A smartwatch analogy: Keep effective business process management ticking

Effective business process management (BPM): A smartwatch analogy.

What does a watch and business process management (BPM) have in common?

When we think of traditional BPM, we often end up visualizing process models – nicely designed, static process flows. Arguably, these exact process models are pretty similar to an analog watch. Just as a traditional watch allows us to check the time, traditional process models enable us to examine the flow of activities.

Just as an old watch can get out of sync, process models similarly get out of date. What happens when the battery of the watch is empty? The watch stops displaying the right time. And what happens when the process models are archived and never touched again? The models stop displaying the operational reality.

Business processes, along with data, systems and the people working within the company, form the backbone of any business. But it’s still a common practice to draw process models once and then archive them somewhere for years, assuming that these process models reflect today’s operational reality.

It’s common for many companies to miss out on significant opportunities when it comes to their BPM. Mainly because it’s previously taken a lot of drive to model processes, either from a motivated process manager or through necessity, because they are growing bigger, become stock notated or under audit. Plus, when attempted, it’s done mostly all in one shot and then housed in the depths of a digital folder or even printed and kept in a box to gather dust.

The question is, can we afford such a practice in today’s fast moving and digitalized world? I believe you already know the answer. Our globalized world runs at an incredibly rapid pace, so much so that there is even a term for it – VUCA. VUCA stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity and represents the umbrella term for challenges businesses are facing today. Pandemic. Lockdowns. Volatile markets. Inflation. Changing consumer behaviors. Shifts in priorities. Emerging technologies and trends. Geopolitical conflicts. Unclear developments. All this has happened in the past three years only.

Plus, disruptions through new technologies and business models are taking place in almost every imaginable business area, and at the same time, we are experiencing increased complexity in terms of product variety, business processes and stakeholder relationships. All this, and still we are convinced that our process flows from 2013 can adequately cope with all these modern challenges.

How should we deal with all this instead?

It’s time to rethink traditional BPM, just as we rethought the traditional watch. We came up with the smartwatch. The smartwatch tells us exactly – apart from time – how many calories we’ve burned, how many steps we’ve taken and how many hours we’ve slept. We can even share these observations with our family and friends, should they be so intrigued.

It’s all about insights and communication. And here is the connection point to modern BPM. As we made the watch smart, now it’s time to make business processes smart. We’ve got the data. We’ve got the capabilities. All we have to do is connect our business processes to our live ERP systems.

Successful companies of tomorrow yield competitive advantage by embracing internal process transparency and traceability, process automation, agility and improved decision-making. Quick adaptation, collaboration and transformation of the business strategy and its structures and processes are key. For effective BPM, you’ll further require a solid understanding of pain points, in-depth process analysis, industry benchmarking, process reimagination and smooth collaboration among all involved parties, just to name a few.

Thankfully, you don’t need to be a process expert or a BPMN master to drive such process initiatives. The toolkits for a reinvented BPM are out there. So, welcome to a new era of smart business processes, where the BPM tools provide you with insights into your process performance, bottlenecks and pain points, improvement potentials, innovation recommendations as well as benchmarking compared to your industry peers. And like with the smartwatch, we can easily share process-related findings and feedback among our colleagues.

This is not something of the future; it’s already feasible and available today. Smart technologies such as AI and intelligent RPA, combined with a user-friendly experience, simplify and support organizations in pursuing this mission in order to sustainably drive real results in the age of Big Data and Industry 4.0.

Modern BPM is much more than just process modelling too, its process analysis and mining, customer journey and experience analytics, process governance and automation as well as process collaboration.

And, even though we talk processes, data and systems, the human aspect remains at the core of modern BPM. Just like the smartwatch simply serves as the toolkit providing you with valuable insights regarding your health, ultimately it’s the person wearing the watch who is in charge of their performance and it’s the people who run and continuously innovate your business processes that take advantage of these IT systems to process and interpret data intelligently.

In essence, it’s about evolution and continuous process improvement that goes beyond functional silos to address the fast-paced challenges of today’s business world. Above all, it’s ultimately about the people working together within the organization.

The variety of modern BPM scenarios ranges from operational to strategic, from small to big business influence. From driving operational efficiency, selectively adjusting process and technology and evolving processes to enable higher volumes for digital business, all the way to developing new or transforming current businesses using digital technology.

Depending on your intentions and needs, the individual solutions can support you in understanding the true business value behind your organization and how to achieve it – and continuously evolve it. Companies that become data-driven and adopt such state-of-the-art practices have proven benefits, including faster decision-making, greater ability in identifying improvement opportunities as well as a better customer experience.

Wrap-up time

The challenges related to our VUCA world are real. Volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity are byproducts of the fast-moving and digitalized business world we are living in. Competing in such a globalized environment requires a certain agility and transformation.

The way I see it, traditional BPM approaches are insufficient in supporting fast-paced change and lack significant business process insights, resulting in decision-making based on outdated information and ultimately leading to unhappy customers and consequently reduced competitiveness.

While business leaders need to act fast, they require capabilities to better understand their critical business processes and to adjust and align all available resources across their organization – all in real-time. Just as we made our watches smart, we have now the chance to make our business processes intelligent and smart.

Next-gen BPM solutions bring everything together in a holistic suite, harmonizing your business processes, data and systems while emphasizing the human aspect of your organization with one overall objective: Stay on top and on time in today’s hyper-competitive and disrupted business world.