifying possible business flows, rules, exceptions, redesigning them, getting employee buy-in etc. without even touching a single BPM benefit and saving a single dollar.

Discovering the process flow is important to automate processes. But where do you start and especially where do you STOP? Let’s focus on the goals first and answer this question with the benefits in mind.

The reason for automation business processes is to solve business pains, increase the efficiency of your operations and improve customer experience.

With Pragmatic BPM you

1)      Lower cost of business process management and therefore spend your budget wisely

2)      Cut time to improvement and reap benefits earlier

3)      Remain flexible and change faster making you more competitive, and

4)      Develop a process and change management culture for further improvements

Looking at the benefits in more detail:

Cost of implementation – Lower cost of BPM and Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
The more complex your implementation, the greater the cost of business process management and the higher your Total Cost of Ownership. Implementing a complex solution and maintaining it only makes sense when the profits exceed the costs. This is a simple business calculation: what is the marginal benefit of an additional specification within a business process management investment. If it is zero or negative, it doesn’t make sense. Therefore start simple and let it grow rather than boiling the ocean.

Time to production – Reap benefits earlier and reduce risk
The faster you discover your process, the sooner you can reap the benefits of process automation. Efficiency gains easily compensate adjustments to the solution required by the incomplete process map and changes that happen to business processes on a daily basis. Make sure you are on the right path before going into too much detail and thereby risk the success of your project. In addition, it is more likely to achieve a high return on investment.

Flexibility and Agility – Stay ahead of your competition
A detailed and complex solution might enable you to react to foreseen circumstances faster and more dynamic but makes it more difficult to react to all other situations. Google is changing the game plan for advertising daily. New applications, new hard- and software, new auction models and ad quality indicators – no wonder competitors have a hard time keeping up. Change is an imperative and becomes a nightmare when having to change complex systems with all the exceptions and dependencies. Stay flexible and agile by implementing only the most important exceptions.

Change Management – Creating a culture of improvement
While process modeling brings teams together to develop a process, the task isn’t completed when the process is discovered. The process needs to adapt to changes, improvements need to be implemented, rules adjusted, extensions developed. If you really want to do business process management right, create a culture of improvement and allow for everyone to participate in improving business processes whenever and wherever they can.

Therefore discover everything necessary to automate a process and include exceptions and automate steps as they come up over time. This requires adaptive / flexible / dynamic (whatever you call it) process automation solutions and we will have to look at these requirements next.

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Why Pragmatic Business Process Management

March 30th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted in Pragmatic BPM, Pragmatic BPM Case

It might seem obvious, that the greatest benefits can be reaped from complex business process management focusing on the core processes of a company. This however would imply that they haven’t really been optimized. Being at the center of the business, this doesn’t seem likely.

Especially when taking the pragmatic BPM approach, non-critical processes make a convincing case for process automation. Extensive planning and alignment efforts account for a majority of the BPM project costs. Cutting these to a minimum provides a clear advantage to the pragmatic approach. Being able to automate processes faster and with less effort allows companies to benefit from improvements earlier and generate even greater profits.

While there are good reasons for strategic BPM, pragmatic BPM requires attention to identify the  greatest benefits  BPM can bring to a company. Let’s have a look at an example.

Consider you have to hire new people constantly and your staff is spending more time writing rejection letters than working on tasks for new or existing employees. Applicants are calling in all the time for inquiries on the status of their applications, why they haven’t heard anything yet, or even if their application arrived. Setting up a process can take up as little as two days to have the process automated – from application entry, automatic confirmation, evaluation and automatic rejection. No integration necessary, implementation without coding and with the ability to change routes, recipients, rules, etc. within minutes. The HR team can now focus on the important tasks of selecting the right applicants, scheduling interviews or even setting up new employees in the company. While the process obviously doesn’t cover the whole application process nor all options possible, it provides tremendous value and can be extended at any time.

There are clear benefits and we will have a look at them in detail in the following post.

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Handling different kinds of business processes

March 26th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted in Pragmatic BPM

While there are different kinds of business processes within every organization, the majority of vendors, analysts and journalists in the BPM space focus their attention on critical or end-to-end business process modeling and automation. These can become huge integration projects with the ideal world promise of driving companies from a centralized dashboard based on rules, analysis and strategy. On the opposite, everyone knows the importance of unofficial ad-hoc cooperation of individuals to get work done.  All business processes are somewhere between these extremes and can be automated to various degrees, but need different sets of functionalities to be successful. While changing core business processes requires extensive planning, implementation and testing, the concept of pragmatic BPM focuses on solving day-to-day business pains quickly with flexible BPM solutions. Within the next few posts, we will look at different solution scenarios and likely software prerequisistes.

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