What is business process management?

It’s a commonly accepted truth that businesses thrive when their workflow processes are well-defined and repeatable. Effective business processes should make your team more efficient and collaborative while supporting your organizational goals. But many companies lack effective, organization-wide procedures. With business process management (BPM), organizations can create effective processes and continuously optimize them.

Upgrade your workflows and boost your team's productivity

This guide to business process management will help you understand the value of BPM. We’ll also cover how to implement BPM in stages, so your team can leverage this repeatable process to streamline your workflow, increase productivity, and eliminate any gray areas in how you get work done.

Understanding business process management

Business process management is an organizational methodology leaders and their teams use to assess, develop, and refine processes. By analyzing each workflow individually, teams can identify areas for improvement and operate more efficiently and effectively. BPM's ultimate goal is to clarify how teams work and gain better insight into any bottlenecks that impact various processes.

BPM can apply to nearly any process within an organization, from human resources to IT to sales. When approaching BPM, teams look at how to coordinate people's roles, plus the tools, systems, and any other components, with the overarching objective of developing a defined and repeatable structure.

In any given organization, several departments may be responsible for developing separate BPMs, and a single team may have numerous processes requiring BPM. For success, define, measure, and control each procedure while promoting continuous improvements.

Typical examples of processes you can refine and enhance with BPM include:

  • Issuing and filling product orders
  • Remitting and approving invoices
  • Onboarding new employees or customers
  • Updating project management systems or databases

Because BPM aims to convert organic tasks or procedures into predictable, defined processes, many departments rely on technology and other tools for support. Often, business process management involves using various software programs, such as billing systems and document managers, to encourage consistency throughout organizations. 

By implementing BPM in your business, you’ll find your team can improve workflow while reducing chaos and uncertainty. 

Why does business process management matter?

Having a clear BPM can bring organization, better communication, and clear job duties

Business process management has become an organizational best practice for many reasons. Having more clarity around your team’s workflows improves communication among co-workers and puts everyone on the same page. BPM is also a way to ensure job accountability, so your team can get more done in less time. With higher productivity, organizations can reduce overhead costs and maximize their resources.

Some reasons BPM can improve workflow include:

  • Elevating current processes to the next level of effectiveness
  • Identifying areas of operational deficiencies
  • Eliminating friction points or unnecessary steps
  • Becoming more adaptable and nimble to changing department goals and needs

In addition to BPM being valuable at a departmental level, it’s also critical to overall organizational health. Without BPM, organizations tend to be in a constant battle against disorganization and miscommunication, making it challenging to interpret job duties and expectations. By committing to BPM, organizations can overcome many of these common roadblocks. 

How can implementing BPM make a difference in your organization’s success?

  • Save time by preventing miscommunications among team members
  • Prevent or minimize errors due to uncertainty around job expectations
  • Improve accountability and encourage leadership among team members
  • Generate trackable, repeatable results for continuous improvement
  • Boost morale among employees

With better clarity around business systems, each employee can thrive, creating more effective departments and healthier organizations as a whole.

5 steps of a BPM lifecycle

When developing your business processes, it’s best to view the project as a continuous procedure conducted in discrete stages. The BPM lifecycle begins by designing and modeling the process, then implementing and assessing it against defined benchmarks. Based on key performance indicators, team members should keep refining, returning to stage one for redesign or optimization.

Below is a detailed look at the five stages of the BPM lifecycle.

1. Design

In the design stage, think about how your processes can bring benefits to your stakeholders

Begin the BPM process by identifying the existing processes you want to be more intentional with. The first stage in the lifecycle focuses on designing repeatable, definable business processes. During this phase, your team focuses on performing in-depth analyses of your existing workflows, procedures, tasks, and systems.

Your organizational processes drive value for your customers, while positioning you against alternative providers and solutions. Therefore, when undergoing the design phase of the BPM lifecycle, it’s critical to focus on value and how to make your processes as beneficial to your stakeholders as possible.

The design phase is also an ideal time to identify your primary and secondary processes:

  • Primary processes are integral to the organization’s day-to-day operations
  • Secondary processes are necessary for primary ones to succeed

Using a business process checklist or form can help you conduct a uniform design analysis across every primary and secondary process you identify.

2. Model

During the BPM lifecycle's second stage, your team will focus on mapping out the process in question. By developing a model or flow to the process, you will better understand the operational procedures involved in the process.

Often, BPM modeling involves using a visual map such as a flowchart to help teams fully understand what will happen at each stage of the process. By mapping out a workflow, team members identify the exact sequences of tasks they need to accomplish and when. Additionally, the model allows departments to delegate responsibilities to specific people, fully defining everyone’s roles.

BPM modeling takes a logical and analytical approach to business process development. From start to finish, team members can break down how a process gets initiated, how it concludes, and whether it requires approval and from whom.

