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Unrecognized potential: Business Process Management

The primary concern of any business process is: efficiency.

A real life example: The Monday morning mail delivery arrives at a medium-sized company in Germany. A heap of letters lands on the doormat. The letters are then passed on to the employees they are addressed to – but unfortunately one of the employees is absent due to illness. Despite that, a letter ends up on their desk, where it sits unopened for three weeks until they return to work. Even more unfortunately, this letter is an invoice whose payment deadline has passed, and the company is now liable for reminder charges. Many CEOs would see this as an entirely normal situation, which involves unavoidable costs. But this is not the case – if a Business Process Management-solution (BPM) would have been in place, this situation wouldn't have happened at all.

The primary concern of any business process is: efficiency. Some medium-sized companies very quickly become aware that the procedures and processes involved in their everyday operations need to be managed proactively to ensure they don't grind to a halt. For this very good reason, such companies will have set up departments in which a Chief Process Manager takes central responsibility for the organization and interaction of business processes. But the majority don't have a plan in place.
The results from a number of studies have shown that the majority of companies don't have a central person who is responsible for this task, and therefore also lack a recognizable concept for regulating their own business processes. We can only speculate about the reasons for this, but the fact is that, every day, these companies miss out on opportunities to improve their efficiency and, as a consequence, increase their profitability. In some circumstances, the motivation for behaving in such an irrational manner is that the company is simply unaware of the options and solutions that are available for good process management.

Making a return on investment (ROI) not only means earning back the money made in investments, but also, in the ideal situation, multiplying it. When it comes to process management, the key requirement for this is implementing the right method of approach, right at the implementation stage. If you make the wrong choice here, you are at risk of high resulting costs because the chosen system being too complicated and expensive to service and maintain. An example: a bespoke solution for implementing an absence management system. Nowadays, as in the past, many companies rely on bespoke solutions for transferring sick notes or applications for vacations directly to the person responsible for this in the company. If errors occur at this stage, they are often not identified until the process is in production. In such cases, resolving the error or implementing patches can involve heavy additional costs because every solution has to be programmed by hand, each time. In the worst case scenario, using this type of solution will not bring any return on investment, and will tie up unforeseen resources for years to come.

Making graphical programming possible, even for non-experts

Another example: implementing an absence management system with graphic-based BPM software. In this case, either a BPM specialist or trained staff would use graphical process development to design this application. This has several benefits: each step is documented, right from the development stage. If errors, or requests for changes arise, these can be quickly traced and implemented. This method of development also involves significantly lower administration and modification costs. A particularly good example of this method is the "BPM inspire" tool. This was developed by Inspire Technologies and is designed especially for medium-sized companies and specialist departments.

A direct comparison of the two approaches also highlights the impressive cost benefits (a factor of 4) of a BPM-based solution with a central control unit, with regard to the implementation costs. Experiences gathered in other projects show that, during the servicing and maintenance phase, this approach has a cost benefit of up to a factor of 10 when compared with a bespoke development – not to mention the increased risks involved in a bespoke solution. As process management is still treated as the poor relation in many medium-sized companies, great reserves of potential for optimizing business processes, particularly with regard to efficiency and flexibility and improving company results, still lie undiscovered. A mature Business Process Management solution will cover four central points: maximum transparency, flexibility and scalability, the potential for reducing costs and exploitation of opportunities for new business. Anyone who can include these fundamental cornerstones in the selection process will also be one step ahead when it comes to ROI.

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