Everything You Need to Know About Business Process Management (BPM)

How can you become more productive without increasing costs and how can you create higher quality output with less time and effort?

The answer can be summarized in three words…

Business process management (BPM).

Business process management is a holistic approach in which you take a step back and assess all processes, procedures and workflows that may need readjustment. This helps increase the efficiency of every single team member while also increasing job satisfaction. 

No matter if you work for an SME or a big corporation, there are tons of processes that can be improved.

In this article, we show you how to kick off your business process management plan. 

What Is Business Process Management (BPM)? 

Business process management (BPM) is the way an enterprise designs, models, executes, monitors and optimizes all of its recurring processes.

Since business process management is a huge endeavor that involves all parts of a business, it is advisable to break BPM down into smaller pieces. 

What Is Business Process Management (BPM)

Business process management can be categorized as follows:

Integration-centric BPM 

Integration-centric BPM focuses on the software side of the business. How can your software solutions work together in order to save time, share information and improve collaboration between all stakeholders? These are the typical questions that integration-centric BPM works to solve.

Human-centric BPM

Even though integration-centric BPM is essential to automated processes, some tasks just cannot be done solely by machines – the hiring process of the HR department would be such an example. While integration-centric BPM aims to optimize and automate software-related processes, human-centric BPM aims to improve human-related workflows and business processes.

Document-centric BPM

Creating a document of any kind takes up more time than most organizations are able to afford. Planning and content creation, as well as content review and approval, are all different stages of the process. Document-centric BPM aims to streamline this workflow.

What is the role of business process management? 

When engaging in business process management (BPM), a responsible manager needs to analyze all processes in which he or she is involved. 

Obviously, the processes that are already perceived as painful, slow or inefficient require special attention. They can be optimized or designed from scratch through BPM business process management. 

BPM decision makers usually hold a fairly high position in their organization, as they need a bird’s eye view of all processes involved. 

Instead of just a single person, cross-functional teams are often responsible for solving human-centric BPM or document-centric processes inside organizations, while integration-centric BPM needs a lot of input from the IT department.   

Why you should care about BPM 

Why should you care about BPM? No matter whether you are a department manager or the manager of entire subsidiaries, business process improvement will help you free up resources, create better output and reduce your operational costs. Furthermore, below we share more details about the many benefits of BPM. 

What Is the Difference Between BPM and Project Management?

It’s important to know that BPM and project management are not as similar as it might seem at first glance. While project management often involves ad hoc tasks, which do not need to be repeated and occur only once, BPM business process management involves a repeated or standard set of activities that recur on a regular basis.

For instance, the payroll of a company’s employees is not an ad hoc event, but a recurring task that must be handled as efficiently as possible to save time and reduce errors.

On the other hand, creating and modeling a new product line for a particular customer can be regarded as a one-off project requiring a unique approach that varies based on the nature of the product and the requirements of the customer. 

Therefore, your project management best practices, project management tools and project management templates may only be partially helpful for a successful BPM strategy.

What Are the Benefits of Business Process Management?

What Are the Benefits of Business Process Management

What are the key benefits of a well-executed BPM strategy? Even though BPM is a long-term task, its benefits by far outweigh the required time and effort. In the following section, we summarize the most common ways that BPM can help your business excel.

Streamlined workflows throughout the entire organization 

No matter if you consider integration-centric, human-centric or document-centric BPM, the main goal of a BPM process is always to streamline your business processes as much as possible. Automated workflow management helps your company increase output at lower costs and reduces the failure rate.

Increased productivity 

When you have a clear structure identified for all of your business processes, every team member involved automatically increases their productivity, gaining the ability to produce more without the need to increase input. 

More consistent and higher-quality output

Business process management will result in more and better output: your failure rate will decrease, while you are able to improve consistency and quality. This is true for products and services as well as for marketing assets and any other output resulting from your business processes.

Increased availability of internal resources

Integration-centric BPM contributes to brand asset management by making use of digital asset management (DAM) systems. DAM systems lead to better collaboration within and across organizations and ensure that your marketing output is consistent across the board. 

Improved collaboration both inside and outside the organization

Streamlining business processes and increasing efficiency requires optimized collaboration within teams and between functions as well as between organizations.

