Every business has processes, so they already do BPM. Every day they execute processes to bring cases to an end to do what they promise.
But maybe they can do it a little better with all the stuff we have in BPM world.
So, answer: Of course they can.
Peter, the link isn't very informative.
To the matter: we use classify organization towards BPM as follows:
1. Small are those that cannot afford a dedicated process specialist (analyst/designer etc.) It's a barrier yet it doesn't mean they can't afford BPM - we implemented several projects that were driven by CEO/CTO from customer's side. It's OK for an organiazation of up to 100 people.
2. Midsize can afford one or two process guys.
3. Large orgs may have a process office or center of excellence or business technologies department.
Actually... it is a natural thing. Have experience with both small and large companies and it appears that the need for BPM (as in beeing aware that this might be an important thing) pops up when things become more complicated. And things become normally more complicated when we add more stuff to the (organisational) mix. Stuff being: processes, people and technology. But also: regulation and compliance, e.g. GRC.
Unfortunately BPM is often not being seen as a fundamental ingredient that is able to help pretty much any business initiative. Now... How can small companies apply BPM? Start with a thorough understandig of what process thinking means. Incorporate this into your company culture. Let go of the typical (functional) silo devide. Think end-to-end. Cross company borders. Establish the means, enablers in an as much early stage as you possibly can. The benefits will be enormous when you grow your company.
All SMB's execute business processes, but most don't do business process management, i.e. apply consciously a formal process lifecycle management to create, improve and retire their business processes.
However, they apply an intuitive, incremental, agile approach that is absolutely in line with their immediate pains and opportunities (usually related to customers and suppliers - what they sell and what they buy). They use whatever tools to execute parts of the process, and are usually oblivious to how fragmented the overall end-to-end process execution might be.
I would agree that, from a certain scale (maybe 10M EUR t/o), they start sensing pains and opportunities that are internal to how they sell and how they buy (and then onwards other indirect and support processes). As soon as an organization grows over a certain size, it becomes self-aware and starts creating its own microculture, so internal process inefficiencies are easier surfaced.
It's like the Foucault currents inside large conductors, the business value-adding processes induce reactionary non-value adding processes which, left unmanaged, apply friction and brake to the overall value chain. And then the organization starts (hopefully) to develop a sort of process maturity awareness.
The issue for small businesses is: at what point do you move from heroic actions by staff to get the job done, to more formalised processes that enable effective, consistent Customer & Employee Experience. Which in turn enables growth. The answer is always "too late". This is because process/BPM is never a priority. What tips companies over the edge and forces them to get serious about process? If could be any of the following:
The blockers for small companies are priority, resource and cost.
But the real show-stopper is REPUTATION. People associate "process" with 3 months of mapping and then a 2 year development project from the 1980s (even though many of them werenn't even born then). In the new world that is 3 HOUR mapping and 2 DAY automation do do something really significant.
So what does it need to change the CEO's impresstion of the value of process? How do you give them a taste of what is possible? Our view is make the core software capabilities Free. For Ever. For Everyone. and provide some standard models to get them started. 95% of the Fortune 5Million will never need to pay for anything - but we are very cool with that..
Because without great processes, small businesses will always stay small businesses.
Answer to the question depends on economics.
1) SMALL COMPANY / COMMODITY PRODUCT/SERVICE -- No budget for the cost of unique software tools; commodity software tools with implicit processes funded based on mass sales volume of subscriptions or licenses. Little configuration of software tools.
2) SMALL COMPANY / DIFFERENTIATED PRODUCT/SERVICE -- Still no budget for the cost of unique software tools; still using commodity software tools with implicit processes funded based on mass sales volume of subscriptions or licenses. However, in this case, possibility of configuring software for differentiated approaches. "Differentiated approaches" especially means local customization for customer experience, customer journey etc.
BPM SOFTWARE MARKET ANALYSIS:
a) NEW GEN TOOLS -- New business-friendly and affordable BPM tools make it possible for small firms to afford to deploy unique workflows. And note the difference between full-on application development, full-on BPM, and configurable business-friendly BPM, all the way to hard-wired business processes implicit in applications software. Configurable business-friendly BPM implies a different sort of BPM maturity curve than we would associate with that applicable to Fortune 1000 corporates.
b) NEW MARKET STRUCTURES -- Business demographics are seeing growth of very large organizations (Walmart) where there is no economic justification for a middle tier. And at the same time differentiation is possible in much smaller organizations, even essential. it's the middle tier that suffers -- lacking monster economies of scale and lacking the ability to micro-differentiate at local scale.
Business and technology are conspiring together to make process-based differentiation, supported by more powerful software tools, possible for smaller organizations.
BPM SOFTWARE MARKET IMPLICATIONS
The question is how to sell BPM subscriptions to SMB that clearly need them. Channels is likely the ticket, and channels boutiques will include the ability to provide targeted support, affordably and periodically.
I already said in the previous discussion that BPM is affordable for SMEs – see ref1. A bit more explanations are below.
Sure that any enterprise with more than 5 people has business processes to coordinate the staff members, at least, by implicit processes.
Sure that all the staff members follow business processes but in very individual manner, thus outcome of those business processes is difficult to anticipate.
Sure that the majority of SMEs are surviving because of the heroic work of some of their staff members.
