Making the Complex Simple – How best to streamline and automate business processes


I work with various organisations and in my experience, they are typically in various states of maturity in terms of their understanding and adoption of BPM. The one thing I do tend to find  is that they all seem to share common problems.

In this post I have listed some of the ones that I come across and also explain an approach that can be adopted to help move them from a reactive business to one that is more proactive and dynamic in making better decisions.

Organisations are inherently composite and complex ecosystems in which business processes are pervasive. This complexity generally manifests itself in various ways and can include the following:

  • Management and employees have difficulty in making correct decisions due to not having accurate and timely information.
  • Information is of devoid of business context (not seen in as part of a business process) and therefore may lead inconsistent decisions.
  • Planning is often difficult due to ‘broken’ processes, poor working practices and inconsistent information.
  • IT systems that support the various business processes act as inhibiters rather than enablers as they are typically designed deployed and managed as information islands or stove pipes.
  • Enforcing business rules, policies and procedures is an arduous task due to poor process visibility, accurate real time information and no integrated or consistent auditing.

Business Process Management (BPM) is the solution that helps solve these problems.
It is a business management discipline that enables an organisation to analyse, model, automate and redesign their business processes in a way that improves business effectiveness.

Using BPM and specifically a human workflow system, organisations can achieve savings and efficiencies that streamline and automate business activities. Thus, BPM and a BPMS provides a springboard to business innovation, allowing organisations to dramatically improve such activities as winning business, recruiting and hiring, budget formulation and reporting, inventory management, customer service and support.

Unfortunately, many organisations experience frustration and even repeated failure when trying to implement BPM solutions. Problems often start with missed deadlines, perhaps because the implementation team did not fully understand all of the activities and steps required for implementing BPM. Delays lead to cost overruns, and soon the organisation is forced to take shortcuts and scale back its BPM solution to avoid further expenses.

Moreover, once the original deadline is missed, organisations often must adapt the BPM implementation to new business developments and strategies – thus spurring an endless cycle of change and delay.

A pragmatic approach to delivering BPM success is to simplify the related business and project complexity associated with BPM implementations by focusing on the following key principles:

  • Identify and Prioritise the Opportunities
    Identify a clear and important business problem and the associated business process(es) with the input from business stakeholders is the first step.
  • Prove the Value
    Having chosen the process that will deliver the most benefit and address the identified business problem; creating a business case that demonstrates a measurable return on investment (ROI) is recommended.
  • Implement the First Process
    A very focused business requirement (narrow project scope), an iterative design and build approach combined with the feature rich capabilities of a human workflow system ensures that it is possible to deploy solutions in a short time frame. We typically recommend a 30 to 90 day window as being realistic, depending on the scope of the requirements.
  • Extend into other Process Areas
    Having implemented the first process successfully and in a short time, it is possible to show measurable business value and thereby help lay the foundation for further incremental releases of the same process and/or the introduction of new business processes.

Click to Enlarge

Adopting this approach ensures business managers and stakeholders can identify, prioritise and deliver automated business processes that deliver measurable business value on an ongoing basis while mitigating risks and delays.

Update Feb 2009 – PS: Have a look at this excellent article from from Kevin Swenson on the subject.

This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.

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6 thoughts on “Making the Complex Simple – How best to streamline and automate business processes

  1. Pingback: BPM Adoption – Organisational Factors that Influence Changeability | Virtusa Official Blog

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