Today’s economy requires organizations to take a pragmatic approach while managing productivity and costs. The mandate is to optimize efficient processes throughout the organization.
In the ongoing search to improve IT productivity, many companies are looking at business process management (BPM) as a means to increase productivity and extend system functionality without requiring rewrites of corporate policies and procedures.
The Business Process Automation Advantages
- Business Process Automation Management details how a business operates by analyzing the roles of personnel, areas of business, and processes. Business process automation (BPA) goes one step further by automating various aspects of those roles, areas, and processes to ensure consistent and repeatable performance.
- An important side benefit of BPA comes from capturing and preserving the business function knowledge of key individuals. This repository of business knowledge rewards organizations with increased productivity, a better understanding of the company’s structure, and formalized procedures that stay with the company even if process-founding workers leave.
- BPM helps an organization focus on acquiring, storing, and utilizing knowledge for such things as problem-solving, dynamic learning, strategic planning, and decision-making. It also protects intellectual assets from decay, adding to an organization’s overall intelligence and providing increased flexibility.
- Using BPM to automate activities also helps to monitor the progress or bottlenecks of a company. Once implemented, automated business processes can assist in the training of new employees or provide standardization of processes internally for use with the organization’s customers and/or suppliers.
To begin developing business process workflows, an organization needs to analyze how it works and what its people know and identify areas for improvement. Many organizations discover these areas as a process of continuous analysis, but as a general rule BPA has the greatest economic impact in situations where:
- Processes are currently managed via paper forms that are physically moved around the organization.
- Multiple employees or teams of employees are collaborating on a single document or unit of work.
- Approval steps are numerous and business-critical.
- Once the organization identifies an ideal area to be automated, the next step is implementation.
As with any project, selecting the right team members to create a BPA solution is crucial to its success. Along with the IT personnel needed to design, develop, and deploy an automated process, a workflow solution team should include one or two knowledge workers (also known as Subject Matter Experts), a business analyst, a business manager, and a technical writer.
As the process requirements are defined, the IT professional will consider whether to build a custom solution or purchase an existing BPM software solution.
The benefit of a custom solution is its flexibility and customization attributes. The downside is that the IT team will be responsible for the maintenance of the code. Internal development will also require significant resource commitments of time, equipment, and expertise.
If the choice is to purchase a BPM solution, it is important that the organization is clear about the cost and anticipated return on its investment. In addition, the team, including (potentially) the BPM vendor, needs to agree on projected deployment dates.
In either case, the quicker a workflow solution is made available, the sooner an organization will realize increased productivity, efficiency, and cost savings.
With time and budget concerns in mind, companies will often opt to purchase BPM software as they typically shorten development and deployment cycles.
BPM software automates the business process across the organization helping you track and monitor processes, which can improve accountability and visibility.
There are some important points to consider when purchasing a BPM tool:
- Integration with other systems
- Device support
A good BPM solution should provide wizards or an exposed application program interface (API) for integration in order to easily integrate with existing applications used in an office.
Scalability should be considered not only for the current number of users but with consideration for the number of future users that will be added in the future as additional workflow solutions are deployed.
Other factors, such as security, device support, and flexibility, are dependent on the actual deployment. If the workflow solution is strictly internal, it will have different specifications and requirements than one that is Web-based.
Since an important element in setting up a workflow process is the selection of the correct BPM software, organizations should further consider what that tool will provide.
It is important that organizations select a tool that provides the ability to model the process as well as to integrate the technology. Workflow solutions should incorporate reporting and monitoring capabilities. Management will require at-a-glance reporting.
Initially, as with any project, implementing workflow solutions is not without its growing pains; however, the benefits are numerous. Organizations point out that BPM/BPA has helped in the automation of administrative tasks as well as reducing the costs of transactions or business events.
These solutions have also improved the coordination of activities and information/knowledge sharing across departments and locations.
Once processes have been modeled and therefore automated, organizations have also been able to reduce the number of tasks required in a process or the number of users needed to complete a transaction. By eliminating redundancies, efficiency and productivity are increased.
This means quality improvement, fewer errors, higher productivity per person, as well as a reduction in the time required to complete a process. The likelihood of “something falling through the cracks” is greatly diminished.
BPM automation is not just a matter of decreasing or refining the number of tasks to complete a process. It is a business transformation project. It is a way of implementing new technology and tools, re-utilizing existing systems, and leveraging the human factor to help evolve an organization as a more successful business.