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From Peter Hilton: It appears that only the largest organisations apply business process management. Does BPM require some aspect of scale to work, or can small businesses benefit as well? Do they, in practice?

Thursday, May 05 2016, 09:54 AM
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, May 05 2016, 10:04 AM - #Permalink
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    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.

    • Anatoly Belaychuk
      more than a month ago
      The question is: would we say that an organization appies business process management if it resides at level 0 of process maturity curve. And is totally unaware about BPM?
    • Emiel Kelly
      more than a month ago
      I would say yes. Because they just have processes to do the work for cases.

      And they can be good in it or worse. Doesn't matter to what maturity level that is.
    • Emiel Kelly
      more than a month ago
      But it may not be 'formal BPM' as the BPM community here might define it. But do you think your customer cares whether or not you "do formal BPM" if you just deliver what you promise?

      My goal is always to make (and keep) processes delivering what they promise.
    • Emiel Kelly
      more than a month ago
      Personally I think Small companies are even much better in BPM than large companies because they are closer to their customer and their problems and collaboration (what happens in processes) is easier.

      And that's what you have processes for; solving the problems of your customers.

      So actually it's quite funny; when you are small and you deliver what you promise, you are actually good in BPM.

      When you grow, processes might get more complex and you actually get worse at BPM.

      Then you can go to the shop and buy all kind of stuff that is sold to you as "BPM". While you were quite good at it when your company was small...
    • Tim Stephenson
      more than a month ago
      Small companies may be more responsive to customers than large ones Emiel. Of necessity this is very likely. But to say they are better at process because of this is simply a non-sequitur.

      Small businesses go one of 3 ways:
      - they stay small until the founders are exhausted or die
      - they go bust
      - they build organisational strength and move up the maturity curve
    • Emiel Kelly
      more than a month ago
      Tim,

      Being responsive to customers is the only thing I would have processes for. Don't see what non-sequitur is about that.

      But probably we look different at what bpm is about.

      And that is BPM law 1 ;-)
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, May 05 2016, 10:04 AM - #Permalink
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    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.

    • Peter Hilton
      more than a month ago
      The link is just my current affiliation, not particularly related to the question.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, May 05 2016, 10:27 AM - #Permalink
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    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.

    • Emiel Kelly
      more than a month ago
      As said above in my own comment:

      I think Small companies are by nature much better in BPM than large companies because they are closer to their customer and their problems and collaboration (what happens in processes) is easier.

      And that's what you have processes for; solving the problems of your customers.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, May 05 2016, 11:18 AM - #Permalink
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    I am working with a small medical manufacturer - if they want to be FDA compliant, they are required to write many procedures. It is all about business process management...
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, May 05 2016, 12:14 PM - #Permalink
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    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.

    • Ian Gotts
      more than a month ago
      I agree, but they could benefit from processes earlier than the "pain has got too great"point. It is amazing how long a company can go until that pain point.

      I was talking to a client today. They've managed to go 100+ years and get to over $10billion of revenue and are still a process mess.
    • Emiel Kelly
      more than a month ago
      " 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."

      Yeah, maybe I mean "Casemanagement by process" when I say BPM.

      I think I like "Managing by Process" better than "Business Process Management"

      Though, I still believe even a one man company is doing BPM (executing, monitoring, measuring , improving etc) . But, maybe not as advised in those 400 page BPM books.

      I think I'm just not such a formal guy ;-)
    • Emiel Kelly
      more than a month ago
      @Ian How is a "process mess" defined in this case?
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  • Accepted Answer

    Ian Gotts
    Ian Gotts
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    Thursday, May 05 2016, 12:23 PM - #Permalink
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    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:

    • over 300 staff
    • highly regulated
    • distributed teams
    • a huge cock-up

    The blockers for small companies are priority, resource and cost.

    • Priority: This is delayed gratification which means the work goes in but you don't get the benefits for a while. So, it is esy to push that process project below other less valuable but more immediate projects.
    • Resource: Who is going to drive the initiative? No one is sitting around in a small business, and no one has process excellence as their day job. So this takes a committed CEO or an internal evangelist to make it happen.
    • Cost: Software cost was, but is no longer an issue. Great mapping tools are now free (ahem.....) Low-code products are pay as you go: RBI (Return Before Investment), not ROI

    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.

    • Emiel Kelly
      more than a month ago
      "Because without great processes, small businesses will always stay small businesses."

      I think small business have great processes (although they probably call it "serving customers ;-).

      But how those processes are executed, managed, monitored and improved might not fit for large businesses.
    • Tim Stephenson
      more than a month ago
      Ian, right on the money.

      - Yes without some kind of formalism you are just left with a hero culture
      - Yes most people recognise this too late, usually in response to pain
      - Yes the _necessity_ of 3 months of mapping is happily consigned to history but in my experience too many people still make a comfortable living this way. Perhaps that's what Emiel is railing against.

