All my life as an entrepreneur has been spent in breaking down old hat norms and methodologies and rebuilding new processes and systems. The idea of Business Process Management (BPM) has long been debated and misunderstood. While some practitioners believe it to be any action or set of actions that contributes to a company objective, most experts on the topic have come to realize that BPM is actually a discipline comprised of a much bigger picture. In short, only those employees who actually oversee the entire process flow of a major company project, from inception to follow up, are actually the ones doing BPM. Various departments play a distinctive role in carrying out BPM, but they are only part of the total end-to-end process which constitutes the activities of true BPM. The important distinction to bear in mind is that BPM is not about how machines can automate production, or how one manager’s performance meets the objectives of his department. It is a series of actions performed by the humans who are the planners and decision makers of the company. They have a direct interest in improving the processes with which their company is run. The machinery and department managers are only performing in a way that has been dictated by these planners and decision makers.
While every company from the sole proprietor to the international corporation seeks to earn and retain market share, the activities they plan and carry out are not necessarily Business Process Management. It boils down to whether the top management team who designs and oversees process improvement is being responsive to customer and employee feedback. This begs the question: if BPM is a whole end-to-end process, will revamping isolated parts of it such as employee training and inventory management count as improving on BPM? Many BPM consultants would answer ‘yes.’ The good news is that these isolated parts of the whole process can be restructured in order to improve the workflow and maximize their efficiency without disrupting the integrity of the other parts. If done well, these actions can place a business on solid ground and facilitate growth. If not done well, they can destroy a small business who is struggling to survive and often hurt public opinion of a well-known industry giant.
Where Does BPM Begin?
Every company I have been a part of, the teams in those companies and me have been actively creating long-term processes to make sure each part of and the entire company itself does run smoother and better. There are many defining components to good BPM. Of perhaps the greatest importance is starting with great strategies that follow a timeline. They must include plans to measure progress against the timeline and the impact they have on other aspects of the business operations that contribute to the actual wholeness of the BPM model. A common way of testing these strategies before investing the expense of time and materials is “what-if” analyses. However, not every phase of the BPM needs to be established before work can begin. For example, expanding a business to open new facilities does not require having every phase of that time consuming plan in place before it begins. A lot of factors can impact this phase of a company’s growth due to changes in the industry or economy, such as customer demand or fluctuations in materials costs. An effective BPM practitioner does not write his plans firmly in stone. Flexibility is a critical component to improving the process because the mechanisms used to achieve desired outcomes in the BPM model should be constantly monitored and frequently reevaluated. Even the model itself may need revision on occasion depending on the volatility of the industry.
What Are Some Methods of Monitoring The BPM Process?
The methods a company chooses in which to oversee and monitor the daily activities that follow its BPM model depend largely on the size of the organization. The resources available usually involve some sort of personalized software or outsourced tracking service. However, whatever tracking methodology is chosen, its cost should be looked at as an investment. The reason behind this is that tracking progress in every phase of the overall business process keeps it on track to meeting goals and objectives and can send alerts when there is a stumbling block or unusual circumstance along the way. Every step of the process impacts an organization’s budget, and if it doesn’t invest in a good monitoring system, it may find itself faced with costly setbacks in a time sensitive process. Some of the best known methodologies for process management used today are Six Sigma, Hammer, Lean, etc. which were developed by some of the world’s most successful corporations such as Toyota. On a smaller scale are software programs designed to turn data into Key Performance Indicators (KPI). The KPI programs come with templates so that the BPM practitioners can select which model best meets their organization’s needs.
Where Does BPM End?
I’ve mentored scores, perhaps hundreds of employees, associates and well-wishers in the finesse of BPM.
Right up front, I mentioned that Business Process Management is an end-to-end process. On the front end, the BPM practitioners must perform a great deal of analysis in order to devise a strategic model of the work flow processes that their company will adopt for their overall operations. But where does the process end? The answer is certainly not at the point of implementation. It follows through to the end user of the company’s products or services, which are the customers. BPM is ongoing and ensures that its customers’ goals and objectives are met as a result of using their products.