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Business Process Management (BPM)

A Business Process is a sequence of functions that are executed by organizational units, according to appropriate process logic, using any required enabling data. In layman’s terms, a business process is a sequence of activities that are executed to perform a particular task.

Since managers are interested in how work is performed, business process knowledge is critical for controlling and improving work performance and output. Optimized business processes result in lower cost, and in many cases, targeted competitive advantage. Some business processes are executed manually, but others can be automated. In fact, the discipline that is called Management Information Systems is by and large about the automation of business processes. Information technologies and systems can be used to eliminate manual steps, making processes more efficient, reducing errors, and improving cycle times. EII has deep core capabilities in helping organizations understand, document, and optimize their business processes.

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Business processes enable enterprise productivity, and technologies and systems enable business processes. These relationships create a potential alignment problem in any organization. Executives define organizational priorities and objectives, so managers are responsible for ensuring that the business processes execute to realize the priorities and objectives. A second alignment involves ensuring that the systems and technologies are properly aligned with the business processes. The alignment of levels is depicted in the preceding figure, which is the basis for the EII Solution Framework.

The alignment depicted in the figure is not automatic, and misalignment is the source of many organizational problems. EII’s consulting objective is to help organizations achieve alignment across the levels.

Managers implicitly or explicitly manage business processes. Even if no explicit documentation and management approaches are in place, work is still accomplished, so the processes are implicitly managed. However, explicit management and improvement is desirable, so the discipline of Business Process Management is core to the management disciplines.

Management BPM and Technical BPM

Traditional approaches to BPM are useful for controlling and improving business activities. These techniques fall in the category that is called Management BPM. Management BPM focuses on the high level business processes that describe organization work processes. Management approaches such as Continuous Process Improvement, Total Quality Management, Business Process Improvement, Lean Six Sigma, and others are classified as Management BPM approaches.

Technical BPM is focused on managing the technical resources that enable higher level processes that fall in the Management BPM classification. Technical BPM processes are very specific, following detailed standards, such as the Business Process Execution Language (BEPL), and they enable such low-level techniques as Enterprise Application Integration (EAI), Business Activity Monitoring (BAM), Web Service Orchestration, or other process-related techniques that are close to the technology. One differentiator between Management and Technical BPM is granularity, but there are others. One thing is certain: Technical BPM and Management BPM must align.

The EII Enterprise Integration Framework ensures that Management BPM and Technical BPM are aligned across the enterprise. Technical BPM is unlikely to be effective if it is implemented independent of Management BPM. The logic of this assertion is straightforward. One can operate efficiently at the technology level, and still be “doing the wrong thing” if the technical level is not aligned with management level.

A poor understanding of the differences between Management and Technical BPM has caused much confusion across the management and technology trade literature. Until recently the technology community has by and large ignored Management BPM. Likewise, managers generally have a poor understanding of Technical BPM. EII’s consulting methodologies and project experience help executives ensure that Management and Technical BPM are aligned across their organization.
EII has a long history of aligning Management BPM with Technical BPM to enable an integrated enterprise. Business Process Management, within the context of Enterprise Integration, can yield the following benefits:

  1. BPM ensures that the organization’s business processes (intra and inter) can be “optimized” for eBusiness and/or new software implementation, providing a greater return on investment.
  2. BPM enables visibility, providing the flexibility to respond to changing conditions. This allows the organization to manage its business processes over their lifecycles, extending the benefits received from IT investments.
  3. As new technologies are considered, BPM ensures that the organization will be able to predict with greater accuracy the expected return on technology investments – before implementation actually begins.
  4. BPM provides the capability to establish ROI benchmarks and “to be” processes before technology implementations, reducing the risk that is inherent in enterprise implementations.
  5. BPM provides the content for an integrated business process repository; permitting better organizational control by providing an enterprise view of all business processes, including the data, systems, and organizational units that support the processes. This allows mangers to identify and eliminate bottlenecks while continually improving processes.
  6. BPM (supported by simulation) allows more predicable results for change initiatives
  7. BPM, through the business process repository, allows managers to focus on realizing business goals that are linked to processes – not just IT considerations of time, functionality, and cost.
  8. BPM provides a mechanism for continuous knowledge transfer and documentation, building valuable knowledge assets with the organization.
  9. BPM documentation provides business process models that are absolutely essential as organizations transition to enterprise integration. As the organization transitions to extended enterprise integration (i.e., supply chain, CRM, etc.), the business processes define the requirements that must be revisited over time.
  10. There are other benefits, but the crucial point is: Organizations should have an ongoing approach to BPM.

EII consulting has the experience and proven track record of institutionalizing BPM in some of the largest and most complex organizations in the world.