I have observed in recent years that digital transformation has been radically changing peoples’ day-to-day work environments and companies’ business scenarios. These transformational developments span social media, 3D printers, Internet of Things (IoT), nanotechnologies, robotics and artificial intelligence, among others.
Having worked with methodology and tools for business process management (BPM) since 2005, I understand that applying an organized and planned way of managing business processes has become increasingly important as a basis for digital transformation – for both small and large companies. It is also a vital requirement for enhancing relationships with customers.
The journey to digital transformation generally involves transforming processes, the customer experience and business models. But what digital transformation means in practice varies significantly. It can involve product or service innovation, cost reduction, accessibility, service agility and close relationships with customers, among other aspects.
BPM as a basis for digital transformation
BPM aims to extract information from business processes to make it easier to manage them and to identify improvements that need to be made. In so doing, organizations are able to gain an end-to-end view of their business processes and make better decisions.
The BPM discipline also allows organizations to align their overall goals with their business processes and use a technological platform to achieve maximum agility and efficiency through constant analysis of improvements. As Bill Gates said in his book, Business @ the Speed of Thought, “. . . the idea of re-examining your processes from time to time to make them more effective and to wring out inefficiencies is more important than ever.”
The BPM discipline and technology provide a number of benefits for achieving digital transformation. For example, process automation can reduce the time and cost of performing activities and provide a complete view of performance,but can also help in making of real-time decisions. The result is better process performance and greater agility in executing processes and responses. Additional advantages include alignment between systems and human resources and better service orchestration.
What is a process?
Prominent authors Geary A. Rummler and Alan P. Brache described a business process as “a series of steps designed to produce a product or service.” in their book, Improving Performance: How to Manage the White Space on the Organizational Chart.
Expanding on this definition, it is worth adding that a process is a series of repeated or non-repeated steps performed by a person, unit, or organization to produce a defined result.
In a process, there is an input of a material or a demand for a service, performance of a set of activities to transform the material and/or supplement information and then an output through delivery of a product or a service.
To apply the BPM discipline, the following phases are necessary:
- Process design and modelling:
- Understanding the entire business process – how it currently works and what changes are needed to meet business requirements
- Analysis of process improvement and automation opportunities – aligned with business requirements (e.g., improve agility, reduce costs, increase quality, increase capacity, reduce unnecessary efforts)
- Execution of the incremented and remodeled business process
- Real-time monitoring of business processes
- Governance for continuous improvement/evolution – the stage when the process transformation occurs through continuous planning and monitoring in relation to measured results. The focus should be on meeting business goals, improving performance, reducing costs, meeting customer needs and improving customer relationships.
Executing the BPM discipline is aided by specific technological platforms that automate process management. In general, these platforms are composed of integrated systems with several functionalities:
- Mapping end-to-end processes by flows designed in electronic forms
- Describing workflow and applicable business rules criteria, making it clear who is responsible for execution and defining deadlines and the desired quality standard
- Defining and calculating key process indicators to monitor processes in real time and generate alerts in case of deviations
In general, these platforms have the technology to integrate and connect with legacy systems for information access, if necessary.
Put knowledge in your hands
You can only improve what you can manage. You can only manage what you can measure. And you can only measure what you really know.
Without organized management of business processes, it is practically impossible to develop and conduct transformation projects in an organized and evolutionary way that can achieve cost reduction, agility and a better customer experience. Therefore, for the digital transformation journey it is vitally important to apply BPM discipline and technology to manage and improve business processes. It is also important to incorporate automation as extensively as possible and ensure real-time monitoring to identify deviations and to make improvements that enhance an ongoing evolution in processes.