What is BPM?
Once the strategy is in place, any organization has two important questions to answer. These are:
- Who will do the job? and
- How will the job be done?
The answer to the first question is the person who has the right skills to do the job, while the answer to the second question is the “process” to be followed. There is a third aspect called “Technology” which answers the question “How can I speed up the job to be done?” The third aspect is however, dependent on the first two aspects, which means, if a company has people who are not adequately trained to do a job and the mode of doing the job itself is not properly documented, then no matter how good the technology employed, it will not yield the desired result. Therefore, here we will limit ourselves to the “process” part of the discussion.
To start with, what is a business process? Business process is nothing, but the activities that each individual in an organization has to do, in order to achieve the desired result. Although the minute we add “Business” to any topic, it is seen as a complex stuff or worst still “nothing to do with me topic” but it is not that complicated. Let us break it down further and first understand what a process is. We’ll take an example from our every day life - How about making a plain omelette?
Step 1: You need two eggs, a frying pan, spatula, egg-beater, oil or butter, onions, chilies, salt, pepper and saucepan
Step 2: Keep the frying pan on the stove and heat it
Step 3: Pour butter or oil in the pan
Step 4: Break the eggs and pour it in the saucepan
Step 5: Add some onions, chilies, salt and pepper to taste, in the same saucepan
Step 6: With the help of the egg-beater, mix the egg yolk, egg white and all the added ingredients, properly
Step 7: Pour the egg from the saucepan in to the frying pan and let it fry for about a minute
Step 8: Using the spatula invert the omelette and let it fry for a minute again
Step 9: After a minute, remove the omelette from the frying pan with the spatula, roll it and serve it in a plate.
Now, steps 1 through 9 are nothing, but the process of making an omelette. Isn’t that simple? Who does the cooking? Anyone who knows how to break an egg or put the gas stove on. This same principle applies to organizations too. A collection of series of activities to achieve an end result is called a process. Our end result was to make an omelette, an organization may have an end result to recruit a person, or send out a purchase order or arrange a vehicle to pick up the CEO from the airport. Of course, the people doing the work may be from different departments, but all of them do need follow a process to get the job done.
If we closely observe Step 1, it is not really a work to be done. It is a step which assumes that the ingredients are available with the cook. In other words, it is a pre-requisite for the process to be done. Conversely, the process will not work without these ingredients or pre-requisites being available. Similarly, in an organization too, processes will work only with some pre-requisites. This again is outlined in a process document. A good process document will have details on – What needs to be done?, Who does it?. When does he do it?, Where does he do it?, Why does he do it? and finally, How does he do it? This is what is called 5 W, 1H. Let’s see how it work for our omelette:
What needs to be done? – An omelette needs to be cooked
Who does it? – A chef (in case of a restaurant) or the cook (at home)
When does he do it? – At the time of an order (restaurant) or time for breakfast (at home)
Where does he do it? – In the kitchen
Why does he do it? – To serve customer and earn money (restaurant) or to nourish/quell hunger pangs (at home)
How does he do it? – Follow Steps 1 to 9 (mentioned above)
So, we have just created our 5W, 1H. This is all there is to a process document. Now, there would be hundreds or even thousands of processes in an organization and all the documents thus formed are collectively called “Business Processes”.
Business Process Management
The last level is the “Management” of these processes. Let’s say our chef is not happy with his job and he leaves. A new chef is appointed who has to make the omelette in the same way since customers love it. What does he do? Simple - the new chef just refers the document (recipe book) which the earlier chef had made and follows it to make the omelette. Therefore, someone has to ensure that this recipe book is managed somewhere safely. This is called Process Management. In an organization special softwares and tools are used to maintain the process documents as soft copies. These can be referred by the appropriate members of the organization by logging in and going through the document. This is what we call as “Business Process Management”.
The term BPM or Business Process Management in an organization, further involves analyzing the processes, improving it and implementing it. Why would we require this? The answer can be found around us. Earlier, our grandfather used to go to the bank to withdraw cash by giving a check. Today, however, you and I go to an ATM machine to withdraw cash. This happened because the process of money withdrawal changed over a period of time and now we have a faster and more efficient way of withdrawing. Therefore, process management includes improvement. This is all there is to Business Process Management.
Business Process Management is absolutely critical in an organization for training, forming a base for improvement initiatives, ensuring new employees follow the processes correctly and many other aspects. BPM therefore is an interesting topic for people who like to make things creative!