A business process is a series of steps performed by a group of stakeholders to achieve a goal. These steps are often repeated many times, sometimes by multiple users and ideally in a standardized and optimized way. A business process can be manual or automated. If manual, the process is achieved without the aid of an automation or assisting technology. If automated, a technology aid has been put into place which assists users in implementing the process in a more accurate, standardized or optimized manner.
A business process can often be visualized as a flowchart or workflow of logical steps. Business Process Management is the discipline which attempts to formalize this method.
Challenges Related to Business Processes
Executing business processes successfully is not always an easy task. There are numerous challenges which arise, including:
- Bottlenecks – the slowing or halting of a process at a specific stage due to a human/machine error or difficulty.
- Duplication of work and redundancy – inefficient processes often have areas that are repeated or unnecessary.
- Lack of visibility – management does not have a way of viewing where processes stand, what their status is, and how they are performing generally, and specifically.
- Integration issues – process technology does not always integrate well with existing systems, causing communication gaps and malfunctions.
Types of Business Processes
Business processes span industries, both vertical and horizontal, and can include any type of business operation. Examples include:
- Manufacturing – a product assembly process, a quality assurance process, a corrective/preventive maintenance process.
- Finance – an invoicing process, a billing process, a risk management process
- Health – a medical assessment, a drug approval
- Banking – customer on-boarding, credit check
- Travel – trip booking, agent billing
- Defense – a situation room process, emergency management process
- HR – on-boarding, off-boarding, vacation request
- Public Sector – application for a government service
- Compliance – a safety audit, a legal check
Technical Solutions to these Challenges
BPMS (Business Process Management Software) should consider the above challenges, and provide a set of tools to handle and alleviate them. Some of these tools include:
- Management Dashboards – these can address the problems of visibility and bottlenecks. Think Business Intelligence.
- Verification and Error Handling – most BPMSs include a module which finds and helps solve errors and malfunctions.
- Integration Wizards – these can help integrate the BPMS with common ERP/CRM and other systems, preventing the need for error-prone coding.
- Collaboration Tools – users who can easily collaborate and view each other’s work are able to help prevent duplication of work and redundancy.
On the Horizon: Process Intelligence – the Data-Driven, Results Oriented Approach
Process Intelligence is an innovative new solution based on detailed data from your IT systems. This type of tool unveils what really happens in your business processes and enable you to properly assess key indicators.
Do you know everything about your company’s processes?
Be it for procurement, sales, invoicing, or insurance claims, there is often a gap between how processes are intended to be and what they are in reality.
There are many reasons for this:
- the complexity of business and system landscapes:
- changes that have occurred over time,
- exceptions to process blueprints for operational reasons,
- users with too much freedom within the IT systems,
- and finally, people who often only see some of the processes whilst missing the complete picture.
Identifying and understanding these gaps is imperative to boosting your operational effectiveness and efficiency.
How will Process Intelligence help you?
- Analyze process overview and volume of certain transitions.
- Gain insight regarding root causes of the issues and bottlenecks in the People, Processes, and IT system.
- Evaluate the level of process standardization and control.
- Compare behaviors of specific entities or departments, between specific time periods or service types.
- Assess lead times in transactions / activities (e.g. purchase doc to good receipt, good receipt to invoice, invoice to payment)
About the author
Ryan Raiker is an accomplished business consultant with experience working with small and medium enterprises. Ryan has worked in project management in State, and Local government. He studied Business Analytics and later earned his MBA from Widener University in Chester, Pennsylvania. Currently Ryan is focusing on Brand Management and Product Development for TimelinePI.