Using a BPMS to Enable Process Transformation

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Director / owner, Lithe IT Ltd
Anthony is a BCS Chartered IT professional, with over 15 years IT experience, working mostly in Financial Services and the UK Public sector. Having worked as an IT Director, he is passionate about helping businesses successfully use technology to increase agility. He formed Lithe IT to help further this aim.

This article offers advice on how to use a BPMS to support process transformation across three specific business areas.  When an organization uses a BPMS to enable empowerment, focus on quality and compliance, and remove unnecessary human touches, it will gain great rewards.

The technology available to exploit these opportunities will vary across vendor solutions, but it is valid to assume at least basic support exists in the majority of solutions on the market.

Decide on Empowerment Levels to support Managers and Workers
When empowerment is considered during process design it influences how workers and managers interact with the system, defining what each individual is able to change without support from IT. If not considered, the system will typically become the property of IT, where even the smallest modification will require a change request.

Operational targets and priorities often change, so it is important to decide who keeps the BPMS up to date. If this responsibility is delegated to managers, they will be more likely to take ownership of the system as it is helping them with their job. When the ability for managers to effect change is too slow or restrictive, it can lead to the introduction of shadow systems, normally in the form of Excel spread sheets, leaving the main system out of date.

Managers can spend large amounts of time allocating work. The BPMS can be configured to take on this job, freeing management effort to be focused on higher value activities. The approach to work allocation will depend on the type of activity being assigned, and the desired empowerment model.

Knowledge workers typically respond best when empowered to select tasks from prioritized work lists. These lists need to indicate business priority and due dates for each item, but knowledge workers will want to retain discretion over which task they complete next.

A different approach is required for administrative roles. Each task presented tends to have similar complexity and predictable outcomes. These types of groups work best when tasks are automatically assigned according to priority, without requiring the administrator to pick from a list.

By focusing on empowerment, an organization will ensure that the system provides the support each worker, manager and process needs. This will create the potential to transform the role of the manager, improve effectiveness of workers, and deliver overall process improvement.

Build Compliance and Quality into Processes at Design Time
When work allocation is managed by the BPMS, management time becomes available to focus on higher value activities of raising quality and compliance. The quantity of quality checks undertaken can be increased as work allocation is removed from managers. As managers perceive the importance of their transformed role, they are less likely to resist the change.

Quality checks are typically completed within teams, by managers and senior staff. The most common approach is to introduce sign-off authorization activities into processes which are required when specific circumstances occur. These are normally linked to financial thresholds and require an audit record to show authorization was given. Care must be taken not to overdo these checks as this can delay process completion.

Leading BPMS support process sampling to verify quality. Specific activities are randomly sampled, depending on the importance of the process and the competence of the worker completing the activity, and assigned to a manager to check. This approach provides a greater breadth of quality checks as all human interactions most likely to need improvement can be targeted.

Compliance checks are different. These provide an independent verification that human centric activities are being completed in accordance with policy and procedure. These checks are not typically on the critical path for process completion, and work best when they are operated at a sample level by a compliance team. When compliance checks are managed by the BPMS, it provides an audit trail of their completion allowing the effectiveness of the compliance team to be measured.

A focus on compliance and quality will lead to an improved customer experience and better overall control. With leading BPMS solutions, it is possible for organizations to build these directly into processes and gain visibility of the level and outcomes of the checks being undertaken.

Remove Unnecessary Human Interaction in Processes
Process speed and costs are transformed when unnecessary human interactions are removed from them. When implementing a BPMS, the process designers should challenge each human touch included in processes to leave only those required.

Some processes are human centric, as found in case management organizations. These still offer many opportunities to remove unnecessary touches. Using lean, Six Sigma, or even common sense to assess the value of each touch will deliver success. Configuring business rules to identify process flow to automate, and ensuring that activities are only presented for human interaction when ready to be worked on, will reduce human effort in complex and dynamic processes.

Automation provides the solution to avoid re-keying of data. The choice of BPMS will often be greatly influenced by the systems it needs to interact with. IT effort should be focused to ensure interfaces exist to allow the BPMS to update all line of business applications to remove manual tasks.

A BPMS can also be used to chase overdue tasks, by generating reminders, emails or letters, without requiring human intervention. Business rules can be defined to automate tolerance checking, advising managers only when exceptions occur.

Process transformation will occur when process design attempts to eliminate unnecessary human interaction. Fewer human touches leads to improved consistency and speed of execution, and will result in a lower process execution cost. A BPMS will help enable this.

A BPMS can provide the catalyst to transform how business processes operate. This article outlines three areas where challenging how people and processes operate, will lead to a BPMS enabling business transformation, resulting in a dramatic increase in ROI.
Implementing a BPMS represents an opportunity not to be missed.

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