BPM Systems Backed with Real Time Analytics and Social Integration are the Future
BPM, in essential, stands for Business Process Management which is a discipline that treats organizational processes as assets and provides a framework to manage them. While businesses have traditionally been documenting, studying and re-engineering their core processes for decades, this discipline has become extremely relevant to businesses today because of some major business trends a) rapid globalization of businesses b) frequent mergers and acquisitions c) creation of new business models d) fondness for scale. While these are great trends that drive value to the customer, where businesses fail is in building or scaling up their process infrastructure to support the growth of business. What good is a company’s strategy to expand into say Africa if their invoicing or opportunity management processes do not support that. Or how can a US based restaurant chain sustain its business in a new geography in APAC if its procurement process does not accommodate local laws and regulations.
Over the years, BPM has evolved at various levels:
• Evolution through the full life cycle: BPM consists of three elements – a) Process Discovery b) Process Execution and c) Process Measurement and Analysis. Process Discovery is the act of studying and documenting end to end processes either on the white board or in tools like Word or Visio. Process execution is the conversion of process diagrams into code using technology. Process Measurement and Analysis measures key process metrics after the process execution phase and compares it against the originally agreed upon goals. If there is a huge gap between the two, further refinement of the process happens and the cycle continues until all goals are met. Earlier, companies used to focus only on process discovery. Gradually, they progressed to Process Execution with the arrival of BPM product suites. Of late, we are seeing a lot of companies round off their BPM journey by measuring and comparing process results. This is primarily because BPM purchases are owned by business and not IT departments any longer.
• Journey through the process spectrum: In the early days of BPM adoption, organizations automated their peripheral processes like IT help desk or employee onboarding. While these initiatives generated some benefits, they were incremental, at best. Through the years, what we have noticed is that more and more organizations starting using BPM as a strategic tool and leveraged it to transform their core business processes like loan origination for a bank, policy administration for an insurer or new menu introduction for a restaurant chain. As a result, organizations started realizing more value from their BPM investments.
• Transfer of decision making from IT to Business: Of late, we are also seeing that most BPM programs are owned by business. What this means is that organizations embark on these programs with clearly defined business problems that need to be solved. There are also clear linkages between these problems and processes that need to be addressed. These are no longer technology driven decisions. Eg. In the past, customers approached us for help in implementing BPM solutions because they “wanted to replace legacy systems or retire an existing product”. Today, it is more like “improving customer intimacy” or “sharpening outbound campaign efforts”. However, this does not mean that IT is being pushed out of the decision making process. We see much stronger collaboration between the two functions and IT personnel are developing business skills, in the process.
• Advance in BPMS or BPM product suites: This is another area where there is tremendous progress in the last decade. BPMS vendors have transformed from building plain vanilla work flow products to integrated BPM suites and intelligent BPM suites.Also, today, when we think of BPM, it has different connotations to different people. On one hand, BPM could just mean plain automation of existing processes and workflows. On the other extreme, BPM is considered to be extremely strategic with the advent of iBPM or intelligent BPM.
Today, when we talk of BPMS suites, several functionalities come to mind – work flow management, business rules management, enterprise integration, analytics, process modelling, cloud, mobile and social media integration. There is also a wide selection of products in the market with varying degrees of fulfilment of these functions. On one end, we have pure play product vendors like Pegasystems and Appian and on the other end, are products from enterprise software vendors like Oracle, IBM and Microsoft. There is no one size that fits all in this space. Prospective BPM customers need to understand and document their business objectives, specific environmental challenges and technology landscape before evaluation and selection of the right product to support their needs.
Future of BPM
One of the visible trends that we are seeing and will continue to see in the future is the gradual death of the term “Business Process Management”. This does not mean that BPM, as a concept is dying. What this means is that BPM is successfully making its journey of adoption from plain work flow automation to something much more transformational and game-changing for organizations. Of late, BPM as a term, is being replaced by Customer Relationship Management, Case Management, Marketing Automation and Sales force automation. This is because the customer (both internal and external) has become the centrepiece of an organization and the key metric that they track is customer experience. A point to be noted is the broad definition of the term “customer”. It is no longer just the entity that buys your product and pays for it. It has come to embody all stakeholders that a business interacts with on a regular basis. Recently, we spoke to a hospital chain that wanted to build a customer experience transformation platform that managed the interactions of all stakeholders of the hospital including insurance companies, patients, individual doctors, labs, other hospitals and pharmaceutical suppliers. This focus on customer experience inevitably leads to the adoption of the new-age technologies like analytics, social and mobile. These new technologies have become the cornerstone of any BPM or CRM solution. Social media integration provides a channel for customer feedback to be received by the appropriate groups within the organization to be acted upon. Analytics helps tap into historical data from systems of record as well as real-time data, create meaningful insights which can then be fed into BPM or CRM systems that can initiate the appropriate action. Thus BPM systems backed with real time analytics and social integration is the future.