12 Important Questions When Starting BPM Projects

12 questions to ask - BPM LeaderStarting a business process management project and choosing the right BPMS system can be a quite tricky thing to do, especially if your organization does not have experience on it. There are several ways to start BPM projects and there are many methods available to choose from. Here are some questions that you can ask when thinking about starting a BPM project.

What process is at hand and what does it achieve?
You should first get an idea what that process is about. Asking what it achieves will help you get the reason why this process exists. It will also help you understand how critical is this process for organization’s customers. The process should be clearly some part of producing successful customer outcomes. But do not restrict yourself into one process only, every process in your organization needs to have some clear function in fulfilling customer needs (otherwise that process is redundant and needs to be get rid of).

How does the process currently work?
To choose what is going on in the process, you should get some kind of idea how that process works today. There are many ways to do that, for example flowchart and CEM Method. If your organization does not have process maps, this is a good time to pick up a pen and start drawing. But remember that the point is not to get that process map, but to understand how that process works today. Therefore, it is important to have all relevant parties participating process mapping. I say it once again: the goal is not to model the processes just for the sake of modeling them, but to understand how those processes work.

Who are the participants in the process and what are their roles?
This will get you the roles and responsibilities of the people involved with process. This will also help you to find right performers to various tasks. Right people should be doing the right work. This is why it is important to have people from all parts of processes participating the modeling, because they do taks that others do not know of and thus, could not model them into process map.

Which business units participate in the process?
This will help you understand who are the stakeholders and how complex it will be to design the process. The general rule is that if there are more units, the more complex the process will be and the more effort you (and client project team) will spend bringing everyone to a common accepted stage. The more you have functional silos in your organization, the more complicated it will be. Process optimization goal is to get rid of those useless functional silos and design the organization’s hierarchy around fulfilling the customer needs.

What will be the value of the process to customers in future?
Now you start asking questions about what needs to be built. Find out what business you are in, what are the customer needs and how to provide that with minimal customer interaction. Such processes that are not directly contributing to fulfilling customer needs are the be get rid of. Also tasks in processes that are not clearly contributing to that goal, should be either removed or at least improved.

Where does the process start and end?
This is very important, maybe even the most important question besides what business are you in. Sometimes you will realize that employees do not understand where process starts and where it ends for your customers. They know just their part of the process. Make sure that everyone involved in that process knows both their part and the whole purpose of the process. This helps people to be more proactive in process improvement and it will also make the work more meaningful because they will know how their contribution is used in the big picture. This will also help to avoid building those functional silos that do not work well.

What information flows from one person to another?
It will help you to model and minimize internal hand-overs. If you are going to use BPM System, this will help you determine what the screen and data fields should be. Sometimes you could be dealing with complex sets of data. Do ask questions why these information flows happen and whether they are really useful.

Which internal and external systems will this process interact with?
Find out what level of integrations are you looking for. Most of the business processes will be integrated with some other systems. Sometimes integrations could lead to complex processes, screens and routing. Remember that integration is a tool for providing successful customer outcomes easier. Use technology to help you, not to slave you. Nowadays there are many good BPMS system available to do that.

Are there any business rules associated with the process?
Ask what business rules are there. Also ask how often do they change. And most importantly, ask whether they are still relevant. If you are going to use rule engine as part of the BPMS, this will help you determine if rules should be embedded into the process or put in as a separate component.

What are your reporting requirements?
Your data layouts, your process routing could depend upon what reporting requirements are there. If user needs reports business unit wise or region wise, you will need to incorporate those fields into your work-flow. When you measure, remember that you get what you measure. It is crucial that your KPIs are aligned with successful customer outcomes, otherwise you will not get the results that you are looking for in business sense. You can use Business Intellicence tools joined with BPM tools to get that information.

What are your implementation time lines and constraints?
Determine what are the time lines and constraints. It is possible that people will ask you the question “when can I have this?”. Be sure you keep it open or at least realistic. Unless your implementation team has analyzed everything, do not give an estimate. Determine what constraints organization has and figure out how the project can still go through.

Who will sign off the requirements and final production for this process?
Finding out the right people is important. If one person is going to sign-off the requirements and the other is going to do user approval tests, you are in trouble. Make sure the right stakeholders are in your list and you spend enough time talking to them over the course of project implementation. It is  very important to make sure that top management is committed to process improvement and give their full support for the project.

As this blog article has shown, there are many things to consider when you start a business process management project. And that being said, actually BPM is not one-off project, it is on-going, iterative process where you improve your business continuously. If you are a beginner in BPM, it might be a good idea to get some experienced people to help you.

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By Janne Ohtonen @ For a FREE process leadership book - CLICK HERE | February 14, 2012

7 Responses to 12 Important Questions When Starting BPM Projects

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