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Involving BPMS technology in process improvement projects leads to better outcomes – so why aren’t more organisations doing it?

Beth Barling

Monday, February 4, 2013 by

As you’ll know from speaking with our analysts or from reading our case study reports, improvement projects that make use of BPM Suite (BPMS) technology have benefited many organisations over the past decade – helping those businesses scale and manage important work processes more effectively, and at the same time creating metrics-driven platforms for ongoing improvement. Nevertheless the process improvement community as a whole has remained largely disconnected from projects that use BPMSs. And that’s a double shame: not only do we know that when process improvement professionals get involved in automation-led projects, the outcomes tend to be better (typically the gains from such projects spread further and the initiatives maintain more momentum over time), but conversely we find that when automation – or ‘systematisation’ – projects are driven without broad involvement from improvement experts, the returns are more modest and short-lived.

Based on our research over the years we’ve long estimated that only 10% of the broad process improvement community has any kind of exposure to BPMS technology or projects. The results of a survey we carried out towards the end of last year with the Process Excellence Network confirm that although 75% of respondents indicated they were involved in process improvement projects utilising approaches such as Lean and Six Sigma, and 65% were involved in continuous improvement projects involving approaches like Kaizen and ISO 9000, only 27% of respondents are working with BPMS technology to automate business processes – the slightly higher percentage most likely accounted for by the elective nature of the survey. And yet, the overwhelming majority of survey participants agreed that BPMS technology can improve efficiency (time, resources) and effectiveness (customer/strategic alignment), as well improving business agility and enabling business restructuring initiatives. So what is it, then, that’s holding organisations back from delivering more integrated approaches (which involve both process improvement-based and automation-led projects) to overall business process improvement?

The results of the survey, published on Feb 1, reveal the reasons why this is the case, with issues such as the alienation of people (not wanting to be told what to do by a software system), scarcity of skills and the challenge of building a business case amongst the complaints. As we mentioned earlier, we know though, that when the two worlds of process improvement and BPMS technology come together, there are benefits to be had. And we also know that overcoming some of the hurdles that hold many organisations back is possible. We know this because the pioneers who have led the way have returned unscathed, with positive stories and lessons to share. We were able to capture many of these lessons through the survey, and we found that four themes stood out strongly. You can read about these in the report. You’ll also be able to hear the report’s lead author, Neil Ward-Dutton, talk about the survey and what it means to deliver a more integrated approach to business process improvement in a free webinar on February 6, 2013, at 4-5pm GMT, 11am-12pm Eastern over on the Process Excellence Network website (a replay will also be available).

To read the results of the survey in full, you can purchase the report from our web store (you’ll find the key messages and table of contents here), or if you’re already a premium subscriber to our Process research program you can log in now to download the report.

Posted in BPM, MWD

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