Worker Shortages Spurring Interest in BPA
In this article, President and Chief Executive Officer at Blueprint Software Systems, Dan Shimmerman discusses Business Process Analysis (BPA). At its most basic, BPA enables an organization to discover and understand how work is being done today, how that work is connected to higher-level business objectives, and how to improve those workflows for better quality and efficiency.
The numerous challenges all companies have encountered over the past two years have reinforced the need for them to understand their current business processes in order to have greater agility, resilience, and adaptability moving forward.
Now, that need has become even more critical as rising labor shortages and shifting worker preferences – what the media has dubbed “The Great Resignation” – are leading to extreme volatility, while leaving businesses vulnerable to having process knowledge walk out the door.
All of this is forcing numerous companies to retrain new employees without a defined workstream in place. It is also driving home an even greater need to capture and consolidate business processes into a single platform. This is spurring widespread interest and growth in Business Process Analysis and the enterprise BPA software market segment.
At its most basic, BPA enables an organization to discover and understand how work is being done today, how that work is connected to higher-level business objectives, and how to improve those workflows for better quality and efficiency. BPA offers a way to better define, centralize, and manage the organization’s workstreams. By understanding not simply the sequence of steps which make up those workstreams, but also how much they cost, how often they run, how frequently they produce errors, and how many variances they have, the organization can identify where there is waste, redundancy, error-prone sequences, compliance risks, etc.
Just as important, this understanding will enable the organization to determine the best output for each process it uses. In some cases, that “best output” may translate into optimization and retraining. In others in which the process is rules-based, highly repeatable, and prone to manual errors that cost money, automating it via robotic process automation (RPA) may represent the best outcome. Optimizing all of these outputs will lead to a decrease in manual errors, faster execution time, and ultimately, reduced operating costs and greater efficiency.
While all of that may sound fairly straightforward, BPA is not a simple “plug and play.” To begin with, many businesses honestly don’t know how work gets done in their organization. This is especially true for large enterprises with thousands of employees, and therefore, thousands of business processes. Typically, they lack the visibility on their current state processes to understand how work is executed. All too often, this information is siloed and exists in the minds of the employees and process owners who are responsible for execution. Unfortunately, processes and workstreams can’t be optimized if you don’t know what those processes and workstreams actually look like or what they entail.
Automation implementation has really brought this issue to light. One of the biggest pain points in implementing automation or trying to scale it is the amount of time it takes to deliver an automated process. One of the reasons for that extended time-to-delivery is because the processes and tasks that organizations want to automate are not defined. This means they need to go through time-consuming practices, such as “day-in-the-life” approaches in which someone literally sits with the process owners and observes them as they execute the process.
Given this, a business considering BPA would be well-advised to invest in a solution which allows all of its stakeholders to capture and define how work is being done today. Doing so will provide holistic visibility into the organization’s current state so that the intended output to reduce costs and increase efficiency – regardless of whether it is process standardization, retraining, re-engineering, automation, or outsourcing – can be achieved.
The other major challenge BPA faces is equipping companies with the capabilities to optimize their workstreams once they are defined. Relying on manual analysis clearly takes too long and is prone to error. BPA needs to offer intelligent solutions which automatically analyze and propose refactoring opportunities that demonstrate how and where business processes can be optimized in order to reduce costs and increase efficiencies. Decomposition is also vital.
To that end, organizations need to explicitly understand and visualize how workstreams contribute to their higher-level business objectives and strategy. That is one area in which many current process and task mining solutions fall woefully short. Yes, they are able to mine and identify processes being executed in companies today, but they fail to provide any kind of context as to where those processes fit strategically and how they serve the bigger picture.
All of this suggests that from a technical perspective, future versions of BPA will elicit even more intelligence which, in turn, will allow for more insight with respect to an organization’s processes. BPA will provide greater contextual information, enabling organizations to better understand how its processes fit into its larger business objectives or overarching workstreams. At the same time, BPA will have the simulation and analysis capabilities to show where the organization’s processes can be improved in order to deliver both efficiencies and higher quality, resulting in significant cost reductions.
To provide an example, there is currently a great deal of interest in process mining tools that are packaged into BPA offerings. These solutions are able to mine event logs and identify an undefined process that employees are regularly executing. Over the next few years, though, the demand for more context will accelerate. It is one of the major pain points with process mining tools that customers are experiencing right now: while a process mining tool can uncover how customers are onboarded, it is unable to discern how that customer onboarding process fits into the entire customer journey, which is arguably more important for evaluating customer relations, retention, and churn.
It is this increased demand for greater context, collaboration, and insight that represents the future of BPA. As momentum grows to centralize all business processes into a single platform, it seems inevitable that organizations will want to use BPA not simply to drive greater efficiencies and reduce costs, but also to improve everything from the customer onboarding process to regulatory compliance. Given that, organizations must begin preparing for the eventuality of this innovation by keeping a pulse on the market in order to determine what BPA solutions are delivering the kind of capabilities that will offer this kind of invaluable insight.