Dive into any manual business process, and you’re bound to find inefficiencies — employees duplicating work, data entry errors, misplaced or lost files, and so on.
These inefficiencies can lead to higher operational costs, frustrated employees, and missed deadlines, all of which ultimately affect your bottom line.
So how can you improve your process and ensure consistent outcomes?
This is where business process management or BPM comes in — a system of monitoring and improving processes over time.
In this BPM guide, you’ll learn what business process management is and why it needs to be more of a priority. We’ll also cover the core elements of BPM, steps to a successful implementation, how you can improve your processes with BPM software, and more.
Click the links below to head straight to the section you want to learn more about:
- What Is Business Process Management?
- What Are the Three Types of Business Process Management?
- Why Does Business Process Management Matter?
- The State of Business Process Automation
- 6 Core Elements of Business Process Management
- What Is a Business Process Management Life Cycle?
- BPM Implementation: Which Processes Should You Automate?
- 5 Real-World Business Process Automation Examples
- BPM Implementation Success Factors
- 5 Steps to Implement an Effective Change Management Plan
- Improve Your Processes With frevvo’s BPM Software
- When Should Organizations Implement BPM?
What Is Business Process Management?
Business process management (BPM) is the practice of optimizing processes to improve the efficiency of day-to-day operations.
A process is a series of tasks that are performed to achieve a specific outcome.
Business process management takes an existing process and breaks it up into the smallest parts or steps possible to answer the question: “Is this the most efficient way to do this?”
Business process management often leverages automation to streamline the execution, monitoring, and optimization of business workflows. It typically focuses on manual processes. BPM is not to be confused with task management, which refers to overseeing individual tasks as opposed to workflows.
Business process management software facilitates continuous improvement by optimizing each step of an entire process. It does this by digitally routing information to the people who need it, when they need it.
For instance, business protocols may dictate that an additional approval stage is required when sums higher than $10,000 are involved.
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 occurs.
BPM allows you to increase operational efficiency, reduce errors, cut costs, better serve your customers, and reach organizational goals.
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What Are the Three Types of Business Process Management?
There are three types of BPM: document-centric, human-centric, and integration-centric. Here’s a brief overview of each.
- Document-centric: Document-centric BPM centers around the flow of documents from one individual to another. Contract approvals are an example of a document-centric process that you can automate with BPM software.
- Human-centric: Human-centric BPM focuses on processes that require more human involvement. A good example is the hiring process, as someone would need to screen applications and schedule interviews with candidates.
- Integration-centric: Integration-centric BPM focuses on integrating systems together to create more efficient workflows. An example is integrating an invoice approval workflow into your accounting systems to reduce manual data entry.
Most BPM systems support elements of each main type.
Let’s take a closer look at why BPM is important.
Why Does Business Process Management Matter?
Poorly managed business processes can result in chaos.
Individual employees usually don’t focus on the bigger picture and can often only see their part of the process. This makes it difficult to address or even recognize inefficiencies or bottlenecks.
In organizations like higher learning institutions, individual workers like 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 business processes as management can’t identify issues or why they occurred.
- Information silos that result 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 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 organizational goals and 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. 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.
- Streamline approvals with business rules that automatically route documents to the right approvers.
The State of Business Process Automation
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 affordable workflow automation, implementing a BPM solution is 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 featuring 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 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).
6 Core Elements of Business Process Management
BPM takes a systematic approach to process improvement by analyzing existing processes and identifying ways to make them more efficient. Researchers say that successful BPM considers the following six core elements.
1. Strategic Alignment
Business process management should align with business goals and customer needs.
An example of a company goal might be to provide better customer service. An analytics report indicates that resolution times (how long it takes to resolve an issue) are below average, and customers aren’t happy.
You can use a BPM tool to create an automated workflow that routes customer support tickets and notifies the right person. This initiative aligns with your business goals and serves customers.
Governance means establishing clear roles and responsibilities, rules, hierarchies, objectives, and metrics to facilitate transparency and accountability.
A lack of accountability in the workplace can lead to unfinished work and missed deadlines. For any BPM initiative to be effective, each person needs to know what business activities they’re responsible for and when they need to have them done.
Implement a clear methodology and decide on the tools and techniques you will use. Ensure they’re universally understood through thorough training and onboarding.
Everyone needs to be on the same page. People using different tools or doing things their way can lead to siloed information and inconsistent work. Establishing training programs is a must to ensure that everyone follows the same process.
