Posted in Workflow Automation

Business Process Management: The Complete Guide

What is Business Process Management?

Business process management (BPM) refers to the practice of streamlining and optimizing the various strings of repeatable tasks that need to take place in order for a business to operate successfully. Business process management takes a process and breaks it up into the smallest parts or steps possible in order to answer the question “Is this the best (and fastest, most efficient) way to do this?”

Business process management often leverages automation to simplify and streamline the execution, monitoring and optimization of business workflows and typically focuses on repetitive manual processes. BPM is not to be confused with task management, which refers to the overseeing of individual tasks as opposed to workflows.

BPM software that enables process automation is like a navigation system for your business, digitally routing information to the people who need it, when they need it. Because the software does this automatically, you don’t need to worry about who is responsible for performing the routing or remember under which conditions the routing takes place. For instance, business protocols may dictate that an additional approval stage is required when sums higher than $10,000 are involved. 

BPM allows you to increase efficiency, reduce errors, cut costs, and better serve your customers. 

Careful planning lies at the heart of successful business process management. While individual departments in any organization can certainly benefit from managing their processes, you’ll see the best return on your investment if you conduct an audit of all the processes in your business to determine which ones are most suited to automation and implement solutions collaboratively.

On the surface, BPM may seem like the domain of large corporate enterprises. The truth is that organizations of all sizes such as mid-size businesses, K-12 schools and higher education institutions like universities and colleges can also benefit greatly from proper business process management, freeing staff from the burden of administrative tasks and allowing them to finally achieve a degree of work-life balance.

Why Does Business Process Management Matter?

Badly managed business processes can result in chaos. Individual employees usually don’t have an eye on the bigger picture, and can often only see their part of the process, making it difficult for them to address – or even recognize – inefficiencies or bottlenecks. In organizations such as higher learning institutions, individual workers such as faculty members are often too bogged down in their own tasks to realize that they are the bottleneck in processes like approval workflows.

Consequences of Bad or Non-existent Process Management:

  • Wasted time 
  • Frequent errors  
  • A shortage of critical data that can be used to optimize business operations
  • Lack of visibility and accountability: Who’s responsible for what, what stage is the process currently in, is everything running smoothly? 
  • Slow progress and task abandonment. 
  • Difficulty improving processes as management can’t identify issues or why they occured.
  • Information silos resulting in redundancy, resource wastage, and a lack of collaboration between different teams. 
  • Bottlenecks: overly manual processes often grind to a halt when a critical document gets stuck on someone’s desk or the relevant person is out of office. This can lead to frustration and significant delays and serious consequences such as invoices not being paid on time, product launch delays, financial aid applications not being processed in time for the academic year, etc.
  • Errors (particularly serious in financial processes)
  • Bad morale and higher employee turnover

Benefits of Business Process Management

  • Align processes to your business goals and your customers’ needs.
  • Get control over unwieldy and tedious processes.
  • Improve strategic decision making capabilities through data and measure whether or not your organization is meeting its goals.
  • Achieve better business results and reduce costs through greater efficiency
  • Improve customer satisfaction and drive higher revenue
  • Gain higher accountability through clearly defined roles and responsibilities, and reduce human error as well as incidences of negligence and fraud going undetected.
  • Comply with regulations with greater ease.
  • Improve your document management and security.

The State of Business Process Automation

Business process automation is growing in prominence, with the BPM software industry projected to reach a market share of US $10 billion in 2020. This growth is largely due to the relentless search for business efficiency, the rise of cloud computing and the ubiquity of automation. 

With the rise of SaaS offerings that allow for easy and affordable workflow automation, BPM solution and automation are increasingly accessible for small to mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) and not just large corporate entities with in-house developers and massive IT budgets.

A low-code or no-code workflow automation solution feature drag-and-drop workflow designers will make it easy for just about anyone to implement business process management.

Broad integration capabilities with other business tools such as Google apps, CRM tools, SQL databases, and more are making it easier than ever before to streamline and optimize your organization’s operations. 

In the near future, BPM is likely to help connect and coordinate the plethora of devices connected to the internet of things (IoT).

Core Elements of Business Process Management

Core Elements of Business Process Management

BPA is a systematic approach to optimizing your business operations by identifying ways to make processes more efficient.

Researchers say that successful BPM takes the following six core elements into consideration:

  1. Strategic Alignment: Business process management should align with business goals and customer needs.
  2. Governance: Establish clear roles and responsibilities, rules and hierarchies, objectives and metrics, to facilitate transparency and accountability.
  3. Methods: Implement a clear methodology and decide on the tools and techniques you will use. Make sure that they are universally understood through thorough training and onboarding.
  4. Technology: Most BPA utilizes some degree of workflow automation and integrates various business tools using APIs.
  5. People: Make sure that staff buy in to your BPA initiatives and appoint BPA stewards to ensure smooth implementation and facilitate change management and training/upskilling.
  6. Culture: BPA needs to fit into your organizational culture. Not all processes can or should be automated.