As you might have already noticed, BPM is an all-encompassing term that can be found in many successful organizations. When undertaken correctly, BPM’s results are impeccable. Just take a look at Japanese car manufacturers…

Japanese car organizations make use of a very distinct BPM system called Kaizen, which can be translated with “continuous improvement”. The general business rules of Kaizen imply that you should consistently work to improve all business processes in a gradual way, instead of making sudden, radical changes.

Kaizen business continuous improvement process

What are the five steps in the business process management process? The following section breaks down all five phases involved in BPM.

What Are the Five Steps in the Business Process Management Process?

In order to begin your business management process, we are going to outline all steps involved. The stages can be applied across the BPM categories of integration-centric, human-centric and document-centric.

What Are the Five Steps in the Business Process Management Process

1. Design 

Unless you are starting a new business from scratch, you will already have business processes and workflows in place that need improvement. As a first step, analyze which business processes most urgently need improvement. 

As a starting point, examine the most common pain points of your business, i.e. why does the document review and approval process always take up so much time? 

Then, write down all the steps of that process so that you have documented a clear outline as to how the job is currently done. You can start by making use of business case templates to get an initial overview over the business processes in question.

Also, you should determine Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that help you measure the success of the business process. 

2. Model 

Once the current steps are outlined, dig deeper into why each step is done in its particular way. In the modeling phase, you think about how you can improve your process. No matter what process you need to optimize, streamlining should be paramount: How can you create more output with the same or even less input? If possible, introduce automation procedures to your workflows; this is why the modeling stage is so important.  

For instance, Safeway switched from paper-based to digital workflows by using frevvo to save time, reduce costs and decrease errors in their workflow processes. 

Instead of big changes, you can also consider small-scale approaches: Is it really necessary for all team members to participate in weekly meetings? Or could we free up resources by only inviting direct stakeholders? 

Questions like these should be considered in the modeling phase which usually results in a visual representation of the new business processes. 

3. Execute 

Depending on how large the changes are, test the newly proposed business processes with a small test group before fully committing to the new plan. For instance, if you think that your review and approval process needs optimization, you might opt for the Filestage free trial and demo before purchasing a plan. 

No matter how innovative your design phase is, you can be sure that the resulting model will contain some unforeseen errors that can only be uncovered in the field. Therefore, the execution phase is actually a test phase where theory meets praxis. It usually goes through several rounds of testing and making new adjustments.  

4. Monitor 

How can you make sure that the new process is better than the old one? By making your BPM process measurable. The Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are usually determined in the design phase and tested during the monitor stage. Your KPIs will vary of course, based on the desired business outcomes.

For example, If you want the marketing team to produce more consistent output, you will monitor whether the new process results in less design failures. If a lack of efficiency is your main pain point, you can assess whether more output is generated due to the new changes. 

Monitoring is a continuous activity that demonstrates improvements resulting from your BPM processes. Therefore, it is essential that your team agrees on meaningful KPIs.

5. Optimize 

A good BPM is not a one-off intervention but a continuous endeavor. Therefore, the optimization stage can be seen as a repetition of the last four stages. Even if you have perfectly designed and executed new processes, you still need to continuously monitor results to further optimize your business processes. If you do not optimize your business processes, chances are that errors or inefficiencies will reoccur over time. 

What are some useful examples of successful BPMs? Now that the steps are clear, we introduce you to ways that successful business process management strategies support organizations in transforming their business processes. 

Five Examples and Use Cases of Business Process Management 

Identifying and isolating certain business processes that need improvement is the first step in BPM. As you can see from the examples below, BPM is a powerful method you can use to break the status quo and reassess how things are done.

Marketing – Content approval 

Everybody working in marketing knows that deadlines are extremely tight. With the emergence of social media and other digital marketing channels, marketing resource management has become more important than ever before, and the increased workloads are usually not matched by an increased number of marketing staff. 

While you may think that the content creation process takes up most of a marketing team’s time, this is actually not the case. The review and approval process is much more of a hassle, especially when teams are unable to identify this step as a repeatable process.

If you need to produce a marketing asset, such as a new brochure, web page or social media post, Filestage can make your life easier while contributing to marketing project management. With Filestage, you can easily upload any asset and share it with all involved stakeholders. These invited reviewers can then leave feedback directly in the file and discuss changes or ideas with each other.  