BPM utilizes some degree of workflow automation and integrates various business tools using APIs. A BPM tool helps with process mapping — a way to visualize the steps of a workflow and the people involved.
Here’s an example of an automated workflow for onboarding new hires:
Once new hires complete the necessary forms, automated workflows route them to HR (human resources) for final processing.
Implementing new changes across an organization isn’t easy. Even seemingly small changes to a process can result in strong resistance.
Make sure that staff buy into your BPM initiatives and appoint stewards to ensure smooth implementation and facilitate change management and training/upskilling.
BPM needs to fit into your organizational culture. Not all processes can or should be automated.
For example, planning a company event requires a more human touch. While you can automate some parts, you probably don’t want to automate everything.
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.
Here are five steps of the BPM life cycle.
Break your processes into individual tasks and design how you will streamline them. For instance, the process design step may involve creating the forms you will use in a particular process.
Business process modeling involves 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.
Put your plan into action and start using your new system. It’s wise to test it among a small group and optimize it before rolling it out to the broader organization.
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.
BPM isn’t a one-time thing. Continue to monitor and iterate your processes to further improve them.
BPM Implementation: Which Processes Should You Automate?
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 wastes too much time (e.g., chasing down a signature for approval if the Department Head does not respond in a timely manner).
However, this workflow can be completed within minutes with the right BPM suite, automated routing, and reminder notifications. 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 the 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. Ill-considered onboarding can lead to higher employee turnover.
- Processes that rely on human empathy, such as disciplinary procedures.
5 Real-World Business Process Automation Examples
Inefficient processes are ultimately affecting your bottom line. Performing repetitive tasks that could be automated takes employees away from higher-value work.
Here are real-world use cases of processes that benefit from automation.
Expense management allows companies to manage and reimburse expenses that employees incur while on a business trip. However, 43% of companies are managing the process manually.
With BPM software, you can build a workflow that automatically routes expense reports to the right approver. Employees can quickly complete their reports and attach receipts by taking photos with their phones.
Here’s an example of an expense claim form:
Once an employee submits an expense report, their managers are notified right away. They can then approve or send it back if anything’s missing.
Time-off requests allow employees to take time off from work. But managing these requests can become a nightmare when physical forms are involved.
BPM software lets you eliminate paper forms and automate much of this process while also complying with labor laws.
Here’s an example of an automated workflow for time-off requests:
An employee can fill out and submit a time-off request from any device. The form automatically gets routed to their manager for review and then to HR for final approval.
A slow purchase order process can lead to delays in procuring the goods and services your business needs. This results in missed deadlines and unhappy clients.
What frequently bogs down this process is manual data entry. Employees waste time when they repeatedly fill out the same forms.
With a BPM tool, you can digitize your forms and have data pulled automatically from a SQL database.
Here’s an example of a form that populates fields when selecting a customer:
This reduces manual data entry and minimizes errors.
Keeping track of invoices is key to managing cash flow, which is why businesses can’t afford to have inefficient processes for invoice approvals.
When you leverage BPM technology, you can eliminate physical paperwork and significantly speed up the approval process.
Here’s an example of an automated workflow for invoice approvals:
By automating invoice approvals, you can lower processing costs and streamline payments.
Recruiting new hires is a lengthy process that can take months or even longer. Multiple people may also be involved to review applications, schedule interviews, and send offers.
BPM software allows you to streamline and automate the hiring process. Instead of getting weighed down by tedious paperwork, HR can focus on more productive work.
Here’s an example of a job application that candidates can fill out:
This makes it easier for HR to screen new applications.
Looking for more use cases? Here are six more real-world business process automation examples.
Now let’s take a look at some considerations for successfully implementing business process management systems.
BPM Implementation Success Factors
BPM can increase operational efficiency and lower costs for various processes throughout your organization. But successful implementation depends on the following factors.
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?
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.
Business process management must be rolled out strategically. While piecemeal automation can certainly improve operational efficiency, you may struggle with workflow management 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 monitor your process management independently.
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.
Another important success factor to any BPM initiative is change management, which we’ll cover in the next section.
5 Steps to Implement an Effective Change Management Plan
Companies implement BPM solutions to increase productivity, reduce costs, and improve outputs. However, it can be difficult to generate positive business outcomes without change management — a structured approach to manage change across an organization.
