The market for business process management (BPM) software has been strong in recent years, as the promise of greater efficiency led to double-digit growth as the rest of the economy stalled.
But as with any enterprise application software, it must be used properly to get maximum benefits. Herewith are a dozen tips for getting the most out of your BPM system.
Start with quality data. "To optimize the benefits your business will receive from your BPM software, you need to start with quality data," said Scott Herron, CEO of MaintenanceNet, a provider of BPM solutions. "Ensure that your system is populated with actionable business intelligence so that you can further streamline business processes and avoid any setbacks caused by inaccurate or missing information."
Identify, model and analyze key business processes. "Use BPM to model and analyze key business processes – those that upon improvement would result in the most business benefits ... or improvement of key metrics," said M.A. Ketabchi, chief strategist at Progress Software. "Make sure you simulate the process based on expected scenarios and data – and engage your operation and business analysts and managers in this step."
Be realistic regarding adoption and results. "Instead of planning for every possible permutation, approval process, or exception, aim for 80 percent adoption," argued Daniel O'Leary, vice president of Global Solutions at LincWare. "You can always fall back to email or other systems for cases that are uncommon, and this will save you a ton of time and money and lead to higher user adoption."
Include your partners in your BPM ecosystem. "External sales/channel partners play an important role in bringing your product to market," noted Herron. "Grant them access to your BPM solutions when relevant, particularly those systems impacting sales cycles, sales transactions and service sales opportunities. As a result, you'll see shorter sales cycles and faster time-to-close ratios."
Start small. "Focus on critical services first," said Adam Propeck, BSM practice manager at 5x Technology. "Project teams often find themselves inundated with requests from other IT organizations to be the next in the pipeline after seeing the benefits brought about by a well-planned BPM implementation. Prevent scope-creep by selecting a reasonable number of processes and services to model and consider a phased project plan."
Automate those business processes that can be automated. Not only can business process automation eliminate tedious manual processes, "it can allow your business to extend its reach to address every opportunity for business process improvement," said Herron. "Through automation, your business will also realize greater profits and revenues."
Be cognizant of – and sensitive to – human workflow and the importance of integration. "When using your BPM system, don't overlook human workflow and integration functionality," cautioned Matthieu Hug, CEO of RunMyProcess. "BPM systems are an efficient way to ensure a project succeeds, especially if the BPM system allows proper integration of your company's platform. To get the most out of your BPM software, find the proper balance between integrating platforms and skilled workers. Be sure to see the BPM system as a way to ensure your project succeeds, but not as the sole factor for your company's success."
Apply a Business Rules Management System (BRMS) to your BPM process. "BRMS automates decision making of even the most complicated BPM processes," said Bob Schoettle, CMO of Corticon. "First, identify the decision-making steps in the process. Use a proven platform to capture the rules, ensure that they are complete and unambiguous, test them against real business scenarios and deploy them. Then, with this new process in place, rather than sending the results of the decision to a person's inbox and waiting for them to respond, send them to an automated decision-making service and transform this highly manual process into an automated decision-making process."
Visualize waste. "When using BPM software to document your current systems, use the tools to clearly identify waste in process steps," said Jeffrey Carr, partner at Ultra Consultants. "This visualization helps management understand the productivity loss that can occur with poor business processes."
Use your BPM system to identify bottlenecks. "Process improvement is achieved through identification and streamlining of process bottlenecks," said Anand Raman, vice president of Marketing for Newgen Software Technologies Limited.
Use social media to your advantage. "A new category of BPM software called collaborative operations management (COM) is emerging to infuse social media tools, such as Wikis, into network operations, customer care and other processes with a goal of improving operational efficiency and realizing dramatic cost savings," said Payal Kindiger, executive vice president of Marketing and Managed Services at generationE Technologies. "COM solutions allow businesses to simultaneously streamline and automate tasks, while also addressing inadequate collaboration processes by capturing and documenting unstructured workflows and making them available via Wikis that link people, tasks, tools and other resources."
Remember that BPM is not a one-step, one-time deployment. "Keep in mind that you are going to automate and deploy many processes and the processes you have already deployed will change," noted Ketabchi. So it's important to "establish process-change governance procedures and enlist the support of your IT organization to maintain the healthy operations of your BPM system – and proper change, migration, archiving and upgrade procedures."
Jennifer Lonoff Schiff is a regular contributor to EnterpriseAppsToday.com and runs a marketing communications firm focused on helping small and mid-sized businesses.