How to Succeed in Implementing BPM
When you decide to implement a BPM system, it is important to:
- Get the most out of BPM.
- Understand what results you can achieve by implementing BPM.
To make the expected results more specific, it is also important to remember about three key factors, affecting the outcome of business process automation:
- A company has several types of processes and each of them requires a different approach when automating.
- Processes are on different maturity levels, and you should choose reasonably, on which processes to spend company’s resources.
- There are certain procedures you have to follow when automating processes.
Let us take a closer look at each of the factors.
1. Process Types
Each company has one or several activity areas. Any activity area comprises operation and development.
Fig. 1. Company’s activity area
Development is related to creating new activity areas and rescaling the existing ones. Predictability of business process will not be of any use here.
Operation is about manageable functioning of the company. Since predictability is important here (the entire company depends on it), process approach finds its use in operation (fig. 1).
Company operation can be divided into several types of processes:
- Management processes
- Main processes
- Supporting processes
A BPM system can automate and manage processes of these types, conforming to their specific features.
Management processes are necessary for the company to function, since together they make up the management system. These include financial processes, strategic and operational planning, development project planning and so on.
The management system of a company constantly evolves and the structure changes. Therefore, management processes have a short life cycle.
A BPM system allows you to swiftly modify a management system, since it is able to flexibly adapt to the company’s changes, growth and development.
Main processes are groups of processes, which generate the added value for the company. These are the procurement, production, sales and service processes.
Such processes are complex both in terms of business and IT support (often, several IT systems are used).
BPM systems structure processes of this type for the business users, by defining inputs, outputs and swimlanes. It is also useful for IT, as it connects different IT systems together. Thus, you get an organized and clear flow of information. Business processes have the ability to improve, which provides high adaptability to changes in business.
Supporting processes (HR, accounting, IT support) usually have simple structure, and, at first sight, unfulfilling them does not cause too many losses. However, they are quite numerous and unless they are automated, the main business processes stumble, because people have to take care of small things, instead of increasing the company’s profit. As a result, the total costs rise.
Implementation of BPM allows regulating activities within these processes.
2. Process Maturity Levels
Initial. Processes on this level are sets of unstable solutions and the output is hardly predictable.
Repeatable. Actions of some process participants are defined; there is a basic logical chain of activities.
Defined. Processes are standardized and stable. Best practices and process management experience is used at this level. Processes are scalable, which allows the company to develop without using too many resources.
Managed. Detailed measures of the processes and their outputs are collected, analyzed and controlled.
Optimizing. Processes are continuously improved. BPM is required for processes on this level.
To spend less time and effort on executing a business process, you have to optimize its policies by considering these procedures:
Fig. 2. Procedures of an executable process
It is very important to think through process initiation conditions. You have to consider the factors, which would motivate an employee to start a process.
There are three ways to start a process:
- Automatically, triggered by an event (from external system, by timer, incoming message)
- As part of another process (as a process step)
3.2. Execution Control
Once a process is started, you have to control its execution. BPMS provides tools for monitoring the current status of a process (My Processes section in ELMA).
However, there is a more convenient and flexible tool – sending notifications (sms, email and so on) to the process initiator and participants at different stages.
3.3. Process Execution
The duration and the result of an executable process have to be predictable.
If an existing process has been automated, it is considered beneficial, if:
- the automation is done according to the regulations
- issues, involving executors are resolved (see below)
- the process may have been improved during automation
If the process is implemented from scratch, the following aspects are important:
- the process model is designed correctly
- when interviewing, a relevant As-is and To-be model is developed.
- the As-is process is thoroughly designed
- the To-be process is implemented, as well as the transition from As-is to To-be
3.3.1. Issues, involving executors
Policies often do not correspond to the actual practice. Sometimes it is more reasonable to execute a process not as it is described in its policies. For example, by assigning a different executor for a task. There are tools for managing such a process, such as dynamic assigning, dynamic swimlanes, and escalation.
An “engineer” is selected as a task executor, but the task has to be assigned to a particular engineer, who is picked according to some verbal agreements. After implementing BPM, such verbal agreements cannot function.
Different options are possible in this case. For example, if engineers work in shifts, then a role model will work better than a personal model.
The policies are written down, but are not implemented, because the process is ineffective. To remedy it, when implementing, you have to use the process improvement mechanism and assign a team of specialists, who will analyze the actual situation.
When modeling a process and selecting executors, you have to consider the possibility, that an employee is absent, which means you need a substitution mechanism.
General rule: implement integration, only when it is necessary. First, you have to get the process going, provide manual data transfer between systems in particular points, and then integrate the systems, where it is required. In this case, integration is less expensive.
However, there are exceptions:
- There are too many transactions;
- Data exchange between systems has to be in real time.
In these cases, integration is necessary.
There are four ways of integration:
- Starting a process from an external system. It involves the following risks: the initiator-system is unavailable; the information channel does not work, the BPM system does not work.
- Synchronizing objects. You have to define, which system is the main one
- Using functions in external applications. Risks: error when executing an operation in an external system, long response time
- Saving data in external systems. Recommendation: do not break the data consistency of the external system. Use API for developing the integration.
3.5. Process Monitoring
Monitoring is important for a process to reach the fourth maturity level. You have to predict any possible problems and deviations.
There are two types of monitoring in BPM systems:
1. Periodic control
In this case, a control point is defined, where the process (instances, indicators, trends) is analyzed. An interface allows controlling indicators on each of the process instances, detecting deviations and monitoring dynamics.
2. On-line control
If an action is supposed to be executed over a certain period, you have to provide for an instruction, in case the due dates shift. The escalation mechanism covers it.
3.6. Process Documentation
One of the key requirements to the processes on the third maturity level is independence from executors. To provide it, you have to create detailed instructions.
- Documents on each step of the process (for referencing when working in a BPM system)
- Guide on the process (policies in an understandable fashion)
- Guide on the process group
BPM patterns are methodological BPM tools, which ensure successful BPM implementation.
When a company decides to implement BPM, it should choose one of the patterns, that would suit it best:
Pattern #0. Business process automation
Pattern #1. Group of supporting processes
Pattern #2. Services catalogue
Pattern #3. Integration with the IT systems of a company
Pattern #4. Company’s process bus
Pattern #5. Automation of the main business process
Pattern #6. Automation of parts of the main business process (transition processes)
Pattern #7. Automation of a set of management processes
Pattern #8. Object-oriented BPM
Pattern #9. BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) via BPMS
Pattern #10. Outside control of business processes
Let us take one of the patterns as an example.
The services catalogue pattern is based on the idea that a company consists of several sub-companies, which provide services to each other, as an alternative to cooperation via tasks. Each of the divisions has its specific business processes and regulations.
Fig. 3. Services Catalogue pattern
This pattern includes the list of services inside the company. The pattern regulates relationships between the company’s divisions, in terms of providing services to an internal customer.
Before implementing a pattern, you have to define, what maturity level you are going to reach.
A big company needs the fourth maturity level. A developing company should go step by step through all the levels. Reaching and maintaining a maturity levels comes at a price.
This pattern also prioritizes sets of activities, which allows concentrating on the most important ones.
Conclusion: maximum benefit of using BPM
Conditions for getting the maximum benefit:
- Appropriate tool
- Appropriate patterns
- Appropriate maturity level
If these conditions are met and the company spends its resources wisely, the maximum benefit of using BPM systems can be obtained.
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