According to Gartner, 34% of change initiatives are successful. Whether your company is implementing new technologies or updating processes, you need to consider how those changes will affect your team and plan accordingly.
Follow these steps to facilitate organizational change.
1. Communicate the Changes
Poor communication can hurt BPM initiatives. If you suddenly push new changes onto your team without any prior communication, they’ll likely resist the change outright.
However, if you involve your team early on and ask for their input, they’ll be more invested in the project’s success. That sense of ownership is key to overcoming resistance to change and getting your team on board.
Communicate the changes you’re making and how they’ll make the organization more productive as a whole. This will help increase buy-in from project stakeholders.
2. Develop a Plan and Implement the Changes
Rolling out substantial changes at once can overwhelm your team.
Develop a plan with clear steps and objectives to measure progress. Consider designating a change manager to oversee the process and keep your change initiatives on track.
Then implement the plan and monitor progress against your goals. The change manager should also anticipate and address any bottlenecks during the implementation process. That could mean carving out time at the beginning of the day to set expectations.
3. Provide Training
You can’t expect employees to adjust to new changes without any guidance. This will only cause confusion and result in inconsistent outcomes.
Whether you’re updating old processes or implementing new processes, consider creating a standard operating procedure (SOP) — a document with step-by-step instructions on how to perform a set of activities. It provides a top-down view of a process from start to finish.
Make sure to set aside time for team members to review these resources and attend training sessions. It’s also a good idea to be on hand to answer any questions.
4. Review Progress and Analyze the Results
Not every change initiative will succeed, which is why you should continually monitor and review progress as you implement a change management plan.
Did the change help in achieving your business goals? Are employees adjusting to the change, or are there still some holdouts? Did your team experience any unexpected roadblocks?
Analyzing the impact of any changes you make will help you determine their effectiveness and provide insights on what you can do differently in the future. You should also seek feedback from your team.
5. Celebrate Success With Your Team
Implementing new changes can be a long process. Don’t forget to recognize key milestones along the way.
Celebrating the results that your team is achieving will help your change management efforts succeed and show your appreciation for the work they’ve put in.
Improve Your Processes With frevvo’s BPM Software
By using BPM software like frevvo, you can automate any business process and greatly improve its efficiency. There’s no coding required, so even non-technical users can build sophisticated workflows.
Here’s what you can do with frevvo’s BPM software.
Create Dynamic Forms
Create dynamic forms for expense reports, contract approvals, leave requests, and more. The drag-and-drop visual editor makes it easy to build and customize your forms to fit any process.
Here’s an example of how easy it is to create your own custom forms:
Build Automated Workflows
Build and manage workflows around each of your processes. In addition to routing forms to the right people, you can set up reminders and notifications. Choose from a library of templates to kickstart your efforts.
Alternatively, you can create workflows from scratch. Simply answer a few questions, and the system will generate a workflow with a basic form in seconds.
Create Conditional Rules
Conditional rules can make your workflows even more efficient.
For example, requiring approval from senior management for every purchase order can slow down processes and become a bottleneck.
With frevvo’s visual rule builder, you can create a rule that only routes purchase orders to a senior executive if it exceeds a certain value (e.g., above $10,000).
Here’s an example of a purchase order workflow with a conditional rule:
Connect to Your Databases
Connect your forms to your SQL databases and have the fields automatically populate. This reduces manual data entry and minimizes human error.
Here’s an example of a form that pulls in customer orders from a database:
Measure Your Processes
Check the status of a workflow at any time and view metrics in real-time. This allows you to optimize and improve your workflows.
Tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) like cycle time will help you measure the effectiveness of your BPM efforts and aid with your process optimization efforts.
When Should Organizations Implement BPM?
It’s never too soon to implement business process management tools in your processes. It’s a common misconception that BPM is only necessary for large organizations or that only established businesses can afford it.
Any business can benefit from having greater control over its processes. Pricing shouldn’t be a concern either, as SaaS companies like frevvo are lowering the barrier to entry by offering affordable BPM implementation solutions.
The platform is fully visual, so there’s no need to hire a team of developers or waste hours with complicated interfaces to create your own automated workflows.
If you’re still using paper forms and relying on ad hoc processes, you’re only subjecting yourself to avoidable time-wasting and potential errors.
Ready to try out business process automation? Try frevvo’s no-code business process management software today.