Business process management refers to how the business processes are designed, implemented, monitored, evaluated, etc. to ensure that they are always aligned to the organization’s objectives. By this, it is evident that this is not a static process, but rather, one which changes with various changes in the organization’s needs. This paper will look into particular factors of business process management including the benefits of streamlining it with the organization’s strategy and how a BPM project is initiated and implemented.
Role of Process Improvement Before Automation
Process improvement has been defined as the process through which a business sets out to improve its processes, products, or services so that it may achieve new goals like an increase of profits or reducing costs and wastage (Boutros & Purdie, 2013). Processes, on the other hand, are the series of activities that interact within an organization, are carried out in collaboration with one another, and which utilize available resources to achieve the set goals and objectives of the organization (Boutros & Purdie, 2013).
It is through processes that inputs are transformed into value-added outputs (Boutros & Purdie, 2013). Therefore, process improvement is the transformation of how organizational activities interact to attain new goals for the organization.
The idea that automation can solve every organizational problem has been revealed to be a myth (Lientz & Rea, 2009). Scholars have argued that if the automation process is introduced too early into the improvement process, it may lead to the exponential increase of problems and backlog as automation does not solve the problem, but rather the symptoms of the problem (Lientz & Rea, 2009). Automation, if introduced imprudently into the process improvement, will merely give a superficial impression that the issues which the process aims to solve have been dealt with. Furthermore, it has been argued that automation obscures the real problem and that the quick-fix approach may cost the business more than it helps the business to solve its problems (Lientz & Rea, 2009).
Process improvement should aim at looking at the causes of problems within the organization and solving them so that the organization can perform better. Carrying out process improvement before automation essentially helps the organization to solve the ‘black box’ and the ‘looking at the edges’ syndromes. The first one refers to a situation where the management is simply content with retaining processes because they work even though they cannot explain why or how (Jeston & Nelis, 2010).
They view the processes as a delicate black box that must not be interfered with. The latter syndrome is one where the organizational processes and workforce are not evaluated for performance effectiveness (Jeston & Nelis, 2010). Instead of investigating the causes of problems in the organization, the management is content to look at the edges. The problem of automating under such conditions has been described to be that automating something does not necessarily fix it (Jeston & Nelis, 2010). It may just lead to a situation where the problems multiply and occur at higher frequencies.
Therefore, the role of process improvement before automation is so that the management will effectively plan for the goals and direction of the business process improvement. It is definitely of more value to ensure that the process is right before the introduction of technology. Essentially, this is the stage at which the management should link the business process improvement with the objectives and goals of the organization. Once this is done, then automation can only enhance the success of the process and even then, it has been opined that the majority of improvements that are made in the short term do not even require automation (Jeston & Nelis, 2010).
The Importance of Organization Strategy and Architecture
Organizational strategy refers to the objectives, goals, and purposes of an organization and the plans and policies which have been put in place by a business to achieve them. These plans are stated in such a manner as to give an impression of what business the organization is in and what type of organization it aims to be (Wilczek, 2008). Essentially the strategy of the organization maps out what the business intends to accomplish and how it intends to do it. In the context of any planned change, considering the organizational strategy may mark the difference between successful implementation and failure.
In light of this, one of the important roles which are played by organizational strategy during process improvement is that it creates a context within which to implement the process improvement. Jeston and Nelis (2010) think that without knowledge of what the strategy of the organization is, the employees may find it had to understand what the process improvement aims to achieve and how these achievements are tied to the overall objectives of the organization.
Further, organizational strategy provides a structure for understanding and implementing changes. Without this structure, all the elements which play a vital role in the process improvement e.g. strategies, policies, objectives, and guidance will all be mixed up.
Jeston and Nelis (2010) have also asserted that another problem that faces implementation is that people do not understand the importance of process architecture. This is differentiated from the process model which is just a general illustration of the process improvement. However, a process architecture provides more in-depth and background information about the process including information on the existing processes (analysis of their strengths and weaknesses) and frameworks for creating future processes. Further, a process architecture includes all the guidelines and objectives which have formed the foundation of the process. While creating the process architecture, many important decisions are made including the guidelines and rules which are to govern the implementation process.
The benefits of the process architecture are that it provides a clear illustration of how the implementation of the process improvement will be carried out (Jeston & Nelis, 2010). It also shows all the factors which went into its creation thus enhancing clarity among the people who are meant to implement it (Jeston & Nelis, 2010). Furthermore, it provides an avenue through which people can clearly and effectively communicate the process’ objectives and outcomes (Jeston & Nelis, 2010).
In a nutshell, the organization strategy and process architecture bring more clarity and understanding to the process improvement. By incorporating process improvement into the organization’s strategy, the business can ensure that the objectives of the process are closely tied to and lead to the ultimate achievement of the organization’s underlying objectives. On the other hand, the process architecture is the strategic plan of the process improvement. It provides rules, guidelines, and procedures through which the projected change will be achieved. Further, it provides a framework for communication which plays a vital role in the implementation of any change project.
