What is business process management?

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The best process always wins in business. When any company decides to improve how their employees complete tasks, which functions are automated and which ones benefit from emerging technology, and when the entire company is focused on streamlining operations, the result is an uptick in sales, increased customer satisfaction, and overall growth.

That’s why business process management is so important. In the context of improving the digital footprint of a company - how files and documents are stored, who can access them, how they are printed, the related security issues, and the long-term archiving - it’s critical to think about what is causing problems and losses in productivity, and what can make the business run faster and more efficiently. Thankfully, business process management is not that difficult to define: It’s a way to improve efficiencies and employee productivity by managing workflows.

What can be difficult? Implementing changes in a company. There’s sometimes resistance to change, training issues with employees, technology hurdles, and even security concerns that can turn business process management into a never-ending chore. It’s important to properly define the major components of business process management first and to work corporately to implement the strategy you want to use, and to make the process improvements as relative and helpful to your company as possible. Business process management should never be an exercise in adding more bureaucracy but should be a way to make operations run smoother. 

To help, the following major functions should become part of any strategy related to business process management. That’s what helps you see clear, productivity-based results. And, it’s where customers and employees will notice that the changes are working, that the automation is helping you deliver and produce your products and services more efficiently.

1. Workflow automation

More than anything, business process automation is about making your employees more productive. Anything other than that - such as being enamored by new technology trends or focusing too much on the details without expecting results-- is only a distraction. 

It’s critical to examine which parts of the company need more automation and which parts will benefit from technology improvements, and then it’s critical to make sure any automation or changes are relevant to the needs of the business. Process improvement is always about productivity improvement. When your workflow is managed and automated, you will see results. 

2. Artificial intelligence

A big part of workflow automation is improving the process by using artificial intelligence. You could say that workflow automation as described above is about employee productivity and artificial intelligence is about making the devices, software, and process itself more automated. 

Of course, those two (employees and devices) are interrelated, but A.I. tends to be more about the machine than the employee. An example of this is when an employee decides to make an archive of a large project and related documents. The workflow describes the steps the employee does, but A.I can be part of business process automation when it analyzes the files and makes sure they are all recent, related to the project, and should be archived.

3. Analytics

Where analytics comes into play with business process automation is knowing what has worked in the past and then comparing the results to what works now. If you make changes to process and automate what employees do - say, with how they create digital files or how they produce them - you have to then find out if there are actual productivity gains. 

You can analyze how much a particular device is being used, or generate reports on any errors or security issues. These reports will help you know if the business process automation is working. 

4. Quality of outputs

When an employee does produce printed materials, the goal is always to make sure that the information is accurate, of the highest quality, and does not waste any consumables like paper and ink. This is where business process automation can play a major role. 

Between the steps an employee performs and the A.I. that makes tasks easier, you can expect process automation to improve the quality materials. One example of this when software can repaginate a large document and then when the copier can collate and staple the print-outs. 

5. Speed improvements

Clearly, business process management is a technical endeavor - it means improving workflows, using artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve the process, and also ensuring accuracy. 

However, it almost goes without saying that an underlying goal is to speed up operations. When there are speed increases there are also productivity increases. Employees who follow a business process that is highly automated and well-managed will end up having time to complete other tasks and work on other projects. 

6. Underlying security

A final component of business process management is ensuring that company data is always safe. Security has to be a part of the automation because, even if employees can print materials quickly, deal with digital files in a simplified manner, and find the materials they need in the cloud, it all has to be secure. 

One important point here is that security impacts productivity. If the business workflow for creating a new marketing campaign is interrupted by security problems and data breaches, it means project timelines will suffer. If your accounting department has to deal with expense reports and a data breach at the same time, employees won’t be happy. 

7. Implementation

Business process automation can sometimes become too much about analyzing your process and not enough about changing the process. Perhaps businesses are concerned about any changes causing ill effects or there is too much complexity to a current process. 

It takes hard work to analyze what needs to change and what needs to be automated, and it can take even more work to implement the needed changes. However, it has to be done. In making the changes and automating what employees do you will see the actual results. Merely analyzing doesn’t produce the results and can actually hamper productivity. 

John Brandon

John Brandon has covered gadgets and cars for the past 12 years having published over 12,000 articles and tested nearly 8,000 products. He's nothing if not prolific. Before starting his writing career, he led an Information Design practice at a large consumer electronics retailer in the US. His hobbies include deep sea exploration, complaining about the weather, and engineering a vast multiverse conspiracy.