A Beginner’s Guide To Business Process Management
a. Is it a mind-blowing product/ service?
b. Is it mindlessly dumping money on marketing?
c. Or is it the drive to continually improve business processes for enhanced customer satisfaction?
Pat yourself on your back if you chose option c. Of course, it's improving the business processes for a better customer experience. Business Process Management (BPM) is a proven discipline introduced by Industrial-Organizational Psychologists. Dive in to know how to win brownie points with your boss for giving him the brilliant idea of optimizing your business with BPM. Intrigued, aren't you? This article encapsulates in a nutshell what BPM is, where it came from, its driving forces and where it's headed.
You'd think it's safe to assume that people at NASA are supremely intelligent, right? After all, they're literally rocket scientists. Interestingly enough back in 1999, NASA led a $193 million Mars Climate Orbiter mission that failed miserably. Why, or more importantly, how? Common logic would tell you, it must have been due to a lack of insight into more advanced technology or due to variables that were incomputable. The truth however will amaze you. The failure was caused simply because the experts manning the exercise didn't convert imperial units into metric units while calculating the distance to Mars. Yes really! Who'd think that people capable of building satellites and rockets would fail because of an oversight in unit conversion?
Well, they did. However, the question is who or what is to be really blamed? The culprit here was the lack of a process that ensured that their units were consistently imperial or metric. So, it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that processes are incredibly crucial for any organization, sometimes crucial to the tune of millions. Hence, it is imperative to set the right processes in place for the effective functioning of any business too. A common strategy that most organizations take for granted.
Those processes define what is Business Process Management or BPM (so it's not a mouthful).
What Is Business Process Management (BPM)?
Before we explain it in detail, let's see how Gartner defines BPM. It is defined as a discipline that uses various tools and methods to design, model, execute, monitor and optimize business processes. Relax, don't let the jargon scare you. BPM basically means pulling a Monica (from F.R.I.E.N.D.S obviously!) and organizing everything in the business, including every tiny step of every process and sticking to it. The idea is to keep improving these processes continuously to make them better.
What's the need for all this designing, organizing, monitoring and improvising, you may ask? Well, first of all, to avoid "$193 million" worth of errors but more importantly, to do things better, faster and at a lesser cost. Are you with us? Great, now let's talk about how BPM stands tall? Onwards to its pillars...
Pillars Of Business Process Management
The three key pillars driving BPM are:
People: Imagine you are at a McDonald's and the server is taking down your order using pen and paper because their Point of Sale (POS) machine is out of order. They'd definitely take more time to record your order, right? Chances are, you might get a little edgy owing to the complexities added to your fast-food experience. That's what drives BPM, your satisfaction as a customer and how the people in the business can be empowered to achieve the same. One of the key focuses of BPM is to ensure that your workforce is equipped with the right tools they need, to deliver customer satisfaction.
Process: Now let's say that at the same outlet, there are two servers and they do everything haphazardly. For instance, they put out the soda you've ordered on the side before they have even prepared your Big Mac. By the time you get what you came for, your soda has lost all its fizz #NotMySoda.
This type of fiasco can be taken care of by setting process automation or workflow automation wherein all employees are trained to serve the soda after all other items in the order are ready to be served. Thus, human-centric BPM ensures that there are the right processes in place which empower you and your team to serve the Happy Meal your customers deserve.
Technology: Finally, imagine when you pay for your order, you are told that they don't take card payments nor do they accept any mode of online payment. Because McDonald's is not going to accept your kind thoughts as payment, your only option is to pay by cash. This is enough to put any fast-food eating, TikTok loving Gen-Z on edge. After all, who carries cash these days! The third pillar of BPM practice is all about putting the right technology in place that simplifies and or automates business processes (a transaction in this case).
Oh my! BPM is very important but where did it come from?
History And Evolution Of BPM
BPM's evolution has been going on since the first business transaction. Like a snowball effect, the idea of improving business processes to get more business has been growing ever since. During the early 1900s, the notion of modeling processes with the concepts of division of labor, production, etc. was introduced to humankind.
It was all hunky-dory for a while but we didn't stop there. Like true globetrotters, humans continued exploring, expanding and evolving these concepts to improve business operations even further. One fine day, a young man at a company named FileNet thought of setting a predefined process for routing scanned documents. This was a digital workflow management system that he made in the 1980s which was later acquired by IBM.
Jumping to the 1990s, the idea of business process modeling became the buzzword in the world of businesses. Various quality management methodologies such as Six Sigma, Lean and Kanban appeared on the scene. These BPM enablers used tools such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Solutions and Supply Chain Management Software that empowered businesses to implement business best practices.
One of the biggest transitions in BPM methodology came about just a few years back with the enhancement of workflow capabilities and the introduction of the latest technologies in the business circle. This resulted in the much-awaited and anticipated digital transformation of BPM tools that are focused on people management, introducing the latest technology, and creating an ideal workflow for operations.
That brings us to now, where the three pillars of BPM - people, processes and technology - are more intertwined than ever before.
So, How Does Business Process Management Work?
The quick and dirty version in a nutshell tells everyone what they have to do, while keeping others updated about their virtually flawless progress for continuous improvement and at the same time ensuring there are minimal errors.
To break that down for you in more detail here's how BPM suite works:
The BPM process begins with the collection of data through custom forms and creating a workflow to process it.
After the inefficient process maps are worked out, a workflow test is conducted in a virtual environment, plugging in different assumptions and projections to evaluate the time and expense of a complex process.
The virtual test environment enables adjustment in the workflow to eradicate roadblocks and enhance process improvement. As soon as the processes are examined and upgraded, they can then be deployed.
The deployed processes are continuously tracked and monitored to determine its success.
As there is no end to perfection, these processes are periodically evaluated and optimized if necessary.
Why Does Business Process Management Matter?
The answer is simple: you make a lot more money. A lot more!
Let's take a look at Taco Bell's history to understand this further. Today, Taco Bell stands tall as a $1.98 billion international food chain. However back in 1983, the only bells the leading fast-food chain was hearing were warning bells (pun intended) with massive losses annually. So, how did they get back on their feet? They went ahead and reinvented their food production, distribution process, reorganized human resources and operational systems, allowing them to bring value to the customer and in turn, their stakeholders
When your business process automation is unorganized to automate, a lot gets overlooked, resulting in many easily avoidable errors and significant waste of resources, especially time. You make impulsive business decisions based on issues and don't have any valuable data to back your business actions. With BPM software, you can align your business task functions and analytics with customer needs. When your goal is to deliver the best customer experience, business process improvement is a must, you must deploy, monitor and measure company resources based on that. This directly helps you enhance efficiency and productivity, reduce costs, minimize errors and risk and optimize results.
Future Of Business Process Management
Businesses are already finding tools to make their existing processes easy to manage and monitor. What's next? There are specific trends already taking root in the BPM industry.
First of all, Artificial Intelligence will take charge of the BPM industry as well. We are already witnessing the rise of iBPM or Intelligent Business Process Management, a concept coined by Gartner in 2012. After iBPM, robots will follow (don't they always!). We'd see hyper-automation that'll further digitize processes, freeing human resources to do what they do best, create winning strategies. This would internally mean that business functions will become super-integrated, with seamless content sharing, internal communication and issue management, amongst others.
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