After all changes are discussed and content creators have revised and uploaded the asset, reviewers can give their approvals with just one click. By automating manual tasks such as sharing content with reviewers, following up on feedback, and managing file versions, Filestage helps you further streamline your process. 

Business Process Management filestage content approval

Without a BPM tool such as Filestage, it takes a lot of time to chase after feedback and approvals. Filestage helps you simplify and streamline the whole process from sharing and managing the content until the final approval.

HR – Application process  

It is no coincidence that most organizations refer to their staff members as their most valuable assets. Therefore, every organization hopes to hire the most capable people possible. Since job application processes are fairly similar, a lot of time can be saved through automating and streamlining the hiring process.

As a worldwide operating company, IBM has outlined its global application process in five different steps: Application, screening, online assessment, interviews and decisions/offers. 

Some of the steps, such as the application or online assessment phase, contain many automated processes, reducing the workload of the HR team. Furthermore, all applicant information are inserted into IBM’s internal system so that CVs become easily comparable. 

IBM HR Application process

Sales – Handling leads

Some people think that sales above all is about human interaction – to read the customer and to help them find exactly what they need. This is not wrong; however, sales involves a lot of recurring business processes that can be optimized using the BPM framework.

Gartner lists 15 sales force automation tool vendors that can help a company automate its processes, including lead, relationship and activity management.

With the help of LeadSquared, Digital Nest, which is a digital marketing training institute targeting students, professionals and freelancers, found a way to handle customer inquiries more efficiently. 

LeadSquared offers a single sales and marketing platform that allows Digital Nest to handle leads much more efficiently, resulting in increased revenue and a higher lead volume.

leadsquared sales and marketing platform

Customer Success – User/client onboarding 

Nowadays, customers expect an easy onboarding process for digital services. Therefore, your company needs an onboarding strategy that facilitates the process, reducing input down to a couple of clicks while the system runs automatically in the background.

Dropbox for Business accelerates the onboarding process in just this way. If customers want to start the free trial, they just need to insert basic information, without the need for sharing bank details. 

Gmail or Outlook users can confirm their email directly in the browser, without the need to open another window. Additionally, the follow-up setup questions are as easy as the login process. It literally takes only a couple of minutes to get started. 

dropbox BPM onboarding process

Finance – Invoice approval and payment

Finance departments have many recurring business processes that need to be structured as efficiently and as safely as possible, in order to keep mistakes at a minimum.

Valeo, a global automotive supply company, changed their BPM with ProcessMaker to further streamline the sales approval process which took 90 seconds with their older system. This had led to multiple customer complaints in the past. 

With ProcessMaker, Valeo was able to reduce their sales approval process to just 15 seconds. 

ProcessMaker Invoice approval and payment

What Are the Five Success Factors of BPM?

Even though BPM can take many forms, there are certain success factors that help literally all business processes run more efficiently. In the following section, we summarize five of the most common business process management success factors.

Strategy

To make your BPM campaign successful, careful planning and organization is key. Since we are talking about restructuring processes, a coherent long-term approach is needed in order to make meaningful changes. Plan your strategy carefully and make sure to get the right support from upper level management as well as all staff involved in the process.

People

Since all business processes are run by people, you need to garner support for your proposed changes. If the people involved in the process feel overwhelmed by the changes, the new processes may fail. Therefore, a fruitful BPM strategy not only needs a top-down but also a bottom-up approach to get all the relevant people on board.

Operations

As our last examples show, people are key to success, and BPM helps people reap the desired results and improvements. Currently, many invaluable BPM tools can increase the efficiency of every single team member exponentially. If you use the right BPM tool for the right job, you can be sure to experience rewards.

Process automation

Process automation technology should be applied whenever possible. Automation technology lets machines or software do the job for you and your team members. This gives you and your staff more time to concentrate on other issues at hand. For instance, sales process automation leads to more revenue and higher customer satisfaction, while operational automation technology leads to a higher output with better quality as well as more consistency and lower failure rates.

