BPM Resurgence

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Business process management (BPM) has been quietly undergoing resurgence as organizations gradually recognize the central role of process in digital transformation. Some industry observers have argued that process is sizzling, while others have pointed out that for BPM to achieve a renaissance it will require greater scale, flexibility, and collaboration than what was previously the norm.

BPM – when deployed as a management discipline – can create the needed context to effectively communicate strategic objectives and plans with middle management and employees and improve the odds of success with digital business. Granted, digital transformation is challenging. While two-thirds of businesses recognized that their company must digitize by 2020 in order to stay competitive, a number of world class companies such as GE, Ford and others have invested heavily in digital initiatives, only to find that 70% of their investments was wasted on failed programs.

Why has there been so much waste? Is it because there’s just too much focus on departmental issues? Maybe launching too many projects, failing to share a common view on priorities, and a disproportionate emphasis on cost reduction are also some of the culprits? Strong departmental silos can produce a lack of agreement on priorities across functional lines. No wonder it was recently estimated that over 65% of well-formulated strategies failed due to poor execution.

Companies will only achieve BPM’s full potential when it is treated as a management discipline (not just a tool set). This calls for adopting a number of new practices and ceasing to engage in some other, outdated approaches. The first – and arguably – the most important aspect of BPM as a management discipline has to be based on viewing the business from the “outside-in” or the customers’ point of view. This is dramatically different than the traditional emphasis on simple back office processes and recognizes the power of process in driving a digital transformation that starts with the customer. When viewing the business from the outside-in, it’s important to cease modeling small processes within departmental boundaries and discontinue the practice of focusing solely on cost reduction.  In many organizations BPM has developed a bad reputation due to excessive effort spent on modeling small business processes – with little or no performance improvement. That has to stop!

In order to achieve a high degree of focused management attention that’s needed for sustainable, profitable growth, leaders need to shift attention to what creates value for customers. This can best be accomplished when there is close integration between customer journey maps and the end-to-end processes that create value for customers at key touchpoints. That typically calls for close collaboration between CX teams and BPM teams. By viewing the business in a process context from the customer’s point of view, leaders will be better able to identify the metrics of quality and timeliness that matter most to customers. BPM also provides leaders with a different – and more balanced lens – to prioritize projects and encourages the integration of technologies such as robotic process automation (RPA) and process mining.

Modeling small processes inside departmental boundaries also has to come to an end. When BPM is limited to examining processes within departmental silos, its power to drive collaboration is severely limited. However, when BPM is deployed as a management discipline to examine large, cross-functional, customer touching process, it helps executives avoid the pitfall of being too internally focused.  In this way, some of the major pitfalls to avoid in digital transformation can be avoided – such as launching too many digital projects at the same time, deploying tools individually instead of integrating them for optimal impact and avoiding unspoken disagreement among senior leaders on objectives. Then, BPM can be instrumental in identifying the high gain projects – and it can shine a light on the importance of how digital projects affect the entire company and serve to break down both departmental and data silos.

A customer centered, process based view of business can also help companies recognize that success with digital transformation is more about talent – than technology. This will only happen when organizations put people first, drive projects from the top and place emphasis on quality – not quantity. In other words, focus on the high potential projects that create value for customers and also invest in soft skills needed for success with change management.  According to MIT Sloan, more mature digital organizations don’t tolerate skill gaps. More than 75% of respondents from these companies agree that their organizations need to build the necessary skills to capitalize on digital trends.

By focusing on what matters to customers and ceasing to expend energy in modeling small processes within departmental boundaries, organizations can position themselves to define the critical few value creating processes that need improvement or perhaps even redesign. This then sets up an important dialogue on where to improve the value streams or end-to-end processes that form the core of the organization’s operating model. That increases the likelihood of success with digital transformation – as management attention is shifted to concentrate on three key areas: customer experience, operational processes and operating models.


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