What is the ultimate goal of BPM?

A great question was asked today by Peter Schooff on the EBizQ website: “What is the end goal of BPM?”

For many, it is the creation of process maps. For some, the continuous improvement of the organization. For quite a few, automation is the end goal. But is that as good as it gets?

Company assets

Some of the most mature companies I work with consider business processes as corporate assets that must be centralized, owned and available to the right people at the right time. It is a secret sauce that allows people to be liberated from the drudgery of how to perform routine work so that they can become truly excellent at above-and-beyond creative work.

To get to that point meant capturing improving and yes, automating process along the way, but the real trick was to centralize, give ownership, and deploy in a role-based format. These three basic principles are the way that process is a sustainable asset.

Starting out

For many companies, it is overachievement simply to have processes spelled out. If you’re in that position, it is time to start mapping, enriching (adding key information that answers the “how” of activities) and deciding who owns your content.

It isn’t as hard as it sounds if you start small and if you start with an organizational pain point. Solving a problem is the single fastest way to get attention (and budget). Start with what you have, in the areas that matter the most. The seeds you plant right now will have a signficant impact as you progress.

Incremental changes

What’s great about BPM is that its benefits are transformational but arrive incrementally. There’s no fundamental problem with starting small and in bite-size pieces. That makes executing a plan a lot less risky than an ERP implementation, but just as powerful.

In fact, I would argue that implementing an ERP without first knowing what work you’d like to get done is taking a transactional approach to what is really a process challenge. Watching millions spend on re-implementing ERP systems after first-go failures is all the evidence I need, but it was also a major takeaway from the Gartner BPM Conference in April 2011.

End goal

So what was my response on the end goal? I said the following on the EBizQ website:

“The end is freeing up your people from the difficulty of knowing how to do prescribed things so that they can be excellent at servicing their customers in the unprescribed ways. In a phrase, “operational excellence.”

Best Buy in Europe has the same fundamental processes for selling a good or service to a customer as they have for taking support calls and settling the books at the end of the day (and they won a Gartner Business Excellence Award for it in April). There will always be processes that just need to be done a single, right way (ask your compliance, security, HR, safety head), but that right way changes as business and regulations change.

I’m at UPS this week helping them through the same issues of how to capture things in one place and make them operational truths. With a baseline of what needs to get done, they can be working on the things that differentiate UPS on logistics and customer service…where the real money is made.”

In a nutshell, the end goal of BPM is creating revenue for your company.

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Chris Taylor joined Nimbus in 2009 as VP Consulting Americas, and leads a team of business process improvement consultants who serve major corporations across the world. Chris’s clients include Nestlé, Cisco, Northrop Grumman, ThyssenKrupp and many others, who use Business Process Management (BPM) tools and techniques to drive process standardisation, improvement, quality and compliance initiatives. His insight to what makes BPM a sustainable success for so many client organisations makes him a valuable industry commentator. Before joining Nimbus, Chris held senior consulting and leadership roles focused on business transformation with ILOG (now IBM), Perot Systems and Accenture. In his early career, Chris managed aircrew and flight operations while flying for the US Navy. He is an avid skier, hiker and sailor and spends most of his off time exploring the mountains and coasts near his home in Southern California and the rest of the world.