As mobile devices and social media put down ever deeper roots in IT, businesses are seeing big changes in how employees do their jobs and how customers interact with them, in addition to--ideally--using the technologies to find new revenue streams.
But problems crop up when companies fail to adapt old business processes to these new ways of conducting business. Business process management (BPM) isn't a write-once, use-forever task, and CIOs should work continuously with non-IT colleagues to improve and update value-creating processes, says management consultant Andrew Spanyi. "The M is always missing in 'BPM,'" he says. Here, Spanyi and other BPM experts give advice on re-framing BPM projects for today's technology environment:
1. Look outside the IT department. IT must understand existing business processes. How do products and services flow out? How does money come in? Reading a manual isn't good enough, says Bob Scott, SVP and leader of BPM Global Service Line at Capgemini. "People have relationships with other people and have different information sources that they didn't have when the process was [first] created." Ask people to help you draw out how it really works.
2. Go big. Most BPM work occurs on a small scale, in departments, and is done by business analysts. The most effective BPM work, however, happens at a companywide level, led by CIOs and peer executives together, Spanyi says.
3. Seize the day. As companies create mobile applications for employees and customers, the IT group should grab the chance to suggest ways to streamline the business process at hand, says Bern Elliot, an analyst at Gartner. For example, if an app lets sales staff place orders using iPads as they sit with customers, perhaps the company can change the fulfillment process to show inventory and estimated delivery dates in real time. Rearranging those processes gives customers information they used to have to wait for or sometimes didn't get at all, Elliott says. That's a better customer experience.
4. Beware of social media. Talking with customers on social networks adds a new and complicated web of interactions outside traditional processes. IT must account for that information, feeding it to internal systems when it will be useful, Scott says. To figure out how, CIOs should try to conduct business with their own companies through these channels. "Understand what the experience is like for the customer," he says, and you'll know where existing business processes are breaking down.
5. Find the funding. IT might face stony faces in the finance department when trying to get BPM projects approved. When other projects vying for cash promise to bring in new revenue or reach more customers, making the case is tough. Try to estimate the value of soft benefits, says Nicholas Kitson, Capgemini's head of BPM for the financial services industry. They include increased customer satisfaction and more efficient employees who need less training.
Follow Senior Editor Kim S. Nash on Twitter: @knash99. Or read her blog, Strategic CIO.
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