3. Execute

Once you’ve identified your business processes, mapped out their procedures, and assigned responsibility to team members, the next stage in the BPM lifecycle is to implement your process. Executing your newly defined business process is the only way to test its validity and your overall approach to BPM.

During the execution phase of the BPM lifecycle, your team will want to implement the processes to minimize potential negative impacts. You can do so by conducting dry runs before going live. 

There are two ways to execute a test run of your business processes.

  • Systemic implementation using specific BPM software or tools
  • Non-systemic implementation without software

If your new process requires tools to help collect data and results, you’ll probably choose to use software. Regardless of which approach you take, the goal of this third phase is the same, which is to implement the model you developed during stage two.

4. Monitor

Have measurable KPIs to keep track of your milestones

Since BPM is an interactive process — meaning it relies on feedback for continual refinement — the lifecycle must include a monitoring stage. Business activity monitoring refers to the practice of observing your business processes through data collection. Tracking the results allows your team to evaluate whether you are achieving all your objectives.

Ideally, this fourth stage of the BPM lifecycle will happen in real time during the execution phase. However, this will depend on the type of process you are tracking. Regardless of what your team is evaluating, you should have measurable KPIs to assess, either continually or at particular milestones.

Collecting data through process monitoring allows your team to gauge overall effectiveness and learn what’s working and what isn’t. Based on these metrics, teams can continue improving or redefining their processes to efficiently accomplish your organization’s goals.

5. Optimize

If your team has been diligently monitoring your executed business process results, the data you collect should inform your next steps toward process optimization. Then, you'll know whether your team has successfully implemented the process, or if you need to go back to the drawing board.

If the results indicate your process implementation has been largely successful, you may only need to make a few minor tweaks. Often, these adjustments involve streamlining areas of friction, miscommunication, or other bottlenecks you noticed during implementation. 

However, if the process didn’t yield the intended results, turn your attention back to stage one of the BPM lifecycle, where your team will refine and redesign various elements to produce outcomes more efficiently. If your initial implementation wasn't as successful as you'd hoped, remember that BPM is a continuous process that can evolve based on your organization's changing needs.

What are the various types of business process management?

Business process management is valuable for any organization. However, your team's implementation may differ based on your goals. There are three approaches to BPM, with each serving a unique purpose. Overall, BPM approaches can center on documents, humans, or data.

Below is a comparison of the three types of BPM, how to use them, and the situations they’re suitable for.

Document-oriented BPM

Document management focuses on creation, editing, formatting, and approval

In document-oriented BPM, businesses rely heavily on printed information to accomplish their work. Often, numerous team members and departments share these documents. To handle the flow, teams need to develop their BPM procedures with document management as a central focus. 

Examples of organizations that often rely on document-centric BPM include:

  • Law firms
  • Accounting and financial professionals
  • Engineering and construction companies
  • Hospitals and clinics
  • Publishers and media agencies
  • Sales organizations

These organizations' processes revolve around contracts, design plans, articles, medical records, and many other assets. Regardless of whether a company's documents are physical or digital, the goal of document-oriented BPM remains the same — to effectively and efficiently manage the creation, editing, formatting, and approval processes.

While focusing heavily on the files themselves, document-oriented BPM must also clearly define which people handle the information and how they collaborate to organize and access it.

Human-oriented BPM

When processes largely revolve around organizing people and their job duties, tasks, and overall roles, teams can use human-oriented BPM to develop their business processes. Generally, human-oriented BPM is less reliant on automated workflows and may not involve as much software as document-oriented BPM.

In human-oriented BPM, teams focus on defining and streamlining various decision-making processes. Since these workflows center on human interaction, the priority is to make them as user-friendly as possible. Pay specific attention to any sticking points that delay people from taking action in their roles.

Examples of human-oriented BPM include:

  • Employee or customer onboarding
  • Performance reviews and evaluations
  • Training and coaching

It's impossible to fully automate some human-oriented processes, such as hiring new team members. However, there are technological aspects to many human-oriented processes. For example, the HR team can incorporate recruiting and interviewing software into their employee onboarding.

Integration-oriented BPM

Integration-oriented BPM uses numerous automation tools and software

With integration-oriented BPM, teams focus on streamlining workflows among networks, people, software, and other variable points. Integration-oriented BPM approaches are suitable for large, complex organizations that combine multiple human- and document-oriented processes. However, a simple example of integration-oriented BPM is a customer relationship management process that relies on CRM software and customer service representatives.

In an integration-oriented BPM approach, organizations typically use multiple automation tools and software to assist in modeling, implementing, and monitoring the processes. These often involve data connectivity and APIs to help teams collaboratively access the necessary workflows, documents, and other assets. Relying on BPM software helps streamline the lifecycle stages and saves teams from otherwise time-consuming processes.