What Is a Business Process Management Life Cycle?

Business process management is not just about automating workflows. It’s about managing how all the processes that make up your business’s operations work together and continuously optimizing them. 

As such, there are five steps involved in the BPM life cycle:

Design

Break your processes down into individual tasks and design how you will streamline those tasks. For instance this step may involve creating the forms you will use in a particular process. 

Model

Model or plan your process, visually outlining the sequence of events and rules or conditions of your workflows. You can do this using a drag-and-drop workflow builder like the one in frevvo’s no-code visual workflow software.

Execute

Put your plan into action and start using your new system. It’s wise to test it among a small group and optimize it first before rolling out to the broader organization.

Monitor

Evaluate your new business processes. Ask yourself what works and what doesn’t. Apply metrics to identify inefficiencies and bottlenecks. Getting feedback from users is also important – it doesn’t help if your processes are beautifully streamlined on the backend if they’re a pain for users to work with. 

  1. Optimize

Continuously iterate your processes to further improve them. 

Business Process Management-life cycle

BPM Implementation

Business process management gives you a bird’s eye view of all the workflows that comprise your organization’s operations and allows you to identify and eliminate bottlenecks and inefficiencies. 

For instance, a simple faculty paid time off request involves the applicant filling out a form, which is then routed to their Department Head for approval before being routed to HR. When executed in the absence of business process management, this simple process is too manual and wastes too much time, e.g. chasing down a signature for approval if the Department Head does not respond in a timely manner.  

However, with BPA and automated routing and reminder notifications, this workflow can be completed within minutes – and with dynamic, mobile-responsive forms, it doesn’t even matter if the approving party is out of office.

Processes To Automate:

  • Dynamic processes, particularly those that utilize information that’s already available from internal or external systems.
  • Processes that are subject to regulatory requirements such as data privacy laws affecting how customer data is used and stored.
  • Processes that involve multiple stakeholders from different departments or divisions.
  • Processes that involve approval stages and require that documents be routed multiple times, such as purchase order workflows.
  • Processes that consist of repeatable, predictable steps that are normally performed manually.

Processes Not To Automate

  • Processes that vary considerably whenever they are executed, as the stages of the process cannot be accurately predicted.
  • Processes that require human interaction. For instance, while much of a new hire’s onboarding can be automated, if human interaction is entirely lacking, they may feel alienated, and ill considered onboarding can lead to higher employee turnover
  • Processes that rely on human empathy, such as disciplinary procedures. 

Let’s take a look at some of the considerations that make for successful business process management implementation.

BPM Implementation Success Factors:

Strategy 

What is the goal or objective of your business process automation? What changes will you need to implement to get from Point A to Point B? How will you roll out those changes? Who will be responsible? WHat does success look like, and how will you measure it?

Buy-In and Change Management

For business process management to be successful, you need buy-in from stakeholders across your organization. Consider who will be affected by BPM, from the employees who will have to use it every day, to management, to your customers. Establish a business case and demonstrate how each group will benefit from it to get people on board and ensure that all stakeholders are properly trained.

Considered Implementation

It’s vital that business process management is rolled out strategically. While piecemeal automation can certainly improve your organization’s efficiency, you may struggle to integrate various workflows after the fact if you don’t plan for it from the beginning. Once you have a roadmap, you can start improving the processes that will have the largest immediate impact in terms of time and cost savings.

Oversight and Stewardship

For business process management to be truly effective, you need to be able to continuously evaluate the success of your efforts. Ideally, you should implement a task team to independently monitor your process management, but as long as someone is clearly in charge of performing this task and regularly reporting on the organization’s progress, you should be able to identify successes and areas that require further improvement.

When Should Organizations Implement BPM?

The short answer is that it’s never too soon to start implementing business process automation. It’s a common misconception that BPM is only necessary for large organizations, or that only established businesses can afford it. 

The truth is, any business, no matter how small, can benefit greatly from having greater control over their business processes. And cost shouldn’t be a concern, as there are numerous SaaS companies like frevvo that are lowering the barrier to entry by offering affordable BPM implementation solutions. 

If you’re still using paper forms and tedious manual processes such as entering data into Excel sheets and reconciling invoices by hand, you’re subjecting yourself to avoidable time wasting, costs and potential errors.

Ready to try out business process automation? Try frevvo’s zero-code process management software.