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The economic downturn and slow recovery have compelled organizations such as Vulcan Materials to take a hard look at their business processes, which, in turn, has elevated the role of BPM. Hard times, paradoxically, may have reinvigorated the old product category. Some vendors report growth rates in excess of 30 percent, and Forrester earlier this year said BPM is ramping up toward a $6.6 billion market opportunity.
But BPM tools may be pressed into roles beyond providing do-more-with-less efficiency. BPM tools offer the potential for greater business agility, as workflow apps can be quickly rolled out and modified to deal with shifting business trends or changes in the regulatory environment, according to industry executives. In addition, some customers are looking to deploy BPM to improve customer-facing processes as well as back-office tasks.
BPM may be edging into different roles, but its capability to cut red tape remains an important attraction. "We have eliminated a lot of the busy work and rework," McLendon says, citing "administratium" as the heaviest element on the periodic table.
Workflow automation via BP Logix enables employees to pursue more productive activities. "Anybody in a mid-sized to large company, like us, who isn't doing this now needs to be on it," McLendon says. "It has been a force multiplier for us."
BPM Tools Provide Agility, Standard Methodologies
Gilbert, Ariz. reports a similar experience. The town, with a population of nearly 220,000, implemented K2's BPM tool in 2009. Gilbert first focused on automating IT request forms but has since expanded the use of BPM to include automating the town's budget process.
BPM has reduced man-hours and paperwork while increased the staff's time to do other things, not "chase paper," says Kirsten Larsen, IT administrator with the town.
The technology helps Gilbert keep its costs in check as well. Process automation has let the town handle its workload without hiring additional personnel. "We have one of the leanest staff-to-citizen ratios in the state," Larsen notes.
BPM adopters tend to focus on inward-facing, back-office functions when they first use the technology. An enterprise's early projects may involve fairly simple forms and processes, but subsequent efforts grow in complexity.
Gilbert, for instance, first used K2's BPM tool to automate all IT forms — requests for VPN access, hardware and software, among others. The forms were designed with Microsoft InfoPath and then connected to the town's SharePoint and SQL servers using K2-built workflows, Larsen explained.
A "pretty complex project" followed the IT forms work, Larsen notes. The town used K2 to help create an Idea Management System that lets employees submit ideas for process improvement. The system sends ideas out for comment, then routes them to the town's managers and executive team.
Last year, Gilbert used K2 to retool its budget process. In the past, each department manager created a budget on Excel and submitted it to the budget management staff, which compiles the town's budget. Now, automated forms and workflows replace the individual spreadsheets.
The K2 and InfoPath combination provides a user interface to the town's core financial system and routes the data to the Gilbert's SharePoint server, which houses the town's master budget lists. The lists then become a one-stop view into all departmental budget requests for the next five years that the executive team can review and process.
Jaime PalmucciK2 Marketing Communications ManagerJaimeP@K2.com+1 (206) 250-5360