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What is business process management?

A business process is a series of repeatable tasks that’s done in sequence to achieve a routine objective. Business processes can take minutes or weeks and include activities as simple as employee vacation requests or as complicated as supply-chain logistics. Efficient, effective processes will help improve employee productivity, customer engagement, and every other facet of your business. Inefficient, dysfunctional processes create frustrated employees, unnecessary costs, dissatisfied customers, and ultimately, lost revenue.

Business process management (BPM) refers to your company’s long-term efforts to analyze, accelerate, and optimize these processes, often by using workflow automation to streamline manual processes and achieve specific business goals. By automating all types of routine business tasks—from managing files to updating spreadsheets—you can improve efficiency, reduce risk, and keep your business more strategically focused.

Unlock the benefits of BPM

Before you begin building a BPM strategy, it’s important to understand the different types of business processes, who’s responsible for them within your company, and which problems BPM can help you address.

First, business processes can be divided into three main categories:

  • Operational processes cover the core business and specific value streams like customer orders, account creation, and manufacturing optimization.

  • Management processes include things like corporate governance, budgets, and HR workflows.

  • Supporting processes underpin larger processes in areas like accounting, recruitment, and technical support.

Build your BPM team

Employees who are responsible for any business process are called business process owners. Because they manage a process from end to end, they understand how it affects and is affected by the processes that come before and after it. Giving ownership of discrete business processes to key employees who work with other departments can foster more understanding and lead to better BPM across your organization.

For example, a successful BPM team in a large company could include all these roles:

  • Business process champion. A champion understands far-reaching benefits and communicates the value of BPM to the organization.

  • Process owner. A person or team with business challenges to meet, workflows to streamline, or opportunities to seize can provide key perspective and input—critical to user buy-in and BPM success.

  • Business process director. A director leads organization-wide BPM efforts.

  • Business process consultant. A consultant uses technical skills and understanding of BPM to advise a business process director.

  • Project manager. A project manager helps build and implement the project plan and manages team communications, milestones, deliverables, and deadlines.

  • Business analyst. An analyst pinpoints necessary process improvements.

  • Solution architect. A solution architect provides technical support, particularly when it comes to interoperability with existing line-of-business applications.

  • Influencers. Often leaders among their peers, influencers adopt early and champion new ideas, practices, and tools, and they help refine business process improvements and advocate for change.

  • BPM support group. This group comprises key IT professionals, corporate planning officers, and other leadership who help institutionalize BPM standards, methods, governance, and technology.

Don’t live with lost opportunities

Traditionally, business leadership has owned BPM; they are business processes, after all. But with the advent of highly sophisticated business process management software, IT is now playing a greater role. You might find a productive balance between your technology and business requirements if you let IT deploy a self-serve, low-code workflow automation platform that business employees can use to streamline processes and solve the issues they best understand.

Automate, automate, automate

Automation is the heart of BPM. With the technology now available, successful businesses must find every opportunity to automate repetitive, time-consuming, manual processes. With workflow automation, you can streamline business processes such as data entry, social media updates, inventory, reports, and more. You can free your employees from repetitive and routine processes, increase productivity, lower costs, and reduce human error.

Create a citizen development culture

You can also optimize some business processes by building mobile apps that help your employees stay more connected and efficient, transform how they get work done, and generate real-time business insights. With the right app development platform, engineers, IT specialists, and ordinary business users can build a citizen development culture and create their own low-code business solutions—without having to rely on or wait for business leadership and professional developers.

Make the most of every opportunity

You don’t have to live with inefficient manual processes, extra costs, and lost opportunities. With the right people in the right roles, a solid understanding of your processes, and good automation tools, your business can use BPM to:

  • Mitigate cumbersome online checkout processes that discourage customers and cost sales.
  • Automate manual processes that take too long, cost too much, and frustrate employees.
  • Eliminate obstacles in financial processes that delay payments.
  • Reduce duplication that wastes resources.
  • Shorten or standardize lengthy or erratic processes that affect deadlines.
  • Streamline inefficient client onboarding that undermines relationships.

Build a business process management strategy

If your business struggles with operational, management, and support processes that are cumbersome, redundant, too long, too slow, or too costly, creating a comprehensive BPM strategy can help. The following best practices will help you launch a BPM initiative and evaluate your success:

  • Get support from management. This is critical if you need resources to support your business process improvement plans.

  • Analyze and map the specific process. Use flow charts, mind mapping, or process-mining software to find bottlenecks, duplicated effort, and unnecessary delays . Get feedback from the people who are most involved with the process to understand what you can improve—buy-in for change starts with them.

  • Redesign the process. Solicit stakeholder input and be sure that everyone understands the value in streamlining the process. Include your lessons learned from mind mapping and analysis. Consider an impact analysis for critical or complex workflows.

  • Gather resources and implement change. Collect the resources that you need to build an effective BPM platform, such as project management software, workflow automation tools, and real-time dashboards. Pick resources that align with the business value that you want to create and manage the change with specific deliverables and timelines. By first rolling out a small pilot, you can work out bugs, build enthusiasm for improved practices, and drive adoption.

  • Track and optimize. Monitor how your new processes work by checking in with stakeholders. Be prepared to add refinements as necessary.

Create BPM value

If you follow best practices above, build a solid BPM team, and understand how you can improve processes to create more value, business process management can yield tangible benefits, including:

  • Increased productivity. More efficient processes create more efficient employees, and you can evaluate performance metrics by using workplace analytics software.

  • Faster time to benefit. Improving your IT processes can affect how quickly software applications are developed and deployed in your business.

  • Improved quality. In addition to accelerating development, improvements in testing can quickly resolve any performance or security issues, enhancing your product or service quality.

  • Increased customer satisfaction. Fixing your business’s customer service processes can help win customers and drive loyalty.

  • Improved employee work experiences. Efficient business processes are the foundation of satisfaction in the workplace, improving morale and potentially reducing turnover.

Start optimizing your business processes now

Every business strives to do things better, faster, and smarter. Combining a comprehensive BPM strategy with the right workflow automation software can help your business deliver on these goals.

Microsoft Power Automate is an easy-to-use workflow optimization solution that can empower your employees to streamline everyday inefficiencies for a companywide impact.