Understanding Business Process Management

Business process architects who can turn BPM strategies and stakeholder
requirements into real deliverables have become valuable resources.

By Chandler Harris | March 2008

With an eagerness to get their hands dirty with the latest, well,
stuff, IT professionals and business managers can sometimes put
technology before process. To avoid such situations and successfully
integrate new solutions, more are turning to Business Process
Management (BPM), a discipline that enables process-oriented change
supported by enabling technologies.

Although specific
definitions vary, BPM is generally considered to be a process-oriented
management philosophy that uses a new breed of systems and technology
to help manage the entire business-process lifecycle. It includes the
discovery, modeling, execution and monitoring of business processes
from beginning to end.

BPM was developed in response to
the unpredictability of current global markets, according to the tech
research and advisory company Gartner. Since companies need to be more
agile in adapting to changes in their markets, BPM’s focus on process-oriented change has become an important, sometimes necessary, tool for businesses competing globally.

of the things is to look at what process improvements can do for a
company in general," says Tom Dwyer, editorial director of BPMInstitute.org,
a Westboro, Mass.-based exchange for BPM professionals. "It allows them
to be more responsive to customers, take bottlenecks that are in the
way of currently doing things and remove them."

Big Business

is roughly a $1 billion industry, with numerous large and small vendors
offering software and services. In the private sector, Dwyer says BPM
is used by all major insurance companies, all major banks, and numerous
companies in the manufacturing sector. In government, BPM practices are
key components of many eGov initiatives. Fans of BPM say it has helped
transform the labor- and paper-intensive inefficiencies of government
into faster and more efficient processes, reducing paper use as well as
administrative overhead and resources.

Because of all this,
business process architects who can understand and implement BPM
strategies and turn stakeholder requirements into real deliverables
have become valuable resources. However, business process architects
are in short supply, notes Michele Cantara, research vice president of
BPM for Gartner.

"I would say one of the biggest things
to think about when looking for a job is can you play a liaison role
between business stakeholder and IT," Cantara says. "The biggest job
gap is people that can do that."

The BPM institute claims business analysts will need to evolve their field of knowledge and become business process analysts,
or process owners, who can align methodology disciplines with
appropriate technology to improve a process or introduce innovative
business models. "That’s got a lot of managerial impact to it because
you can tie performance measurements and business objectives to process
improvement," Dwyer says.

Executive Challenge

challenge companies face is that most executives understand their
organization as a collection of functions on an organization chart, but
have little or no understanding of how business processes are
organized, says BPMInstitue.org. This way of thinking prevents
executives from improving the flow of cross-functional activities that
creates enduring value for customers and shareholders, the group says.

executives need to learn how to manage the productivity of processes
and how to introduce an organization that’s more process-centric and
process aware," Dwyer contends. "How do you view your company as a set
of processes that ultimately serve the customer?"

Chandler Harris is a California-based writer.

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