Starting Down the BPM Path

By Tony Kontzer Print this article Print

Business Process Management is increasingly critical as companies struggle to keep up with fast-evolving markets.

Over time, as Liquid Controls discovered the value that workflow features could bring to other processes bogged down by manual procedures, the software (now called Process Director) evolved into a more powerful BPM solution. That enabled the company to build business process models to provide new visibility into where bottlenecks were occurring, says Bruce Lawrence, group network manager.

It wasn’t long before employees responsible for processes such as order management or measuring the accuracy of products—both of which had previously been done manually, resulting in lost paperwork, inaccurate information and lots of wasted time—were benefiting from dashboard views of each process, complete with up-to-date related financial data and a clear picture of where each step in a process stood.

The impact has been tangible. Lawrence says 85 percent of orders are now entered within 24 hours, up from 60 percent prior to the BP Logix deployment. In addition, equipment repairs and calibrations are now completed in 20 days, less than half of the 44 days that they used to take.

Other processes—such as issuing credit memos, approving credit and payment terms, and making approved changes to address book entries—have been shortened by one-third or more, simply by replacing all the hard-to-track paperwork with automated workflows that give employees visibility into the end-to-end processes to which they contribute.

“Knowledge is power,” says Lawrence. “You know where things are being hung up, rather than wasting your precious time during the day tracking something down.”

Still, with 60 processes now running in its BP Logix system, Liquid Controls has only skimmed the surface of the software’s potential to refine its business, says Lawrence. “It’s getting to the point where it is providing information that will help us improve,” he says. “I think a company would be foolish not to have [BPM software] in place.”

Starting Down the BPM Path

Liquid Controls’ inadvertent adoption of BPM serves as a textbook example of how the technology can work its way into an organization. Bob Scott, leader of the BPM global service line at IT consultancy Capgemini, says most companies don’t start down the path to a BPM deployment by taking stock of their processes and identifying possible improvements. Instead, they are looking to solve a much smaller problem.

“When I’m talking to clients, they rarely say, 'I want to buy a BPM solution,’” says Scott. “What they say is, 'It’s clear we have a problem with our warranty management system.’”

That said, business and IT managers are likely to find themselves looking at BPM technology in the coming years as they’re forced to contend with one big change or another. In a recent survey, Technology Evaluation Centers found that over the next five years, 35 percent of business managers expect their companies to make acquisitions or divestitures; 39 percent anticipate a change in their company’s business model; and 57 percent expect to expand into new lines of business.

Such large-scale events are expected to become a driver for increased BPM adoption. Experts like Scott say that the technology is becoming increasingly critical as companies—especially those saddled by aging legacy technologies—struggle to refine their business processes quickly enough to keep up with the fast-evolving marketplace.

“When asked to introduce a new service, legacy systems often can’t do it, or they require nine months to make it happen,” says Scott. “In the current market, nine months just does not cut the mustard anymore. You’ve either missed your market opportunity or lost your customer.”

Consider how BPM provided Athletes’ Performance with the agility to offer fitness training to consumers and corporate wellness services to companies. Shortly after the Athletes’ Performance ILOG deployment had wrapped up, corporations began inquiring about fitness programs for their employees. With its newfound ability to deliver more cost-effective services, the company gladly obliged.

Today, in addition to its four Athletes’ Performance facilities, the company provides fitness training to consumers and corporate clients at six Core Performance centers around the country. It also plans to increase that number “significantly” in 2012, according to a company spokeswoman.

What’s more, the company’s revenue has more than doubled in the three years since the ILOG system went live—a compelling return on investment, to be sure. With corporate wellness now the fastest growing part of the business, says Zerden, the investment in BPM should look even better down the road.

It’s clear from the experiences of Athletes’ Performance and Liquid Controls that BPM technology can deliver far-reaching benefits. As more enterprises rethink their processes to keep up with an increasingly connected and real-time world, BPM could find itself beside ERP, HR and CRM as one of the staples of an enterprise IT stack that brings real value to the business.

This article was originally published on 2012-02-09
Tony Kontzer is a freelance writer for Baseline magazine.
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