February 3, 2009 By Laura Mooney
Public CIOs have a new imperative: optimize systems and processes. What lies behind this emerging trend is a series of mounting challenges. First, CIOs are struggling with the management of government's ever more complex processes, multitiered forms, numerous legacy systems (and data), and time-based legislative and mandated policies. Second, they are dealing with internal pressures to enhance cooperation and collaboration across agencies. Finally, CIOs must achieve their technology goals with shrinking budgets.
To address these issues, CIOs are turning to business process management (BPM) technology. BPM is a strategy that combines management methodologies, business processes and technologies to help organizations operate more efficiently, improve customer service, meet regulatory requirements and perform other tasks using best practices.
Beyond Process Automation: BPM as a Management Discipline
The focus on BPM as an organizational discipline has grown rapidly. It makes sense that BPM is moving to the forefront of CIO agendas: Processes are the foundation of any organization, and business processes influence all of an organization's key performance objectives - customer service, financial performance, compliance, productivity and competitive advantage. How well these processes are executed ultimately determines an organization's success or failure.
Along with this rising focus on process management and improvement, an evolution has come in the technology that helps automate, integrate, monitor and control processes. The market for BPM software and related services is growing at 15 to 35 percent a year according to analysts' forecasts. This growth is driven largely by the fact that the technology is maturing and there are numerous end-user case studies that validate that BPM works.
The past five years, BPM software evolved from its early roots in workflow to more comprehensive "pure-play" software that offers graphical process design, process automation, process monitoring and reporting capabilities for human-centric processes. Pure-play BPM software has delivered strong results for organizations worldwide and has helped drive more interest in BPM.
However, during this transition, the enterprise application integration providers have continued to address the need for complex integration and automation of system-based processes, while business intelligence providers have continued to meet corporate performance management needs, and business process analysis vendors have catered to organizations with more advanced process modeling and simulations.
While all are critical to business success, this technology market segmentation poses a challenge for buyers and IT organizations to purchase multiple applications and then piece them together. It's a cost, time and maintenance headache. This has led several of the leading pure-play BPM vendors to take the lead in expanding their solutions to encompass all of these areas - providing what has become known as a BPM Suite (BPMS).
A true BPMS allows CIOs to address the full, roundtrip process life cycle for both human-centric and system-based processes with a single, integrated solution from a single vendor. The life cycle includes modeling, integration, automation, management, monitoring, analysis, simulation and improvement - with the goal being to create the agility needed to continually repeat this cycle and fine-tune and optimize a business in near real time.
By supporting the big picture, BPMS lets the public sector:
Federal, state and local governments have been early adopters of BPM and BPMS for several interrelated reasons. Citizens demand satisfaction, and their expectations have risen dramatically. People not only want the privacy and security protections that are part of the government mission, they also have come to insist on the same efficiency, convenience and service orientation that they experience in their dealings with private-sector companies. Added to this are the internal pressures on government to break down informational silos and enhance cooperation and collaboration across agencies - sharing information, coordinating activities and presenting a unified view to the public.
How To Use BPM in Government
Departments and agencies can use BPM for a number of process-centric demands:
There are several critical success factors in order to implement BPM as part of a CIO's overall IT strategy. First, CIOs need to procure the budget needed for implementation. Once this is achieved, they must determine the scope of process needs. Some questions to answer during this step:
CIOs must include people from both the business side and the IT side of their organization early on in the scope definition and in the BPM suite evaluation and selection process; both parties are critical to any BPM project's success.
Additionally CIOs should select an appropriate BPMS based on their scope of process needs. In choosing a BPMS, CIOs should understand what BPM "essentials" are needed in a BPM solution versus more advanced BPM features. First and foremost, a BPMS must address the human-centric and system-based processes critical to an agency. A BPMS should be able to:
The next step is to document the requirements and weigh priorities. After CIOs understand the BPM essentials and the advanced BPM features available in a BPM suite, they should note what's most important and outline a focused requirements document to drive the evaluation process. Include functional and company performance requirements in a document to ensure they look not only at the product, but also at the vendor that will be supporting the agency. They must also outline what's unimportant. This will remind the evaluation team not to get distracted by "cool" but unnecessary product features and extensive sales pitches. Stay focused during the evaluation.
Finally CIOs must identify a shortlist of vendors. BPM solutions from large infrastructure companies may depend heavily on installing that vendor's other applications, which could limit your ability to connect to other applications - so tread carefully. Small, niche BPM providers might not offer interfaces to your existing applications and data sets, making integration difficult. So it's important to find a provider that supports open architectures and standards, provides many prebuilt interfaces to enterprise resource planning and document management systems, and has a proven track record in handling government-specific BPM challenges.
After selecting and implementing a BPMS, the CIO should evaluate the project's success and determine its estimated return on investment. If the project was successful, then educational workshops should be held in other departments to educate personnel on BPM's value. This will help them identify processes that would be potential candidates for the technology. One can even establish a panel of key agency representatives and IT people who assess processes, aid business case development and oversee BPM projects to ensure they succeed. This panel can then use the ROI/benefits model to justify investment in the services, hardware and additional software that are needed for each new project.
The Bottom Line
Public CIOs must adopt technology that streamlines systems, improves processes and increases visibility and collaboration. Without these improvements, mission-critical government objectives will not be met.
Choose a proven, enterprise-level BPM platform that will enable you to better manage people, process, policies, data and existing systems, and quickly achieve measurable results.
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