Historically Business Process Management (BPM) solutions have primarily been targeted at large enterprises. Smaller organizations have not invested as heavily due to perceived high costs and unknown value. However, BPM is a valuable tool for almost any business. To realize its potential benefits, it needs to be applied to the right opportunities and in the right way. If this is done correctly, the benefits will clearly outweigh the costs and even small business can enjoy great ROI.
For large enterprises, the volume of repetition introduces a bigger set of eligible processes for optimizing. Their role as industry leaders allows these organization to dictate how process should run, and how parties that interact with their processes should behave. That authority often extends to both internal and external actors. This is the perfect environment for implementing transformational BPM solutions as there is a lot of opportunity to orchestrate and control. In a small business environment, it is more important to evaluate which current processes provide the right opportunities to benefit from BPM solutions. Some factors that are important to consider are:
- Costs vs. benefits – Costs can be both tangible and intangible. Typical benefits include, cost savings, improved services, and customer experience
- Agility vs predictability – is the process suitably predictable and stable enough to benefit from automation?
- Growth impact – will automation benefits increase with business growth
Some business processes are proven candidates for most small to medium sized organizations to optimize with BPM. Three examples – invoicing, client onboarding, customer servicing and contract management – benefit from reduced paperwork, automated follow up, integration with external systems, managed SLAs and system managed auditing. For all three processes, the ROI is good, the business activity flows are stable and the BPM solution impacts are improved as the organizations grow.
Approaching BPM in the right way is just as critical as identifying where to use it. There are logical steps that should be followed that will provide insight and tangible benefits throughout the journey:
- Modeling repetitive business processes – journaling routing activities and examining them, looking for repetitive tasks, bottlenecks, redundancy, and high complexity
- Selecting appropriate processes – identifying the processes documented in the previous step that are the best candidates for using a BPM solution. If the processes are bad, ensure that you correct them before starting to automate. A bad process will still be bad once it is implemented in BPM
- Optimizing to address current challenges – what are the key business challenges in the way it is managed today? Looking for and planning to address inefficiencies will improve the benefits of your BPM solution
- Leveraging existing strengths – what technologies and processes are you using today that are working well. You won’t need to change everything. Focus on identifying the technology shortcomings that need to be addressed then procure new technologies to fill the gaps
- Approaching the solution in the right way – business requirements driving functional requirements which are then driving technical requirements. Make sure that the tail is not wagging the dog and that this order is always followed
- Leveraging new technologies as appropriate – cloud solutions and omni channel capabilities are great ways of addressing cost and resource challenges
- Planning for optimization – Implementing the process of process improvement should be universal. Scheduling evaluation and optimization with appropriate business and technical resources will help organizations maximize the benefits they can derive from BPM over time
In any organization, as additional processes are implemented, the cost per process implementation goes down and the cross functional benefits increase. There is more opportunity for transformational benefit in larger organizations, but small companies can benefit too. In a company with 25 employees, if a BPM solution can save each employee one hour of work per week (conservative estimate), that is equal to 1,300 man hours per year (ignoring time off). Cloud based BPM solutions can cost as little as $200 per month, so there is clearly a good case to be made for adopting BPM solutions at small businesses. The room for error is much smaller in smaller organizations and it is critical that the right opportunities are identified and implemented the right way to ensure the benefits of BPM can be realized.