The time is ripe for smart Business Process Management, or BPM.
BPM speaks in terms that C-level executives understand: BPM aligns IT with business needs; BPM reduces costs and optimizes operational efficiencies; and, BPM increases productivity -- three crucial tools that allow IT to work for an organization, not against it.
First, BPM Aligns IT With Business Needs. IT owns and controls technology. In most enterprises, this includes the persistence of, and access to, information that business users need to make decisions. It also includes the applications that business users employ to accomplish their tasks. Many of us in IT have stories involving a business user blaming IT for a technical failure only to discover that the coffee-stained or unplugged computer is the true culprit. IT managers use these stories to support why business users cannot provision their own technology.
But Generation Y, and the latter part of Generation X, are ushering in a technically savvy workforce. This generation is empowering themselves with technology to assist in accomplishing their tasks. IT attempts to restrict them from doing so through IT culture and policy. CIOs are realizing that business users are developing applications out of mission necessity because the data they need to make decisions or the infrastructure they need to accomplish their tasks are not available from IT, and IT's estimates to create these systems do not satisfy business budget and timeline constraints.
In most cases, the IT organization is informed after the implementation, which means these systems do not have the advantage of IT enterprise architecture, governance, etc -- things that IT does well, and should continue to do to facilitate business users provisioning their own technology. A successful implementation of BPM does not restrict empowered, technically savvy business users. Rather, BPM promotes a collaborative environment that can rapidly automate processes, where business users design processes while IT facilitates the infrastructure required to deploy the processes, provides the necessary integration points to reuse existing systems and services, and ensures compatibility with enterprise architecture standards and IT governance.
Forrester Research predicts that by 2020 empowered business technology will be commonplace in organizations. BPM is an obvious path to that state. In fact, according to the IBM CIO Survey of 2011, 99 percent of the CIOs with a mandate to transform their business are looking into BPM to provide better internal collaborative processes to assist in that transformation.
Second, BPM Reduces Costs and Optimizes Operational Efficiencies. The last few years have elevated the insatiable internal need for cost cutting. The volatile business marketplace continues to demand additional cost-cutting measures. BPM helps organizations develop smarter business processes designed to increase operational efficiencies and reduce costs.
There is a saying in the BPM world: "If you can model it, you can monitor it, and if you can monitor it, you can improve it." BPM provides visibility into organization processes and workflows across the enterprise. Non-standard processes are common in many organizations. They usually require additional rework by staff, resulting in unique results that are difficult to be repeated a second time. BPM can model, monitor, and manage these processes to standardize the activities in order to deliver expected results, while reducing rework and associated costs.
Finally, BPM Increases Business Productivity. As important as cost reduction is, most organizations understand that future corporate growth depends on improving productivity. Companies that fail to innovate will fall behind in this volatile, global marketplace where commoditization is prevalent. BPM can help foster innovation through streamlined processes, such as reducing unnecessary inefficiencies in supply chain processes. For example, RedBox did not invent movie rentals, but has out-innovated Blockbuster to take over 2nd place in the movie rental industry. Amazon's innovation is the converse of Borders' lack thereof.
One of my current clients is a private sector organization, and productivity for this client is not about increased revenue. BPM generates a competitive advantage for the enterprise by enhancing the quantity and quality of intelligence that this organization creates. BPM will help produce more actionable intelligence -- with estimates at as much as twice the production pre-BPM -- by automating processes, measuring key performance indicators, aligning tasks to best resources, and collaborating throughout the intelligence-creation processes.
It is not surprising that there exist as many definitions of BPM as there are vendors of BPM software, but many agree that one of the core drivers for BPM is "business agility." Depending on the definition, the BPM market is five to 30 years old. But now is the time for BPM, because BPM is driving business agility through aligning IT with business needs, reducing costs and optimizing operational efficiencies, and increasing productivity through marketplace innovation. The BPM train is leaving the station; those organizations not on are likely to fall to a demise of Blockbuster or Borders.