There is no doubt that business process management (BPM), when bring right, can bring immense benefits to an organisation.
“Business processes are a part of every organisation, to a small or large measure. BPM is intended to automate these to better execution and to enforce it properly. This will provide much more efficiency to streamline activities around each business process. BPM helps to streamline organisational activities and make it more efficient for its evolution,” says Ahmed Fouad, presales team leader, HP software and solutions in the Middle East.
“It is not enough that an enterprise has processes. It should ensure that these processes are agile, integrated, visual or transparent and can be changed quickly as per changing market requirements. If they do this, they can enjoy competitive advantage in any industry and BPM helps them achieve this goal. This is why today it is an important component of any business around the world,” says Bashar Kilani, head of IBM’s software group in the region.
Christopher Sims, head of business transfer consultant (BTC) for SAP MENA says, “BPM is fundamentally a business tool, but for its success there needs to be alignment between IT and other departments. The single biggest difference I have noticed between companies here and in the US is the role that IT plays within an enterprise. The best companies in the West see IT as an enabler and as a strategic business partner and I don’t see that so often in the MENA region. BPM allows firms to bridge that crucial gap.”
Yes, BPM can certainly prove critically important to an organisation that needs to react fast to external realities. However, a continuing confusion on what exactly process management means within an enterprise (see box for definition) and misunderstanding on how technology can be used to achieve an effective end-result have prevented Middle East companies from investing in it.
With a little care in the selection process and a common sense understanding of what BPM can deliver though, regional enterprises can get a whole lot from it.
Before setting out on the BPM route, an organisation would be consider whether it actually requires it. While theoretically most organisations can implement the technology suite to real benefit, practically this is not always the case.
“The relative maturity of the organisation is important to determining the benefits they can derive from the deployment of management technologies. They should have at least a strategy in place that is process oriented, breaks down operational silos and tries to define owners across these silos. The organisation can turn this into modelling exercises, followed by implementation and a continuous improvement phase. This is the over-arcing goal that organisations should try to approach because that gives them the most benefit out of BPM,” says Harald Nehring, head of global BPM marketing at SAP.
Mohammed Amin, GM at EMC MENA adds, “A recommended best practice is to perform baselining before undertaking BPM projects. These projects must produce measurable results, and measuring those results requires the definition of the “before” and “after” pictures. Implementing BPM technologies also often requires the organisation to adapt and it is hard to make people to adapt when they don’t clearly see the benefit quickly.”Before embarking on a BPM project organisations have to invest in understanding their internal processes. While automating processes is often the first step to full-fledged BPM, enterprises need to also understand that it is the be-all and end-all of BPM.
Companies should also be extra-careful in choosing the BPM suite that they will be implementing.“Organisations that do not have a wide IT angle, have limited capabilities and very little process complexity will have a hard time achieving RoI from a full-fledged BPM tool. These enterprises would be better off looking at smaller systems that provide capability to redesign parts of their processes. They can even have process management delivered in the cloud. That is an interesting option for kind of mid size to larger companies since it makes the level of entry much easier,” says Harald.
Working out glitches
Even with all this preparation in place, process management projects can become resource-demanding and sometimes disastrous for many enterprises.“It is a massive undertaking and it is not something to be taken lightly. I know organisations that have been trying their hand at BPM for sometime and some of them are struggling with many change management issues. This is especially true if you are in a traditional business that are driven not much by process but more by client and human relations,” says Harald.
“A common mistake organisations often make is to look at BPM from a pure end to end automatisation system where individuals would not or hardly interfere. This vision is often carried by BPM vendors coming from a strong EAI background and does compromise the flexibility BPM tools must demonstrate to adapt quickly to the business needs. Instead, it is key to look at the entire set of processes, including the human driven tasks that the BPM tool will not be able to replace and use the BPM tool to provide the decision makers, at the right time, the information and the tools needed to take the right decision,” says Amin.
Harald states that companies should be careful in their estimation methodologies before beginning a BPM project. Project organization – where they look at BPM as a continuous improving format rather than as a one-off matter – is necessary to ensure project success.
“Another danger we are seeing is when people start reinventing the wheel because they are not 100% sure of what they have got, especially companies that have a very rich set of readymade processes available in their backend. Sometimes these are just not visible enough and companies don’t know they have it there. Organisations should work to make BPM a part of their existing processes instead of reinventing them,” says Harald.
Companies should also pay attention to training people on methodology, communication and change management. It is also ijmportnat not to ignore the need to maintain data integrity, correcting faulty data and doing away with inconsistent information inside the company.
Educating the masses
As Middle East enterprises come out of the recession, many vendors believe that a clear idea of BPM and prudent investment in technologies can help organisations hit the ground running when the economy rebounds. In order to do so though, the majority of regional enterprises still need guidance and only a handful of vendors are willing to provide it in the detail that is necessary.
“The ME has very mature customers, with state of the art and customers who have a different level of maturity. Of course they understand the value of BPM and they know what they want they come out with very specific requests and requirements. Other orgs actually need to see maybe how the processes are documented, how they are mapped onto the tool, and how it can start representing them. Once that is in place – they can link it easily to the line of business nd start discussing how they can use technology in order to automate the business,” says IBM’s Kilani.
“It is of extreme importance that enterprises understand that BPM is not just an IT discussion. It has to be driven from the top by business members as well as the IT team. In many cases when one organisation tries this without the other and then will lead to unwanted results or a failure,” Kilani warns.
Surprisingly, it is the small companies in the market that have proven ready to go into individual customer premises and take the time and effort to consult them thoroughly on their requirements and how the vendor can fulfil them. In fact, such hand holding through extensive BPM projects have proven to be crucial to ensuring that the customer not only considers and puts money behind them, but also that they turn out to be eventual successes.
However, whether a vendor is willing to provide adequate help or not, enterprises can still benefit from BPM and use it to competitive advantage. All they need is strong processes, a well-qualified IT team, management support and the application of common sense.
Quick dos and don’ts for BPM
- Do involve both IT and business units in the decision-making process
- Do start with existing business processes and choose ones that need little tweaking but give high return on investment
- Do estimate your needs well and choose only solutions that suit them
- Do take the time to train your personnel on methodology and change management
- Do talk to your peers and get information from analyst reports before choosing a vendor for your BPM suite
- Do not make it an IT only discussion
- Do not go for a larger solution if a smaller one or a service provider will do the trick for your organisation
- Do not try to reinvent the wheel within your organisation
- Do not work with faulty data. Take the time to clean your data before starting on a BPM project
- Do not look at BPM as a pure end-to-end automating system. Instead, look at the entire processes, including the human driven tasks that the BPM will not be able to replace