The 7 Stages of Business Process Management

150px-Business_Process_Management_Life-Cycle.svg Organizations can use Business Process Management to improve all of their business processes. A business process begins with the customer’s needs and ends with the customer’s fulfillment.

Business Process Management (BPM) is a method of efficiently aligning an organization with the wants and needs of the clients. It is a holistic management approach that promotes business effectiveness and efficiency while striving for innovation, flexibility and integration with technology.

As organizations strive for attainment of their objectives, BPM attempts to continuously improve processes – the process to define, measure and improve your processes – a ‘process optimization’ process.

At its core, BPM is about creating and improving business processes. There are a multitude of disciplines and activities that can be considered as BPM. Total Quality Management (TQM), Six Sigma, and Lean Principles all contain elements of process improvement.

Whatever method is chosen, perhaps even a hybrid of many there should be a defined roadmap to follow. It is like a trip to a place you have never been before. You know where you are now and where you want to go. To get there you must have a roadmap with stops and signs along the way to keep you on the right road. Creating a framework or roadmap for BPM is essential for it to be successful.

Stage 1: Design – Good design reduces the number of problems over the lifetime of the process improvement. Whether or not existing processes are considered, the aim of this step is to ensure that a correct and efficient theoretical design is prepared.

  • Determine the process for improvement.
  • Form the Process Management team.
  • Define the roles & responsibilities of the team members.
  • Identify process goal, objectives and expected outcomes.

Stage 2: Stakeholders – All stakeholders and their requirements for the process must be identified. Meet with all involved stakeholders and determine what their needs are. Consider all internal and external customers.

  • Identify all stakeholders impacted by the process.
  • Identify stakeholder requirements from the process.

Stage 3: Define the Current Process – Before a process can be improved it must first be defined. Often a current process lacks definition and documentation. Examine the current process from start to finish and document it. Take notes on any obvious needs for improvement.

  • Define the current performance of the process.
  • Flowchart the current process.

Stage 4: Measure the Current Process – Any process improvement requires that you first learn where you are. You need to establish a baseline for the current process so you will have a something to measure the improvement against.

  • Measure the current performance of the process.
  • Identify qualitative and quantitative measures.

Stage 5: Identify Barriers to Improvement - Any trip on the road to improvement is likely to have obstacles that must be overcome. A common obstacle to improvement is resistance to change from management and those that use the process. In your meetings with stakeholders be sure they understand why process improvement is needed. Get them onboard, keep them updated and get feedback from them on the progress of the process improvement.

  • Identify the blockages and barriers preventing you from immediately realizing your goal.
  • Apply a problem solving technique to identify all possible blockages and barriers that may be preventing you from realizing the customer requirements.

Stage 6: Root Cause Analysis – RCA is a valuable tool in process improvement. Along the way to improving a process you will run across problems that need to be identified and resolved. RCA techniques will assist you in identifying what the problem is, explore all methods to solve it, determine the best solution and how to implement it.

  • Delve into the source of every identified blockage.
  • Explore the causes of every identified barrier.

Stage 7: Develop the Solutions and Implementation Plan – With all of the elements in place you should now be able to develop solutions to improve the process. Take great care in documenting and training to benefit those using the improved process. The better they understand the change, the more likely it is to be successful. This will also assist in further improvements to the new process down the road.

Despite how well you plan and develop a new process you must first pilot and closely monitor it before full-scale implementation. Be sure methods of measurement are in place so you can determine where there is actual improvement and so you can identify any areas that need fine turning. Continue to monitor the process after full-scale implementation. Problems may arise that could not be foreseen and must be addressed.

  • Develop solutions.
  • Prioritize solutions.
  • Describe the new process:Identify the impact on internal and external customers.Re-organize the structure according to plan.
  • Pilot the new process.
  • Measure the new process capabilities.
  • Develop a detailed implementation strategy to ensure that the solutions can be successfully realized.

Summary

BPM should be an organization wide endeavor. All departments should follow the same roadmap and methods for improvement. If one department is using Six Sigma and another is using TQM you will not be able to attain the breakthrough results you want. This will require centralized control and backing from the highest levels of management.

A lot of time should be spent to design your BPM framework. Make sure that you have everyone onboard and that you consider every obstacle you must deal with. For instance you must comply with regulations such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Your improvement may include outside vendors who also have needs and requirements.

BPM is not a “just do it” quick fix. It is a discipline that requires patience, planning and monitoring. It also is an area for continuous improvement. New methods, new regulations and new customer requirements are all part of the ever changing landscape that BPM must deal with.

Business processes can always be improved upon. With a culture of continuous improvement, your organization will always be on the cutting edge and in line with the needs of your business and your customers.