Vítor Alberto Klein's Blog


Does BPM mean Automation?

Filed under: Gestão de / por Processos — vitoralbertoklein @ 19:24

Por Vítor Alberto Klein

Recentemente publiquei um artigo no blog “BPM Leader”:


By Vitor Alberto Klein @ Trends Consulting | May 14, 2012

For some time, as consulting professionals we live under the aegis of the “alphabet soup” and acronyms, which often leads to an erroneous understanding of concepts.

  • BPM: a management methodology, and does not imply in any way, as “sine qua non”, process automation:
  • BPMN: a process notation,
  • BPEL: Business Process Execution Language,
  • BPMS (tools),
  • SOA: IT Strategy, Service Oriented Architecture
  • etc…

Of course, automation is likely to become a natural consequence, in order to streamline and increase efficiency, integration, interactivity and productivity of a process, but BPM is much bigger than that.

bpm automation

This is what BPM is for me -in very condensed form- and starting from scratch:

  • Lift all processes of the organization (or those considered strategic or critical);
  • Map these processes, identifying: I/O, interfaces, responsibilities, functions, flows of activities, value chain, costs, indicators, time, 5W2H, critical points, control points, customer requirements (internal and external), correlation process (chain of cause / effect – events), hierarchical processes (macro-processes, processes, sub-processes, sub-sub-processes, where I like to use the nomenclature sub1, sub2, Sub3 , according to hierarchy ….), work instructions, or operational procedures involved / bound support systems, stakeholders, possible improvements (for mapping at the time of the same can be identified) and so on;
  • After this we will analyze whether the processes are aligned with the guidelines of the Strategic Planning and BSC, and establish priorities for needed improvements, redesigning, optimizations and resulting action plans, where obviously, technological resources should be used, including the automation of the processes;
  • Understand well the correlations and the requirements of each process;
  • Establish meetings to discuss with key stakeholders (process owner and interfaces) all questions about the alignment and optimizations under consideration;
  • Research / analyze possible solutions on the market or “benchmarks” / “cases”, so we optimize processes;
  • Conduct periodic audits of processes, involving all parties;
  • Participate in committees, presenting innovations and possible alternatives for changes / optimizations, demonstrating advantages, gains, competitive advantages, cost-benefit ratio and so on. Always working together with customers areas.
  • In parallel, track and monitor key indicators (DASHBOARD) and taking appropriate measures to meet the desired performance;
  • Establish a “culture of process – process management” with the organization, from a learning plan / training, because we must consider the culture and people together in order to consolidate Process Management, and perhaps, a future Process Management;
  • Establish an Office of Processes (BPO – Business Processes Office), making it a central (strategic) element within the organization;
  • Conduct Change Management projects that entail the adequacy of processes, organizational culture, training people, “barriers” and alleged internal paradigms;
  • Monitor market trends and competition, providing more streamlined processes, effective, less costly and agile;
  • Design a set of practices, concepts, methodologies complementary / supplementary in various areas of knowledge in business and business strategies that might add to the studies and analyzes under constant development.

Finally, in a “very naive” way, for me this is the initial scenario of the concept of BPM. It is likely that the steps are not a sequel because I was writing in accordance with the points considered most important.

In this scenario, all actions of the team (consultant / analyst) should be aligned (and vice-versa) with the “major” organizational areas: IT / systems, competitive intelligence, strategic planning, HR, logistics, marketing, costs, quality, research & development and more. And of course never forgetting those who understand the “business”, the user area, and nevre forgetting that we only act as a catalyst, as an agent of change, integration and improvements, proposing the use of best practices and our integrated vision of the organization in alignment strategies, and in this respect act as multipliers.

Currently, do you have to determine the competitive advantages of an organization? Since with the “commoditization” of the ERP, many processes have become “standard” and may be considered as templates. (Mainly administrative and support: HR, Accounts Payable / Receivable, Billing, Purchasing, Inventory).

Were the price, the level of innovation, the relationship with the market / customer (loyalty), market segmentation, the vertical, speed (time), the response time demands, the “branding” (strengthening and positioning), capillarity (distribution), the market share or the quality of products / services, the most likely to promote business competitiveness?? Or is that none of this, and has it to do with BPM?


E este ponto vêm encontrando opiniões que corroboram ou rediscutem / pautam esta questão, como abaixo no Linkedin:

Michael Poulin • No, BPM means business process management and automation erases a business process from the BPM radar. The process vanishes while the business functionality it implemented remains with us but provided by different means than business process.

Luis Mizael Martinez Jimenez • I agree with the article, BPM does not mean automation even when automation is a very common tool in BPM these days; it is often confused. Once processes reach a certain maturity level, there are indeed parts of it that can be automated, but always with the understanding that we are “managing” business processes rather than just running instances of those.

Jennifer van Wyk • Good question and like Michael and Luis I too say NO. And emphatically at that. So many organisations think that a tool will solve their problems. Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for technology and it does help but it can also be a hinderance when dealing with business processes, especially when dealing with operational processes that change all the time. So many business processes that have been automated are incorrect because it was documented and stored and never again updated. Also, once automated it disappears from sight. If you cannot see it, it doesn’t exist and ends up being a figment of someone’s imagination! This is what makes business processes a hallucination, in my opinion anyway!

John Bertolet • Here’s another emphatic “NO” for you. In fact this is one of my pet peeves, one of the worst misconceptions about “Business Process Management” — any process can be managed and improved regardless of whether it is automated. It is about business results, not about IT. IT is just one of many enablers for good process performance. If we limit BPM to only IT automation then we are missing the point.

