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BPM platforms unlock channel partner opportunities

Channel partners say business process management offers greater opportunity today in light of lower BPM platform costs and increased awareness of what the tools can accomplish.

Business process management has been around for several years but partners say it is presenting a greater opportunity for them now because of an awareness of what the tools can do and the digital transformation focused on the mobile channel.

Other factors include the reduced cost of BPM platforms, the availability of cloud options from market leading vendors such as IBM, Pegasystems Inc. and Appian, and a relatively larger supply of consultants in the market, according to Haleem Vaince, practice manager and solutions consulting head at Mindtree.

Haleem Vaince, practice manager and solutions consulting head at MindtreeHaleem Vaince

"Companies are trying to be more responsive to their customer and that means they have to be customer facing. … BPM is a very powerful tool to connect the customer experience to the enterprise capabilities," he said.

The recent trend has been that people really want to revamp the way they interact with their customers, "and for many years [they] have had back-end processes that supported the way the company wanted to operate efficiently -- not necessarily the way the customer wanted to interact with my business," agreed Darren Rehrer, process excellence service offering director at Centric Consulting.

As companies seek to increase their digital presence, they are realizing that business processes on the back end have to change. BPM is the way to do that, Rehrer said. He estimated that about 40% of Centric Consulting's business last year was focused on process consulting.

Broken processes

Centric Consulting views BPM not just as a technology but a philosophy, said Rehrer. "We think you can't effectively think about technology without processes." Just automating what he calls a "bad process," meaning a business rule that is "broken," is not going to get rid of the problem, Rehrer said.

We think you can't effectively think about technology without processes.
Darren Rehrerprocess excellence service offering director at Centric Consulting

Many companies know they have a bad process, he added. For example, years ago, Centric did a BPM project for a Cincinnati-based telecom company that found its quoting and new customer introduction process was too cumbersome and time consuming. It was a manual process that required input from about 20 different departments, Rehrer said.

Deploying a BPM tool to put workflow around the process would have given the company more visibility into the status of the approvals needed, "but the crux of the issue … was that they didn't have business rules defined, so you couldn't really implement BPM and change the [process]," he explained. The company needed to change their method for approving quotes -- especially since enough time would lapse that customers would call asking for the status of a proposal.

Darren Rehrer, process excellence service offering director at Centric ConsultingDarren Rehrer

"In this case, we actually looked at all the rules and revamped them to really document them because they were in people's heads," he said.

Consultants can help companies understand their processes, define the different rules they have and how visible they are -- or should be -- to the people involved in a business process, Rehrer said. In the case of the telecom company, Centric recommended a BPM tool with a Dashboard that provided visibility so employees didn't have to call their peers to find out the status of information they might need.

"The whole idea is to give people the data they need, to answer their question and then [paperwork] passes to the next person," Rehrer said of the telecom company.

BPM platforms for companies of all sizes

Centric and Mindtree both offer consulting and integration services. Rehrer said they usually leverage off-the-shelf BPM platforms since there are enough with a wide range of capabilities and price points -- starting at around $25,000 for a basic tool into the millions of dollars. In addition to the large vendors, companies like Bizagi, AgilePoint and Bonitasoft, cater to small to midsize businesses (SMBs), he said.

"BPM platforms offer features like process modeling, process repositories and process monitoring that enable business teams to gain operational efficiency even without developing applications," Vaince noted.

In terms of selecting a BPM platform, "we create a very [comprehensive] profile for each client organization to understand the core capabilities required to achieve their goals," he said. "We then map that profile to a platform that is rated best against those capabilities. We understand that the capabilities that an insurance company requires from its BPM platform are very different than capabilities required by a manufacturing company."

While Mindtree focuses on enterprise organizations, "we have started to see SMBs adopt BPM mainly due to availability of open source and low-cost cloud offerings," and companies recognize they can gain the benefits of BPM without extensive capital investment, Vaince said.

Centric works with SMBs and enterprises on BPM deployments, many in the financial services sector. But Rehrer said they have also done work with healthcare and insurance companies as well.

"All businesses have business processes and all have business process problems -- whether you're a company that makes $10 million or $10 billion"; it's just the tools that differ, he said.

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