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BPM tools: Benefits and opportunities

BPM tools and services can help both you and your customers gain a competitive advantage, by cutting out customers' process inefficiencies and setting you apart from the rest of the pack.

Service provider takeaway: BPM tools and services can help service providers improve their customers' workflows, turnaround times and, therefore, cash flow. 

For value-added resellers (VARs), systems integrators and professional services organizations, the ability to attract and retain customers through differentiated services is a critical priority. Recent articles in the trade press and business journals note the trend of service providers offering hosted or managed services. While the value of services as a business opportunity is clear, the major question of the day is, How can your company provide exceptional services that set you apart from the rest of the service provider community?

Business process management (BPM) tools provide one answer to this vexing question.

By offering BPM-based services, your company can develop comprehensive, end-to-end visibility of your customers' operations. Using any of the numerous BPM tool suites available in the market (such as those on the Object Management Group's Vendor Directory Listing), your company will be able to help clients improve or rework workflows, reduce cycle times and streamline processes. Process improvement is key for your customers since it brings faster turnaround times and therefore better cash flow -- and a nimble organization has a sustainable competitive advantage.

BPM resources
Business Process Management Learning Guide

But if your customers aren't already on the BPM tool bandwagon, it's because BPM is hard work and your customers are up to their ears in projects aimed straight at the bottom line. However, history has repeatedly demonstrated that organizations that undergo process changes during economic slowdowns have reaped vast rewards in terms of market share when the economy resumes its upward trend. This occurred in the Industrial Revolution and then again in the Internet revolution. IBM and Cisco are recent examples; after the Internet bubble burst in 2001, the two companies continued to invest in the business and are now two of the most solid tech companies in the market.

BPM tools, combined with personal interviewing, provide visibility into how major processes and all the associated subprocesses flow through the company. The interviews are necessary so you can understand how the exceptions are handled -- and those exceptions are key to process improvement since efficiencies are most often gained by changing the way the exceptions are handled. By being able to trace a process end-to-end, you can offer clients insight into the complete process flow. By being able to trace multiple processes concurrently, you can add further value by providing clients with rich insight into how different processes interact and affect the business. The diagrams produced by BPM tools show where specific processes can be streamlined for faster completion, as well as where human latency is introduced into the process flows. Once these factors are identified, you can make recommendations to resolve the slowdown.

Another important piece of information that falls out of the process diagrams is identifying which processes are core to the business and which are not. With this information, a company can decide if it wants to continue to invest in noncore processes (such as management, maintenance, software licensing and patches) or move the processes to a service provider.

BPM tools also provide your customers with information that fits into their long-term strategic planning. With a comprehensive understanding of each process and its subprocess flows, your customers can see where changes in one area will affect other departments or divisions. Companies can use the complete process flow diagram to assist in the layout of additional business-enabling strategies, such as social networking, Software as a Service (SaaS) adoption, telecommuting and collaboration. By knowing exactly who will be affected throughout the company, your customers can move much more quickly in executing on bigger strategies, thereby becoming more nimble organizations.

BPM is a continuous process, always seeking further process improvement. Building and developing business process management expertise allows your company to establish and maintain itself as a trusted advisor, both to IT specifically and to the business as a whole.

About the author
Martha Young is co-founder and CEO of Nova Amber LLC, a business consulting company specializing in business process virtualization. She has co-authored three books on virtual business processes: The Case for Virtual Business Processes, The Virtual Worker's Handbook and iExec Enterprise Essentials Companion Guide.

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