Processes developed through Integration-oriented BPM are typically much more automated than human-oriented processes, resulting in highly efficient and repeatable workflows. This approach reduces the need for continuous management and oversight and instead shifts to a more model-driven method.

Essential features of BPM

When selecting software and tools to help your team optimize your business processes, look for some essential features. BPM tools and software need to function for your team, supporting your ability to produce repeatable processes that encourage collaboration. You’ll also need to consider functionality features, like use across various digital devices and integration with other programs.

Below are some of the essential features of BPM to consider.

Collaboration

With cloud-based tools, collaboration can happen in real time

Most business processes require multiple people to work together on any given task. Choosing BPM software that’s easy for teams to collaborate with is critical. Cloud-based solutions allow anyone to access documents or tasks simultaneously, whether they’re in the office together or working remotely. 

Collaborative software also permits teams to work together in real time on the same version of the document, preventing costly confusion or mistakes.

Integration

BPM tools and software should also be highly connective, meaning they are compatible with other essential programs and tools your team relies on. Look for software with robust API capabilities that align with your existing resources.

The ability to integrate your existing tools into your BPM procedures can also help in the monitoring stage of the BPM lifecycle by focusing on data flow across the entire process model.

Mobility

Accessing different parts of any given process on various interfaces can significantly improve user-friendliness and productivity. Choose to incorporate BPM tools and software with robust mobile capabilities and responsiveness. 

Mobile accessibility encourages collaboration and the ability for teams to tackle  work activities from anywhere with ease.

Security

Keep in mind the importance of protecting your intellectual property or sensitive information

When choosing digital tools to incorporate into your business processes, do not overlook the importance of security. Protecting your team’s data is critical to preventing unintentional leaks or targeted cyberattacks.

Since your business’ value comes from its processes, it’s critical to protect your intellectual property or sensitive information by selecting BPM technology that prioritizes cybersecurity.

Benefits of incorporating BPM

Organizations that undertake business process management can realize immediate and ongoing benefits. When BPM becomes a reliable method for carrying out your day-to-day operations, your team becomes free to grow and work toward bigger goals. 

Business process management can financially benefit your organization by improving efficiencies and workflow. It can also give your organization a competitive advantage in attracting customers and recruiting employees.

Some of the benefits of incorporating BPM into your business operations include:

  • Giving your organization more control over your processes
  • Reducing risks from mishandling sensitive information
  • Promoting employee performance, team collaboration, and organizational success
  • Streamlining workflow and increasing productivity
  • Providing documentation and data to ensure compliance and regulatory management
  • Creating the agility businesses need to better respond to market changes and opportunities
  • Increasing cross-team communication and encouraging engagement
  • Maximizing resources with increased automation 

One of the most significant advantages of incorporating BPM into your operations is that it helps create the vision for your organization. By prioritizing process development, your organization can unite your team toward a common goal of improved efficiencies. BPM gives employees the tools to perform their jobs effectively, increasing satisfaction and further driving business success.

Box's approach to business process management

The Content Cloud offers a cohesive approach to business process management

Box is your all-in-one platform for business process management, whether your approach is document-, human-, or integration-oriented. We help organizations model, implement, monitor, and optimize their business processes using cloud-based collaborative software with thousands of integrations.

Learn more about our approach to business process management below.

The Content Cloud

When content is the heart of your business, you need an effective way to manage it. The Content Cloud is one secure platform for creating and managing content, from sales contracts to marketing assets to product specs.

The Content Cloud allows teams to create, share, edit, and manage content (and the business processes related to it), all in one secure place.

Box Relay 

Box Relay is your team’s solution for BPM, and it’s part of the Content Cloud. With Box Relay, your team can build repeatable, automated processes that standardize your internal operations. From employee onboarding to contract reviews, Relay makes processes more efficient and streamlined.

Because Relay tracks and displays your workflow progress, your team can effectively monitor your business process and continue to optimize your systems.

App integrations

If your organization is taking an integration-oriented approach to BPM, Box is the optimal solution to support your team. With over 1,500 connected apps, Box integrations allow businesses to elevate their existing processes to the next level.

Connect all your current tools in one platform and create a seamless and unified platform for workflow automation.

Learn more about what Box has to offer

Business process management gives organizations an intentional and controllable way to improve their operations while reducing management costs. With the right tools and technologies, you can create successful, repeatable, and efficient business processes your team can rely on.

Box is a leading cloud-based workflow platform. We support teams in their quest to define and streamline business processes. Learn more about what we can do for your business. Start your free trial or contact us today.

Discover more about how can you streamline business processes with Box

**While we maintain our steadfast commitment to offering products and services with best-in-class privacy, security, and compliance, the information provided in this blogpost is not intended to constitute legal advice. We strongly encourage prospective and current customers to perform their own due diligence when assessing compliance with applicable laws.