Michael Poulin • I have a strict and concrete definition of process and business process in particular. Business Process is NOT everything what we do (otherwise, why would we need a special term?).
With my acceptance of the initial definition of “process” rooted in the manufacturing, I argue that the process is the most robust form of organisation and, because of that, it tends to be immutable. That is, no process per se may be improved but rather replaced by another process that delivers improved results. The major purposes of BPM are: 1) protecting the business process from any deviations (including innovations); 2) looking up for more efficient process delivering better results for given task. BPM Automation is just a form of implementation of a fragment of higher level business process in the best case.

John Nycz • OK, here goes the contrarian (well, somewhat contrarian view). BPM and automation are not mutually exclusive. But, IBM (based on Forrester research) puts the value of improving process waste at an average of $1 billion per member of the Global 2000. Some BPM vendors further summize that half of that figure could benefit from the support of a technology solution (automation). Agreed, BPM does not require automation, and every automation project should be integrated with, or proceeded by, an improvement project. Either way, the macro math says there is about $1 trillion worth of process waste that could benefit from automation (technology solutions).
But what’s this “once automated it disappears from sight”? “…erases BPM from the radar”? Not in the world we work in. Once automated the whole process ends up on the process owner’s dashboard with BAM metrics and KPI’s built right in (and on the LOB leaders dashboard too). It turns into SPC – In fact, Amazon does it so well that if web sales dip below certain levels in any 30 min period meetings are convened and teams are mobilized to trouble shoot. The process results are even rolled up to the ELT in summary form, and it is now more visible than ever? Plus the process participants have feedback loops so that if they have an idea for dropping a non-value-add step or further streamlining an approval cycle, or getting an estimate out faster, it can be factored in (the system does CPI).
If you don’t automate processes you force your people to mire themselves in adminsitrivia, make more errors, create rework, control the process less effectively and WASTE time that otherwise smart people might be allocating to working on problems or opportunities that deliver more business value.
Case in point…we drink our own Kool-Aid. I have a good friend that works for a F500 med device manufacturer for it’s global process improvement leadership team. He spends .75 days (almost a darned day) a month doing expenses. I take pictures of my receipts with my Andriod and upload them to a Google App. My expense submission process takes about 17 mins if I answer an e-mail in the middle of it (but I do it about 2 x per month — so, say net .05 days total vs. 6 hours). Let’s also just say that his company had a field sales force of 1,000 (OK – they have more). If I take 1/2 a day off of the field sales force’s ‘time to do expense reporting bucket’ and some of it moves to the ‘time to call call leads from the orthopedic surgeons conference bucket’ will there be a corresponding lift in “prospects in the pipeline” that can be measured? OK, simpler math: If we gave our field sales force 48,000 hours a year back…would some of them use that time to further exploit their comp plans and drive top-line revenue?
Manage it, improve it…heck by all means do that first because if you don’t you’ll automate a bad process and produce more wrong work faster. But, if an automated solution for 1/2 of the things you work on isn’t “the end goal” you’re leaving a lot of improvement opportunity on the cutting room floor. And in the end, does your organization pay you to manage it’s business processes, or to improve them on the way by?
Victor, you’re spot on, “Of course, automation is likely to become a natural consequence, in order to streamline and increase efficiency, integration, interactivity and productivity of a process…”. In the end, from here forward, 1/2 of BPM projects will end up benefiting from technology solutions that deliver automated processes, and this ain’t a bad thing! Is the right “end-game” to look first for automation opportunities? they’ll be the ones posting the measurable business results, not the ones that are “erased from the radar”.

Caspar Laar • Unfortunately BPM has been hijacked by IT vendors pushing there technical solutions for process execution as BPM suites. This technical process orientation which usually lacks business support is also why a lot of (IT-driven) BPM initiatives fail. When the BPM initiative is driven from the business (which fortunately also happens) and IT comes along to provide support for process activity execution, we can however create additional value for the business by providing automated tasks and proper insight in the process execution providing the monitoring and analysis capabilities.

John Nycz • YES Caspar! Too often the BPMS is a new toy for IT. But, IT often lacks the resources and the process expertise to deploy it correctly. To get the VOC from the users (instead of just leadership), to improve the process before automating it, to make sure the correct automation opportunities are targeted and prioritized for execution. It can become a house building project where the architect says, “No, skip the plans…let’s just call the plumber and start there.” Technology solutions that support BPM (notice the order of those words), are as Caspar put it can be “hijacked”. Then another challenge surfaces as the business is forced to make the processes align with a “one-size fits all” approach (that is the enterprise BPMS).


Ocorre que algumas organizações estão automatizando alguns “workflows” e chamando a isto de automação de processos dentro do conceito de BPM, sem qualquer cuidado preliminar.

Como já destaquei em outros foruns: “não podemos querer passar asfalto de 1ª ou de 2ª numa estrada totalmente esburacada”.

Portanto, sigamos os princípios e passos básicos de BPM antes de nos aventurarmos em qualquer automação, pois para reverter / consertar a situação posteriormente requeirerá um exaustivo trabalho que poderia ter sido evitado.

Absolutamente não estou dizendo que não se deva automatizar, muito pelo contrário, que se automatize sim, obedecendo-se no entanto à metodologia e aos conceitos fundamentais de BPM, onde com a automação certamente maior agilidade, assertividade, controle, gestão e principalmente ganhos qualitativos e quantitativos serão efetivamente encontrados.


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