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A key goal of BPM is to align processes with business goals, seek ways to improve those processes and then establish measurements that can be used to track and monitor performance for continuous improvement and optimization.  As discussed in the
BPM Primer section, ideally BPM is
embraced as an enterprise wide strategy. (Although you can certainly apply BPM method or BPM Software to a single process). As the chart shows, an enterprise-wide BPM initiative fundamentally has three “tiers”.

Tier 1 - Process Understanding
Using a process framework, also discussed in the primer, you can begin to document your processes with a focus on those processes that are core to the value you deliver to your customers. Establishing a standard approach to document your processes and creating a central repository is a key ingredient here.

Tier 2 - Process Improvement
In terms of improvement, here is where a
formal methodology (like Lean Six Sigma or some hybrid method) may be applied. Your teams will typically work in workshops to dissect their business processes, identifying process inefficiencies, then recommending and implementing  process improvements.  

Tier 3 - Process Automation/Optimization
Once you have established a method for improvement and applied improvements, a subset of processes can potentially benefit from various types of technology. Workflow can enforce the way processes are performed. Process monitoring can track and audit work and provide insights to process bottlenecks and problems. Automation can eliminate activities performed by people as well as eliminate human mistakes. SOA and BPM technology can be used to augment/enhance current business systems or develop entirely new business systems to support reengineered processes. 

Understanding BPM and Related Improvement Methodologies

A BPM methodology follows a particular “lifecycle” of phases where in each phase, a specific set of activities are performed.  Simply put, these are the things you will do and the order in which you will do them to continuously improve and control your processes.

Some of the more involved methodologies can be very helpful in complex environments, but they may be massive overkill for simple process improvement. At the same time we don't want to understate the value that can come from organizing your work around these disciplines. Since they have strong similarities in goals and techniques, let's first look at at a generic, simplified improvement cycle, sans terminology. Then we can compare that to Six Sigma, BPM Methodology and then offer a chart of the kind of activity you'll typically end up doing, more or less independent of the methodology you employ.

Generic BPM Methodology

  1. How it is done today? What steps are taken today to process that claim, appeal, patient, order…
  2. Why do we do it that way? Is it necessary? Can we do it better? Can we eliminate that step, consolidate that activity, automate that work? 
  3. OK. Let’s Fix it and do it better, even if it is only a subset of things we could do. Every bit of improvement matters. (Here, BPMS tools can help enforce that we do it the new way).
  4. Let’s keep Track of the new process and see how we are doing compared to the old way.
  5. Is there More we can do? If so, let's repeat the process.

The standard or common BPM methodology follows these life-cycle phases: Design, Model, Execute, Monitor and Optimize, which some practitioners refer to by the acronym DMEMO.

Six Sigma and  Lean Six Sigma are more specialized methodologies that employ quality management and statistical methods and follow a somewhat similar life-cycle: Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control or DMAIC. Six Sigma in particular relies heavily on statistical analysis of process data. While some critical and more complex processes may require using these types of data analysis methods, many BPM initiatives can be successful using less weighty approaches. 

In addition, Identify, Vision or similar concepts are a phase that has to occur prior to each process entering the lifecycle. The idea is to determine the right processes to focus on in the first place and align those improvement objectives to strategic goals. As it requires energy, time and money to improve processes, the key is to focus on those that can have the greatest impact on achieving business goals.

Six Sigma Phases: DMAIC

  1. Define the problem using the voice of the customer
  2. Measure key aspects of the current process and collect relevant data.
  3. Analyze the data to investigate and verify cause-and-effect. 
  4. Improve or optimize the current process based upon data analysis using techniques such as design of experiment, poka yoke or mistake proofing to create a new, future state process. 
  5. Control the future state process to ensure that any deviations from the target are corrected before they result in defects

BPM Lifecycle Phases: DMEMO

  1. Define – As is and to be modeling
  2. Model – analyze process, perform “what if” analysis and compare the various simulations or process options to determine optimal improvements.
  3. Execute - select and implement improvements.
  4. Monitor – Periodically monitor the process against establish metrics such as SLAs or defect rates
  5. Optimize – Iterate for continuous improvement

When comparing methods, while most lifecycle phases are fairly similar, the analysis phase can represent a very significant difference in resource commitment. Six Sigma in particular relies heavily on statistical analysis of data. While some critical and more complex processes may require using these types of data analysis methods, many business process improvement initiatives can be achieved with more simplified approaches. 

An Enterprise-Wide BPM Program Approach/Methodology

The lifecycle methods discussed previously deal with tackling the improvement of a single process. Part of the challenge of implementing enterprise-wide BPM initiatives is determining which processes make the best candidates for process improvement initiatives and determining their ROI – especially if you are planning to implement a BPMS technology solution. One could certainly argue that all processes should be targeted for improvement. But since changing even simple processes requires precious energy, time and money, it's best to have a method to direct process improvement initiatives and resources to those processes that can have the greatest impact on achieving business goals.

Enterprise-wide initiatives also require skills development, the establishment of metrics and repeatable best practices.

Phases, Objectives, Tools

Your organizations skills and culture will determine the methodology you will use – something formal or something more home grown. The chart below is designed to give you the flavor of the kind of tools you may need and the work that is performed in the lifecycle. While Six Sigma can be a very data driven, statistically oriented method, you will no doubt still do many of the activities listed below.

Beyond a selection of methodology, the chart also implies a number of decisions that need to be made:

Who will own the overall initiative and the program aspects of it?

How will you collaborate on processes-  using a wiki?; using a modeling tool like Microsoft’s Visio and document system like Sharepoint?; or a modeling tool with library and collaboration tools built in? 

How will you standardize on metrics and track results and what tool will you use for that purpose?


Implementing BPM