I think that the most prohibitive factor for SMEs to exploit the full power of BPM is the risk. Unfortunately, that risk has been created by the BPM industry and BPM community. For example:
So, How Can Small Businesses Apply BPM? – consider the laws of BPM (see ref2).
The lower the learning curve, the easier it becomes for a small business to "apply business process management".
The main hurdle seems to be to find people in functional units who can "think process" - you can initially bring in a facilitator to map out all processes but once they leave someone at each functional unit has to take on the task of maintaining the templates.
Setup of a "business process management" functional unit may be culturally difficult.
Getting operations staff on board can be a major hurdle - if the UI is not right, they will not use the Case/BPMs.. The secret sauce here is to adopt a "no verbal orders" policy and make things such that it is easier to log in and attend to pending work than to try to perform work off-line.
Good question. BPM is for the masses. Companies wilth 100+ and/or $10M revenues often hit walls that require advanced thinking and committment to operational excellence. Leaning out process and adding visibilty can squeeze additional profits through better service and faster revenue recognization.
See below two examples:
* Hedge Fund Admin - 200 people and growing, this company needs to reduce/eliminate paper to get closer to the customer, eliminate overhead, and secure operations. At first they will focus on request-to-service activiites (transactions) and investor on-boarding (new customer acquisition). Process modelling and documentation will contribute to SOX compliance. New process-driven, web-based applications will not only streamline operations but also create differentiated products. Allowing investors and end clients to directly participate in request-to-service workflows should retain current customers and more effectively add new ones.
* Equipment Rental - 100 people and surging, this company is hitting the wall with their current paper-riddle processes, especially around member/patient eligibility and enrollment (lots of contract language to review and sign) and payer billing. Dealing with health payers can be tricky as in-network and out-of-network claims follow different paths especially when payers refuse and the company needs to follow meticulous appeals and grievance requirements. More focused attention (accoutability, visibility, notifications, and tracking) can increase success rates, which directly effect top-line revenues.
First most "small businesses" with less than 20 people are likely driven very personally by owners and their "record" keeping driven by tax requirements and basic accounting records. Where it is a start up with big ambitions owners will recognise need to prepare to scale yet some how understand what is happening real time and this will open that door to "BPM" thinking. Where there are over 20 people with growth again digitising activity will likely be on the agenda. However an important element is "cost" and this where barriers have historically restricted making such a strategic move. Above 200 employees will be less of an issue but still important.
Realistically the delivery of a small yet meaningful digitisation of operational needs adopting BPM principles should be no more than £15,000 and this is where business want comfort on just what and how it will be delivered. Business will also want comfort that it should be able to scale to cover across the organisation if the first toe in the water is successful. By nature small businesses owners will be very focused on ensuring best VFM and this will include supportfor the inevitable change.
They will look at the “overhead” of cost and complexity of the software to be used to build and are unlikely to believe the BS from larger vendors and their associated ecosystems of service companies and industry analysts….opps upset a few here but sadly true! Surely the time has come to focus on just how the BPM supporting software actually works to deliver on all business requirements and not what is claimed by clever marketing….? Until that happens small business are rightfully going to take a lot of persuasion and frankly if they can’t understand in their language will stick with their accounting system with spreadsheets and “offline” databases?
On the off chance anybody interested in this topic didn't abandon this thread long ago due to tl;dr....
Small businesses have an urgent thirst for BPM that can not be satisfied (due to cost and complexity) by the vast majority of vendors regularly featured in Gartner and Forrester reports.
Thanks to bpmPaaS and BPM-driven SaaS solutions, small businesses have a great opportunity, previously denied them, to take advantage of sophisticated BPM capabilities without the capital investment and time needed to set up an in-house solution. So the answer to the first question is “yes”.The answer to the second is a little harder to examine, but I'd guess it's probably “not much”.
Thanks all for the feedback. I know now how Max must feel so now and then :-)
My point though is that every company is doing 'managing by process' and that size doesn't matter to how good or bad you are at it.
it's about understanding what managing by process is about and apply what works in your context.
btw, I wrote this pieceto explain what I think mbp is about.
and that is posssibe in all organizations, no matter what size.
And I agree it's cool that stuff to make this happen is more and more affordable for small businesses.
shall we discuss BPMN again, now :-)
Fully agree with E Scott Menter and others above, on the opportunity for process management to enter into the mainstream by being applicable to SMB's.
I think one thing people seem to gloss over is the serious benefit is the "doing" part. Making the "doing" easy is the most important aspect of process management. Otherwise, you can have the prettiest models/flowcharts in the world - and everyone will ignore them ;)
Furthermore, the "enabling" factor is easy cloud integration through the new breed of industry called "integration as a service" which makes snap-in integrations really easy from one app to another - plus mobile ease of use, etc.
All the above are things that flowchart-based approaches can never accomplish to really drive home the future of BPM within SMB.
Like some have mentioned here BPM becomes necessary when compexities are introduced. Complexities don't have to be the number of employees but can also be regulation, communication difficulties (like with running a mobile workforce), or having to work in conjuncture with enternal partners. All these varialbles "complicate" the process.
Some small businesses, especially those managing a mobile and deskless workforce have ti be creative when managing work processes and need to find solutions that can accomodate their needs regardless of their size.