Business Process Management (BPM) is the management discipline that focuses on the optimization of the business processes of an enterprise to achieve superior business performance.

BPM promises many benefits to an enterprise. By applying BPM principles, practices and techniques, you can make significant improvements starting with enhanced customer service through to greater operational excellence and reduced operating costs.

I have trained and coached business process improvement teams for many years and I always start by giving a high-level view of the core activities of BPM. This view helps everyone understand how tasks such as process modeling and process measurement contribute to the overarching goal of process optimization; harnessing the power of BPM requires the application of the practices and techniques in each of the six BPM core activities.

The 6 BPM Core Activities

The following diagram illustrates the six BPM core activities:

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The 6 BPM Core Activities

I will talk about each core activity in turn. I will highlight the approach to use in each core activity and also how to link the activities together to dramatically improve business performance.

Identifying Business Processes

The starting point for any BPM initiative is to clarify the business strategy. Whether you are working with the entire business or only a part of it, such as a business unit, it is essential to document the strategy. Strategy is sometimes recorded in a formal strategic plan but is often in the mind of the business owner or executive team and not clearly articulated.

You need to do careful strategy analysis to clarify and document the elements of strategy such as strategic goals, objectives and courses of action.

Once the business strategy has been documented, you can identify the high-level business processes that deliver and support the strategy.

The initial list of high-level business processes is called the Process Inventory.

The Process Inventory is an input into the Business Process Architecture of the enterprise.

Business Process Architecture classifies the high-level business processes into core, management and support processes. It also names the processes and defines their scope and interrelationships. The Business Process Architecture is then used to prioritize the business processes in need of improvement and optimization.

Discovering Business Processes

Once the Business Process Architecture has been agreed on, it is time to discover the essential elements of each of the processes in the Business Process Architecture starting with the priorized processes. Discovery is done by asking the right six questions and observing the process to develop a Process Map.

A Process Map is the initial description of a business process in graphic form. The technique used for business process mapping is Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN).

BPMN is used because it is a standardized, globally adopted process mapping and modeling language that clearly defines the process.

Further work is then done to fully detail each process map into a Process Model using the full BPMN pallet.

The initial detailed view of a business process is the current state process model also known as the As-Is Process Model.

The end of the Discover Business Processes activity is a set of verified and validated As-Is Process Models developed in BPMN. This is the baseline for future process improvement.

Analyzing Business Processes

In this activity the requirements of the processes are analysed.

Process Requirements Analysis starts with the identification of all the process stakeholders. These are people who are affected in some way by the process.

The most important stakeholder is the process customer. Process customers receive value from the process by means of the products and services produced by the process.

When you do process requirements analysis, firstly understand and document what job the process does for the stakeholders. This helps to identify the gains the process can achieve for the stakeholders.

Then identify the pain points of the process. These are points in the process that prevent the customers and other stakeholders gaining value and being satisfied by the process.

By identifying and analysing important requirments, opportunities for improvement can be identified.

The requirements can then be directly mapped to the process elements in the as-is process model.

Redesigning Business Processes

Using the results of the Analyze Business Processes activity, the future state business process model can be developed. This is also know as the To-Be Process Model.

The To-Be Process Model is the design blueprint for the new or improved process. It is important to use the analytic BPMN pallet to develop the To-Be Process Model so that the process design is fully detailed including normal flows as well as the process variants and exception flows.

Critical process performance measures are also developed during this activity.

The redesign of the process frequently includes digitization and automation of process flows and decisions as part of the solution but remember the application of computerization is a process enabler and not and end in itself.

The power of Process Simulation can be used to refine the design of the To-Be Process Model and test the performance of the proposed future state process.

Implementing Business Processes 

The To-Be Process Model is the basis for the successful implementation of the redesigned process.

There are likely to be many changes requires to implement the new process. These will affect different elements of the process including the people, systems, policies and infrastructure. All the elements that need to be changed are detailed in the To-Be Process model.

To ensure a successful process implementation it is important to develop and agree on a Process Implementation Plan. This can be done using formal project planning or can be done using agile project execution techniques.

When the Implement Business Process activity is performed, the team needs to include roles such a Business Analysis, Organization Design and Human Change Management.

A successfully implemented and tested process that meets the requirements of the To-Be model marks the end of this activity. The ownership of the process is then handed over to the operational Process Owner.

Monitoring Business Processes

Once the business process has been implemented it is important to monitor its performance so it can be effectively managed when it is live and operating.

Process Performance Measures defined in the Redesigning Business Processes activity are used to determine what needs to be reported on during the performance of the process. These measures include efficiency, effectiveness and adaptability metrics. Often, these measures are called the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) of the process.

Based on the performance of the process in operation, the process can be controlled,  continuously improved, and innovated, ultimately to an optimal state of operational excellence.

Learn more about BPM by attending our Business Process Management Courses.