A Structure Approach to Implementing BPM
Business process management is a process that involves the definition, identification, design, execution, supervision, evaluation, and continuous improvement of the business’ processes (Dayal, Eder, & Koehler, 2009). Therefore, process management is not only about the formulation and design of processes but also about how they are implemented into the organization and how their effectiveness is determined.
Ideally, a structured approach to the implementation of business process management ensures that functional and management systems are harmonized and integrated so that the organization’s focus becomes to align the functions of all the departments towards common goals which have the customer experience at the center of them all (Boutros & Purdie, 2013).
The organizational structure that would be most appropriate for the implementation of the business process management is the process management structure. This structure is a management system that focuses on the process improvement towards achieving customer requirements (Boutros & Purdie, 2013). Moreover, it places a lot of emphasis on the way that all the activities of the organization contribute to this one end (Boutros & Purdie, 2013).
Also, it aims to ensure that the employees collaborate across the different departments of the organization and that they are aware of how the processes are performing. This structure is contrasted from the functional structure which divides the organization according to the functions which are carried out by each department (Boutros & Purdie, 2013). The disadvantage of this, however, is that there is little coordination between the departments, and decision-making processes usually take a long time due to existing bureaucracies.
Evaluation of the Framework
The first component of the BPM implementation framework processes. The organization must give importance to business processes and support them with a significant measure of innovation and design practices (Jeston & Nelis, 2010). Secondly, the people in the organization are also going to play a key role in the implementation framework (Jeston & Nelis, 2010). Therefore, they must understand and are included in the process design and creation.
Lastly, the technology of the organization also plays a fundamental role, especially in process improvement. Process improvement projects which do not incorporate the role of technology are predicted to regress faster to the pre-existing processes (Lientz & Rea, 2009).
The ten phases of the BPM implementation framework are organizational structure, process architecture, launchpad, understand, innovate, develop, people, implement, realize the value and sustainable performance (Jeston & Nelis, 2010). These processes are meant to cater to all the factors which may go into making the BPM project implementation successful. For instance, the launch pad phase is about determining where to begin the implementation process (Jeston & Nelis, 2006). Furthermore, the realize value phase enables the organization to determine whether the project is worth the investment and whether it should continue putting resources into it (Jeston & Nelis, 2006).
Use of the Framework (Jeston & Nelis, 2006)
First of all, the only effective way in which the framework can be used is if the organization which intends to use it abandons the one-size-fits-all approach to the implementation of business projects. Even though the business process management project is just another project, it must be embedded within the organizational structure and practices seamlessly for it to accomplish the objectives for which it is formed.
It is also important to note that not many organizations usually pay key attention to the processes which are required from the stage of introducing a BPM project into the organization to the stage where it is completely integrated into the business. This means that the phases which have been outlined and which constitute the framework do not necessarily roll out in the way that they have been presented. Every organization has to understand its own needs to properly utilize the framework for its purposes.
The two ways in which BPM projects are usually initiated are strategy-driven and operational initiative approaches. The strategy-driven approach is a top-down management approach of the organization’s processes. In this case, the management of the organization, which is in charge of strategy, determines that the implementation of certain projects will have an impact on the organization’s processes.
Therefore, to deal with this impact, they determine to redesign or alter some business processes which in turn results in the initiation of BPM projects. In this case, therefore, it is the organizational strategy that will determine that a BPM project is required, which processes will be affected, and consequently, which processes will form part of the BPM project. Conversely, the operational initiative approach is driven by the exigencies of the organization. The triggers for this project are usually found in a problem. In this case, the project is initiated at lower levels of the organization which will carry out the necessary research that is required to launch a BPM project. As a result of this, the organization strategy and process architecture phases may not be completely addressed.
The four BPM project scenarios are the business as usual, in the driver’s seat, pilot project, and under the radar scenarios. The business as usual scenario is adopted by the organizations which have fully mastered BPM. For these organizations, the BPM project is nothing more than business as a usual endeavor. The ‘in the driver’s seat’ scenario is preferred by organizations which, although they are not BPM mature, have a business manager who is fully informed and is willing to spearhead the BPM project.
In the pilot project, the manager is fully informed but is still unconvinced about the benefits of BPM. Therefore, he may opt to try it out on a small scale to determine its effectiveness. Lastly, an under the radar project is carried out by a partially informed manager who is not interested in BPM so that even though the project is successful, it does not capture the requisite management attention to be adopted on a wider scale.
In summary, business process management is an important component of business activities because how the different processes of an organization interact will determine whether it will successfully achieve its goals. Furthermore, these processes are not static, therefore, there may be projects which are implemented to improve them so that they can better help in the attainment of organizational goals. These projects may be initiated either by the top-level management or from a lower level of the organization which is facing a problem. On the whole, a business that perfects its BPM practices has the advantage of easily and efficiently adopting BPM projects which, in turn, provide an avenue for continuous improvement.
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Jeston, J., & Nelis, J. (2006). Business process management. Burlington, MA: Butterworth-Heinemann.
Jeston, J., & Nelis, J. (2010). Business process management (2nd ed.). Burlington, MA: Butterworth-Heinemann.
Lientz, B., & Rea, K. (2009). Achieve lasting process improvement. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
Wilczek, T. (2008). The classical model for practicing human resource management. University of Western Sydney, Parramatta.