Silver Spring, Md. — Business process management (BPM) is still in the early phases of mass-market adoption. As with anything new—especially anything that promises big things—there is always a concern among potential customers that the hype of a new solution won’t match the reality.

However, a study on BPM by AIIM, the enterprise content management association based in Silver Spring, Md., finds that while businesses state that ownership is necessary to BPM-enable a process, there is no consistent area of the enterprise where ownership of process occurs.

“Whether processes are documented or undocumented, manual or automated, optimized or sub-par, they are the core of any functioning organization,” states AIIM VP Carl Frappaolo. “The spread of process excellence from the manufacturing industry into the world of “knowledge workers” across all industries has been a long, slow journey, and many have yet to embark on the journey.”

The survey of more than 300 businesses conducted by AIIM in August 2008, found that 57% of respondents have no specific group responsible for BPM initiatives, and the reporting structure of those that exist are spread amongst IT (primarily), and everyone from the financial department, to operations, to nearly every conceivable department.

Michael Lees, director of BPM Product Marketing at Germany’s Software AG, and coauthor of the book “BPM Basics for Dummies,” told INN that BPM is as much a management discipline as it is a technology, albeit one that is strongly facilitated by technology. Lees says it’s this technological base that differentiates BPM from other management disciplines such Six Sigma. “If you just do BPM technology without the management discipline, your chances of failing are higher than if you did BPM as a management discipline with no technology,” he says.

Many insurers may be in trouble if Lees is right and AIIM’s survey results hold true—57% responded that they don’t have a specific group in your organization responsible for BPM initiatives. And only 10% of respondents have a chief process officer.

Forty-eight percent of respondents place their organization at Level 1 of the Business Process Maturity Model (the enterprise lacks consistent practices and management is reactive; little to no BPM strategy, process redesign is ad-hoc at best) while only 3% are at Level 5 (optimizing process excellence and re-engineering is fully integrated into the organization; emphasis is now on the continuous pro-active improvement of processes, narrowing the gaps between objectives and capabilities).

Many will agree that BPM technologies offer many benefits, but BPM’s greatest value to an enterprise might lay in helping IT departments derive value out of previous expenditures. “People have spent as much as they can stomach on packaged applications and need something to fill the white spaces,” Lees says.

Two insurers with experience in the BPM process implementation participated in a 2007 event hosted by Boston-based Celent. Monique McKeon, program manager, Chubb Specialty Insurance, Warren, N.J., and Chris Spring, CIO at Meadowbrook Insurance Group, Southfield, Mich., offered BPM advice at the event.

“Make sure BPM is positioned correctly within the enterprise,” McKeon said. “From a technical perspective, make sure BPM is positioned in the right place in the enterprise architecture. Know what BPM is (is it a one-size-fits-all program or one that enables you to pick and choose capabilities as you go? Is it just the human workflow or does it also include SOA and integration, business rules, etc.?) Then set up a centralized support model that includes governance.”
 
“BPM should be deployed across the organization, not siloed,” Spring said. “Look for a cheerleader. Who is on top of the process? Over-communicate if you have to. Do the t-shirt and road shows. For those that have implemented BPM, rethink what you did. Look at the processes already in place. Then reevaluate your strategy and design to ensure maximum usability and efficiency.”

Sources: AIIM, INN archives

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