      So I'm intrigued by "Our view is make the core software capabilities Free. For Ever. For Everyone." Who is 'our' here? Oh I see you copy-pasted the tag line from your site ;-)

      Nonetheless you're right, SAAS and agility have really changed the game.
    • Emiel Kelly
      more than a month ago
      Tim,

      3 months of mapping; I would definitely rail against that ;-)

      But in this discussion it strikes me that the bpm community labels the biggest employer of the world as "bad in bpm"

      As said, I prefer "manage by process" and in my opinion you do that well when you deliver what you promise. then you got grip on your processes.

      And I think that more large companies lack grip than smaller ones.

      But lucky for them; The BPM shop has all the stuff they need ;-)
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, May 05 2016, 12:29 PM - #Permalink
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    3 votes

    ECONOMICS

    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.

    SUMMARY

    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.

    • Ian Gotts
      more than a month ago
      Our approach is freemium and work with process consultants as the channel.. but that means it needs to be free for the consultants and their client projects.

      SMB will probably NEVER spend anything with us. And that is ok, provided the cost of acquisition and support tends to zero.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, May 05 2016, 03:21 PM - #Permalink
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    4 votes

    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:

    • each process-related management discipline is separate,
    • each BPM-suite vendor tries competing in all spectrum of functionality,
    • each BPM consultant pushes different view on BPM,
    • no commonly-agreed BPM reference model,
    • no reference architectures,
    • no real user community,
    • not possible to purchase best-to-fit tools and replace them as needs are evolving,
    • etc.

    So, How Can Small Businesses Apply BPM? – consider the laws of BPM (see ref2).

    Thanks,

    AS

     

    • John Morris
      more than a month ago
      Good focus on "implicit processes" (a.k.a. "tacit processes"), and the fact that SMEs survive because of the "heroic work of some staff". So - if you want your SME to survive the departure of heroes (and who doesn't) think about surfacing the implicit. (For SMEs, heroic work sometimes means "family members".]
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, May 05 2016, 04:45 PM - #Permalink
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    3 votes

    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.

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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, May 05 2016, 10:08 PM - #Permalink
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    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.

    • John Morris
      more than a month ago
      Good examples -- and inspiring for all similarly sized companies. You can do it!
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  • Accepted Answer

    Friday, May 06 2016, 06:32 AM - #Permalink
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    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?

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  • Accepted Answer

    Friday, May 06 2016, 06:32 AM - #Permalink
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    Great question Peter - time for us all to move out of the BPM ghetto and realise the potential for the masses.
     
    - Any business (whatever the size) can use BPM to replace repetitive tasks and improve flow of data between people when tasks are not repetitive. However it is only recently that BPM has become more available and affordable for SMEs.
     
    - Applying BPM is about breaking down the customer journey, business operations, production process and data management into manageable elements which can then be part or fully automated. Documenting the world may have _some_ value for larger businesses but the smaller you are the more immediate the need to automate anything and everything that can be.
     
    - Most SMEs want to grow, but the main problem is the growing pains involved. More BPM = more efficiencies, better co-ordination, easier scaling.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Friday, May 06 2016, 05:33 PM - #Permalink
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    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.

    Small businesses:

    • Face many of the same regulatory hurdles as do larger ones (as Scott C. notes above)
    • Demand, if anything, more flexibility than large organizations, in that their processes are still evolving
    • Are often left unserved by the packaged apps vendors that larger customers take for granted
    • Have neither the resources nor the time to do a ton of in-house development

    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”.

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  • Accepted Answer

    Saturday, May 07 2016, 02:24 AM - #Permalink
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    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 :-)

    • Dr Alexander Samarin
      more than a month ago
      Very good Emiel. BPM which means 'managing by process' vs 'managing processes per se' is, unfortunately, English language problem. In French, there are two different concepts 'gestion par processus' and 'gestion des processus'.

      Thanks,
      AS
    • Emiel Kelly
      more than a month ago
      I think that's a good point, Alexander.

      I think 'managing by process' is more on a day today basis. As written in my post the 2 circles of monitoring and improvement.

      Bpm is, like Bogdan said, more on a process innovation level where you decide what processes make sense and which don't.

      Everything sounds better in French! :-)
    • Dr Alexander Samarin
      more than a month ago
      RE " on a day today basis" - not only. If used correctly, then BPM is capable to cover operational, tactical, strategic and competitivity issues TOGETHER.
    • Emiel Kelly
      more than a month ago
      Yep, that's what I mean with the combination between MBP and BPM. And maybe BM (business model) should be added to the equation also.

      Altogether couldn't we just call it 'doing business' ? ;-)
    • Dr Alexander Samarin
      more than a month ago
      "doing" is strongly associated with "run" which is only part of the whole "value-stream", e.g. "plan, build, run" or "Strategize, Plan, Design, Build, Test, Deploy, Run, Support, Measure, Optimise".
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  • Accepted Answer

    Sunday, July 17 2016, 02:04 PM - #Permalink
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    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.

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  • Accepted Answer

    Eyal Katz
    Eyal Katz
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    Tuesday, September 13 2016, 10:18 AM - #Permalink
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    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.

    References:

    1. http://connecteam.com
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