Business Process Management 101

business process management by Karrie Grant, Senior Software Consultant

Have you ever started a new job and, after being taught how to do a specific task, wondered why in the world it’s done that way? Unfortunately, the answer to that question is all too often “because that’s how it’s always been done.” As a new employee, you probably wouldn’t want to point out that there are major inefficiencies in the process because, hey, that could be the reason the company needed to hire you. Maybe after you’ve been there for a bit, you can suggest that the process be reviewed.  Rather than adding additional people to bad processes, it makes sense to review the process and see if improvements can be made.

There are multiple variations to the business process management (BPM) methodology. The phases described here are taken from the Essentials of Business Process Management course taught by Villanova University. According to this methodology, there are six phases to a BPM project.

Phase 1:  Assess

In this first phase, the goal is to define the current, or as-is, process. A thorough understanding of how the process works currently is essential. Without that understanding, you can’t ensure you know all the areas of concern.

Phase 2:  Design

The objective of this phase is to design what the new/updated process should look like. This is often a highly iterative phase of the project, and should be very specific. What are the new process objectives, the specific tasks, who is involved, etc.? It is imperative that those affected by the potential changes be included in the design phase.

Phase 3:  Model

This phase is the “test drive” part of the project. Before deciding on the process that should be implemented, it’s always a good idea to test it out using sample data. If accurate data was collected in the assessment phase, you should be able to estimate how long each task in the process will take and determine if the redesigned process meets your objectives. The last thing anyone wants to do is implement a process that takes longer, or introduces more errors than the one being replaced.

Phase 4:  Implement

Now that you have designed and tested the new process, it’s time to put it into practice. The implementation needs to be a very well organized transition from the existing to the new process. A detailed change management plan is highly recommended.

Phase 5:  Monitor

This phase is intended to ensure the new process meets the project objectives. It’s very common to have parts of a process require rework once it is actually in place. By monitoring the new process from start to finish, you can identify areas that need further review.

Phase 6:  Modify

The final phase of the process is to continually make modifications as they are needed.

BPM often starts as a project to address inefficiencies in certain processes within an organization, but it should be continuous. To be truly successful, it needs to become a mindset within the organization. Employees should be encouraged to question why a process is done a certain way, and provide suggestions for change. By fostering an environment where ideas for improvement are welcome, and processes are continually improved, you can make your organization the most efficient it can be.