In part one of this blog series, we explain how to define business process improvement and business process management.
Many companies embark on business process improvement (BPI) and business process management (BPM) programs to improve operational performance and drive competitive advantage in the marketplace.
The terms mentioned above are often used interchangeably within an organization or have varying definitions depending on the organization. However, there are some important distinctions to make between the two. In part one of this blog series about BPM, we’ll bring some clarity to the differences between these concepts.
Prior to covering the primary differences between these terms, it may be helpful to state the obvious. These concepts all relate to business processes or workflows. We can define a business process as a sequence of connected steps or activities that may span different people, roles or systems. You can often visualize process with a flowchart. As you’ll see, process is central to the journey, no matter which approach you take.
Definition of BPI
Business process improvement is a practice that focuses on increasing customer value by continually improving quality, enhancing service, reducing costs and increasing productivity of activity or business process. BPI initiatives often leverage well-known process improvement methodologies, such as Lean, Six Sigma, Global 8-D, Total Quality Management, Theory of Constraints and Rummler Bache.
These BPI efforts can seek incremental improvement over time (i.e., targeting one specific end-to-end business process at a time) or breakthrough improvement all at once (i.e., trailblazing a new way to manage the entire business). Engaging in the practice of BPI can also help organizations identify and prioritize the best automations and other technological tools to suit their improvement needs.
Definition of BPM
Business process management is a disciplined management approach and methodology that provides end-to-end process understanding, visibility and control while ensuring effective communication across an organization. BPM combines BPI, performance management and organizational change management (OCM) with technology to ensure the success and sustainability of process improvements while enabling a process excellence culture. A process excellence culture maintains a long-term approach to continuous, holistic improvement across the organization. A center of excellence (COE) model provides the framework for process excellence enablement.
Some organizations discuss BPM as process or technology, but we view BPM as the convergence of process, people and technology. Seen this way, BPM offers many benefits to organizations aiming to grow in a strategic, cost-effective manner. Broadly, the major benefits of this business process methodology include the following:
- Increased business agility
- Decreased costs
- Increased process transparency
- Streamlined technology solutions.
What is a Business Process Management Solution?
While we set out to clarify the differences between BPI and BPM, our discussion of BPM would not be complete without mentioning business process management solutions (BPMS). BPM solutions bring technology into the equation by providing a platform to model, manage, optimize and rapidly adjust business processes. There are many BPMS on the market, with each focusing on either a human-centric, document-centric or integration-centric model.
These business process technology solutions are toolkits for solving multiple process-related issues through automation, collaboration and visibility, serving two primary purposes:
- Process-based or Process Improvement Solutions – Build agile workflow solutions by leveraging process modeling, process repositories, workflow automation and process analysis to transform end-to-end business processes.
- Technology Solutions – Provide a workflow engine underneath a custom-developed application that streamlines multiple point solutions and back-end systems to offer front-end users more robust, process-centric functionality.
You can view BPMS as bringing a process layer to an organization to eliminate the silos of people, data and applications in which business processes generally operate. In other words, BPM solutions help fill the white space between these silos.
Depending on organizational maturity, needs and goals, you can use any of the above concepts to improve operational performance, addressing cost, quality, productivity and overall customer experience. BPM is the most transformational of these concepts as it combines the best of BPI and OCM with technology solutions encompassing deeper process understanding, visibility and control. No matter which approach or combination of approaches your company deploys, maintain a process-first mentality to ensure success.