Enterprise Initiatives

This blog focuses on Enterprise IT topics such as Enterprise Architecture, Portfolio Management, Change Management, Business Process Management, and recaps various technology events and news.

Another lesson learned I encountered recently is to clearly define the intentions of your BPM projects. There is a huge difference between attempting to improve processes versus automating processes. First let's discuss the pros and cons of each:

Process Automating in a BPM world


  • Quick wins (unless processes are extremely complex)
  • Less culture shock
  • Reduce human error
  • Start collecting process metrics baselines to analyze future process improvements
  • Reduce paper, fax, emails, etc.
  • Only small efficiency gains are realized
  • Automating non-value add processes
  • Missed opportunity to optimize work flow
  • May never get a chance to improve processes
Process Improvement in a BPM world

  • Reduce or eliminate waste
  • Potential huge return on investment
  • Improve employee performance and customer experience
  • Reduce complexity of systems
  • Financial justification of process steps
  • Potential culture shock issues
  • Requires more executive support
  • More expensive to implement
  • Requires more attention to change management
Like any other large enterprise initiative, a company must have a vision or a roadmap. Some companies may want to achieve financial benefits as soon as possible. For those companies, they should embark on a process improvement initiative right out of the gates. This means that the company must invest in training the business on process improvements with tools like lean sigma, TQM, and others or bring in talent to assess and recommend new processes.

Other companies may want to ease into the culture transformation and start with process automation. This allows the employees to get familiar with the BPM tools and to start collecting data about the current processes (time, costs, bottlenecks, etc.). This information can lead to process improvements down the road. The downside to this approach is that it will take the company much longer to reach the "promised land" of having streamlined and cost effective processes. The real danger that I see is other priorities may take precedence and the company may never get the opportunity to eliminate waste. In my opinion, process automation by itself may not justify the expense of purchasing a BPMS tool. The real value is in process improvement.

Fellow ITToolbox blogger Vladimir Stojanovski wrote a good post on this topic several months ago called Synergies of Process Improvement and Process Automation. In his post he pointed out some interesting statistics that I will mention here:
  • Process automation resulting from technology investments yields 2 percent productivity gains. These are the types of projects where technology is used to make old, tired, and broken processes run faster.
  • Process improvement through re-engineering yields 8 percent in productivity gains.
  • When done together, productivity improvements from both process automation and improvement yield 20 percent in productivity gains.
Mark Smith wrote a post back in 2005 called Process Automation Can Undermine Performance. The key take away from this post is his closing statement:
To succeed at BPM, assess for success, think beyond automation and make performance improvement your number-one process improvement goal.
My point is, the real value in leveraging BPM is process improvements. Process improvement combined with process automation is a powerful combination that can bring real value to an enterprise. Process automation by itself is nice, but it still allows waste to exist in the organization. But whatever your BPM strategy is, make sure it is clear to all team members what the direction is. If some people have an expectation that the goal is automation, while others think the goal is improvement, you will create a lot of unnecessary conflicts.


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