What is Business Process Management?
Tags: BPM   Workflow   Productivity  
13/11/2011 11:00 PM

A business process is a sequence of tasks or activities performed in order to achieve a certain outcome. The series of events involved in filing a customer order is a basic example of a business process. Business Process Management (BPM), then, is a top-down management approach aimed at optimising the operations of an organisation to ensure processes are completed as efficiently as possible. Businesses implementing BPM may use a range of steps and business software tools to help achieve their goals.

Why is BPM needed?
In many organisations, business processes are not properly defined. This leads to a situation where major inefficiencies and bottlenecks have emerged, and where staff members are often confused as to their responsibilities and company procedures. By implementing BPM businesses are able to eliminate these inefficiencies with the result being a much more productive organisation.

A basic BPM model can be split into six categories. These are as follows:

1. Vision
The functions of the BPM model are centred on the vision or goals of the organisation. For each function, there is a list of processes attached, for which there is a designated person responsible.

2. Design
Great design works to reduce the amount of problems across the existence of the process. The aim of this step is to make certain an accurate and efficient theoretical framework is in place.

3. Modelling
This step takes the theoretical design and brings in variables that may shape the process in a given set of circumstances. It's a question of asking 'What if?' – for example, 'What if I only have 80 per cent of the resources to achieve the same task?'.

4. Execution
The execution step involves creating a set of automated processes for achieving the organisational goals. Often, this step involves the use of business software such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, but it also requires human intervention at various stages.

5. Monitoring
Once put in place processes need to be tracked (or 'monitored') so that statistics on the performance of the various processes can be seen. For example, customer orders can be monitored to see how long each took to be processed, from the order being placed to the time of payment and delivery.

6. Optimisation
The final process involves analysing the statistics collected as part of the monitoring set, and tweaking the processes to ensure greater productivity in the future. This could involve eliminating bottlenecks or taking advantage of potential opportunities for cost and time savings, and then applying these changes to the design process.

BPM in practice
The key to successful BPM is using it as a means of achieving continuous process improvement. Process performance must be monitored continuously in order to recognise and eliminate bottlenecks and inefficiencies. In this sense, BPM is a cyclical process where constant improvement should be achieved over the course of its implementation.

ERP software is a key element in ensuring successful BPM, as it has the potential to integrate all departmental processes into a single software solution, improving communication between departments and contributing to greater levels of customer satisfaction.

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