Companies in today’s world find themselves faced with familiar challenges from years ago, and new ones that are unique to this modern “connected” world. How a company chooses to handle routine, everyday situations is what defines its business processes.
Consider a business with a large numberof employees. Eachstaff member has a different pay grade, pay schedule, and method of reporting his time. But it’s up to the company to make sure there’s a way for each employee to report his time, and for everyone to get paid accurately and when scheduled.
The way this is handled is a business process. And like any other system of tasks, there may be snags along the way that make the process inefficient. With just one or two employees, the process may be as simple as handing a timesheet to the payroll secretary, who cuts a check from the company’s checkbook on the spot. But when a company has 500 workers, things can get more complicated.
For example, a company may have a process in place that allows employees to enter their timesheets online. A supervisor has to approve the hours before the timesheets are sent to the payroll secretary. But what happens when the supervisor is out sick for a week? Or when the payroll secretary’s computer crashes on payday?
Business process management is a system of tools that help companies make sure their business processes are efficient, accurate, and failsafe. Whenever people interact with computers, there are multiple ways the situation can go awry. The communication between the two needs to be smooth, and it is best when there are workarounds in place. Managing this communication effectively is imperative.
How does business process management (BPM) work?
- IDENTIFY THE PROCESSES: It begins with first identifying the procedures already in place at the company. When a timesheet is entered online, where is that information routed? Does it go straight to the supervisor for approval, or does it go to multiple people in case the supervisor is unavailable? Who has access to the timesheet information when the employee realizes he made an error?
This first step may seem easy at first, but processes are usually made up of more steps and forks in the road than is obvious. And businesses don’t have just one process to identify. There are procedures for hiring new employees, for training new and existing workers, or for handling fire and other emergency situations. How workers are supposed to conduct daily business, whether participating in outside sales or manufacturing medications, requires multiple processes as well.
- ANALYZE THE PROCESSES: After identifying current procedures, the next step involves examining how well each process works. In the case of timesheets and paychecks, how often are paychecks sent out on time? How often are errors in timesheet entry occurring? Are supervisors approving hours in a timely fashion? When someone in the chain is absent, does the process come to a complete stop?
Understanding how well each process advances or hinders operations means that a company is now able to consider making changes. And it means the business knows exactly what needs to be focused on. If the problem in paycheck distribution is that there are too many employees flooding the computer system at the same time, then it wouldn’t make sense to focus on the payroll secretary’s end of the procedure. Similarly, if paychecks go out late every time a supervisor is absent, that step should be reevaluated.
- FIND SOLUTIONS: Now that the company knows where to start, the next step is to come up with feasible methods to fix the issues. Does it make sense to hire another payroll secretary? Should there be a chain of command where, if one supervisor is absent the computer sends the information to the next person in line? If the computers are flooded with employees entering data at the same time, should the network be improved?
- TEST SOLUTIONS: The testing phase of BPM involves implementing solutions to existing processes, or initiating new processes all together. Once that’s done, the steps essentially start over. The new or improved process needs to be identified and analyzed. Are paychecks being sent out on time now? When a supervisor was absent, did the new process reroute the data to a new person the way the company envisioned?
Most processes take a period of time to evaluate, which should be taken into consideration for the testing phase. And if a solution doesn’t work out, the cycle repeats again.
Managing business processes can be a time-consuming undertaking, but without it, companies may find that their business suffers. Just like maintaining a car or a person’s health, regular checkups should be part of the running the business.
Emily Hunter has been writing about business topics for many years, and currently writes on behalf of the business process management specialists at TGO Consulting. In her spare time, she cheers for Spirit of Atlanta, Carolina Crown and Phantom Regiment, creates her own sodas, and crushes tower defense games.Follow her on Twitter at @Emily2Zen