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What is BPM?

An article by Naana Bodomo

Do you remember playing ‘telephone’ as a child? After a chain of mischievous whispers, the final player would say a sentence aloud and the original message would come out hilariously distorted. Although our innocent minds were decades away from the corporate world, ‘telephone’ was an excellent analogy for what happens in the business world when there is poor communication and planning.

When we fail to meticulously manage our workflows and processes, there are several consequences that can put our organizations at risk. But do not fear – Business Process Management (BPM) is here.

What is BPM?

BPM is a methodology that involves a combination of modeling, automating and measuring business activity flows for the purpose of optimum organizational performance. This process involves several inputs consisting of people, phases and systems.

Business Process Management Software (BPMS) is the vessel for BPM. It creates a visual depiction of the workflow and data in an organization and enforces the ways in which processes are performed with the help of analysis and automation.

Why do we need BPM?

In Japan, home to the world’s busiest rail network, every single train attendant on every platform is required to perform a process called ‘pointing and calling’. They must point at and shout the name of every potentially hazardous object prior to the departure of each train. This seemingly trivial process successfully reduced accidents by 85% and has saved hundreds of lives.

As an organization grows and becomes busier, it is only natural for workflows to become harder to track and for messages to get lost in translation as they are transferred through departments. However, when a clear and strong system is put into place, errors can be almost completely eradicated and we can avoid the common scenarios that happen in organizations where BPM has not been implemented such as:

  • Wasted time
  • Unclear liability
  • Duplicated efforts
  • Unnecessary costs
  • Employee dissatisfaction
  • Poor resource management

All such risks are mitigated once an efficient BPM system has been put into place. Each step of BPM is constructed to refine business units of such error.

What are the steps of BPM?

There are a variety of ways to lay out the steps of BPM, however they all center around almost identical content. Here, we will break down the stages of BPM into just 4 simple steps:

Step 1: Design
Every creation begins with a design. This initial stage involves collecting data to map a workflow and allocating tasks between departments. Using BPM software to model visual tools can aid us in illustrating the flow of information in an organization. For example, here at FireStart we allow users to create advanced flowcharts with which they can assign roles to various tasks.

Step 2: Execute
Next, it’s time to put your money where your mouth is. Execution is essentially carrying out the processes that were earlier identified and designed. This often includes a testing phase using a small human sample in order to catch any flaws that may have been overlooked in previous stages.

Step 3: Monitor
Monitoring is tracking the processes from stage to stage like you would with a DHL package. This helps members of the system stay up to date on their status and performance in the workflow. Monitoring also gives us an opportunity to further streamline the processes by helping us identify inefficiencies and bottlenecks in the system. It is important to use the right metrics when monitoring in order to accurately measure progress, efficiency and errors. FireStart even offers live workflow monitoring which always lets you know how the execution is progressing.

Step 4: Optimize
For the same reason that athletes keep training even when they’ve beaten their best record, BPM systems should constantly evolve so that business units can always be reaching their greatest potential. Therefore, optimization is a never-ending process. Optimization can be carried out with the help of process improvement methods like Agile, Lean Thinking or Six Sigma. These methodologies can effectively analyze systems, deal with change management, and improve workflow. Optimization is made easy with FireStart’s Business Process Intelligence toolkit with which users can check live data on active workflows and even review a six-month performance.

Types of BPM

There are 3 types of BPM, all of which are usually incorporated in every BPMS to varying degrees. However, there is always one prominent system in place. The different types of BPM are:

Document-centric BPM
If your business process centers around a document such as a contract, this is the best route for you to take. Document-centric BPM enables the efficient routing, formatting, verifying, and signing of documents as tasks pass along the workflow.

Integration-centric BPM 
Technology runs the show with this type of BPM which requires little human involvement. Integration-centric BPM is a more traditional type of BPM which deals with large volumes of repetitive transactions that fluctuate between existing systems at a fast pace.

Human-centric BPM
While Integration-centric BPM requires us to think more like the software, this type of BPM requires the software to think more like us. As the name suggests, human-centric BPM processes are primarily performed by people. It is therefore characterized by easy notifications, quick tracking, and a friendly user interface. For instance, FireStart uses  no coding, rapid deployment, and offers a premium Microsoft-esque application interface.

What does BPM look like?

Now that you have an overview of the inner workings of BPM, let’s take a look at some examples of how it can benefit some of the departments with the highest activity levels in your business:

Human Resources Department
Ever been to a job interview where you had to fill out copious amounts of paperwork? Well with a BPMS, HR processes can be automated from beginning to end. Not only does this save time and money when onboarding new hires, it also makes interactions with existing employees far easier. For example, employees can request vacation approval entirely through the BPMS rather than having to exchange multiple e-mails back and forth between HR and management.

Sales Department
One tiny typo on an invoice can be one huge problem for the sales department. Luckily, the entire invoicing process can be automated using BPMS. This leaves no room for human error and helps limit unnecessary back and forth communication between the sales team and the Accounts Receivable team.

Finance Department
Money is the fuel of every business. So naturally, the finance department tends to receive a whopping amount of paperwork on a daily basis and countless requests for approval. Things can easily get chaotic with this volume of work so BPMS can make a big difference in this department. For example, travel requests can be approved by just one click.

Implement BPM Today

With careful process management, we can all achieve excellent and efficiency in our businesses. Let’s leave the unnecessary mistakes and miscommunications in the nostalgic memories of our childhood parties. By downloading BPMS like FireStart, you will get the message across every time and still have a smile on your face at the end of the game.

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