Can you cure a bad business process with BPM software?

By | May 17, 2010 | BPM

In my previous post, I went through a number of disadvantages to ad-hoc business processes.  So is business process management software the magical cure for ad-hoc business processes?

No, yes, and sometimes.

If you have a weak process design with little documentation and poor performance, slapping BPM software on top will not solve anything.  It might actually make the problem worse by institutionalizing the process failure.  BPM software works best for processes that have been through a “process discovery” phase during which they were thoughtfully considered, documented, and prepared for migration to a BPM software system.  A bad process with BPM software on top is still a bad process.

But if the business process is mature (i.e. has good documentation, design, and performance), or could be matured relatively quickly, then it may be a great candidates for automation in a BPM system.  BPM software can automate tasks, reduce redundant data entry, save employees from drowning in a sea of paper-based forms, cut Excel and email out of the process, centralize process data, send automatic messages and alerts, and take care of the dirty work so employees and managers can focus on their jobs.  So if a business process is already mature, or can be brought up to speed relatively quickly through process discovery, then BPM software may very well solve its problems.

Even if you decide to use BPM software, it is important to think about the problems or pain points you’re trying to resolve, to see if your BPM software package is the right tool to solve them.  Take the problem of inflexible IT infrastructure, for example.  A good solution for this problem would be a BPM software tool that allows for DIY process mapping and configuration, allowing managers to modify and improve workflows without requiring heavy IT involvement.  So when looking for a BPM tool, make sure you find one that will makes processes more adaptable rather than more static.

Likewise, to solve an inefficiency or waste problem, look for a BPM software package with business dashboards and reports, to allow managers to find bottlenecks in processes and forecast and model resources—such as staff allocations for different shift cycles.  A user-friendly BPM system will then allow those same managers to adjust and adapt processes to achieve maximum efficiency and respond to changing business needs.

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