Measurement and process improvement

If you want to know exactly how well your new business process is performing in comparison to the previous one, you need to have measurement procedures in place. The choice of the right KPI is crucial not only to see the improvement of current processes but also to get an overview of whether future changes are needed. KPIs are therefore the basis on which further process optimization can be implemented.

Since the basics of BPM should be clear by now, it is time to dig a little deeper. As already mentioned, BPM in the year 2021 can only function if you use the right tools for your business processes. 

In the following section, we look at the most commonly used tools to ensure your BPM is functioning at the highest level.

BPM Software to Improve Your Business Processes  

Technology is key to boosting your business processes; therefore, we will introduce you to the best and most commonly used BPM software solutions. As the solutions vary based on costs and usability, it is important to choose the right software that is best suited to your business goals. 

Filestage for approval processes

Filestage software for approval processes

Filestage streamlines the approval process and offers a whole host of benefits, not only to the marketing department but to all teams in organizations that regularly need approval for documents, images or other assets. 

Chasing after approvals or wading through long email chains are finally a thing of the past. With Filestage, you can manage your review and approval processes on one centralized platform. The tool makes it easy to share content files, discuss feedback and receive final approvals for assets from all stakeholders in a timely fashion. 

The easy-to-use interface of the platform allows users to set up customized workflows and track the progress of all projects at a glance.

If you want to find out if Filestage is the right software for your team, you can start a free trial and demo on their website

Kissflow for flexible procurement processes

kissflow software for flexible procurement processes

The Kissflow Procurement Cloud consists of multiple tools designed to increase the efficiency of your purchasing department. 

You can easily keep track of all procurement requests as well as purchase orders and invoices. Kissflow offers numerous integration features, such as simple web-based APIs, so that it perfectly fits into your current infrastructure. Plugins let you connect instantly with Xero, QuickBooks, SAP, DocuSign and a wide range of other solutions.

The starter pack is available at $690 per month.

Tallyfy for operational processes

Tallyfy software for operational processes

Tallyfy offers a feature-rich solution to streamline repeatable processes in numerous departments. 

Whether you need to streamline inbound campaign requests for the marketing team or structure incoming talent requests for HR, Tallyfy has the solution. Additionally, the platform offers valuable modeling and project management tools for a wide variety of tasks across all five phases of the BPM process. With multiple automation features, Tallyfy simplifies the work of your team members, so that they can concentrate on things that matter.

Tallyfy Basic is available at $100 per month. 

FlowWright for workflow automation

FlowWright software for workflow automation

FlowWright is a business process management software that enables you to automate the recurring processes of your enterprise that could otherwise drain valuable resources from your workforce. 

With FlowWright, you can choose how much of the processes need to be automated, providing customized solutions for every step. Whether you need dynamic form processes to optimize manual procedures or intuitive forms for law organizations or HR departments – FlowWright has the answer!

FlowWright starts at $14 per month per user (100 users minimum). 

Signavio for business transformation

Signavio software for business transformation

If you are looking for tools that help organizations achieve operational excellence, enterprise resource planning (ERP) transformation or risk and compliance solutions, Signavio has a solution for you. 

The Signavio Business Transformation Suite is an all-in-one platform that delivers live insights into all your processes as well as valuable information on how to improve. No matter which processes need improvement, Signavio offers solutions for a wide range of industries, including academia, banking, insurance, management, the technology sector and many more.

You can request a quote and live demo via the company’s website. 

ProcessMaker for process management

ProcessMaker BPM for process management

ProcessMaker helps you design processes and automate business processes with a powerful low code platform. 

In your planning phase, you can use the proprietary modeler software to drag and drop tasks and decision points and to add them to forms, users or data connectors. Additionally, the dashboard gathers all of your processes in a single place. With ProcessMaker, you can accelerate your digital transformation, comply with business rules and make the life of your team members a little bit easier.

The standard version of ProcessMaker is available at $1,495 per month.  

Conclusion

It should be clear by now that business process management (BPM) can help your business reach new heights. 

However, BPM is a highly complex task and requires strategic planning as well as the right software solutions in order to make the most out of each and every process. We hope we have provided valuable insights as to how to get started. 

Keep in mind that BPM is not a one-off project, but a continuous endeavor to standardize, streamline and automate processes so that your organization can reach its full potential.

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