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Top 10 Trends in BPM for 2018 and beyond

If you are seeking the latest best practices and implementation trends in business process management (BPM), you should look at the recent winners of the Workflow Management Coalition (WfMC) BPM Excellence Awards, described below, for a forward perspective. These winners, announced in December 2017, exemplify successful deployments around the world while also showcasing many of the emerging trends for BPM systems. The winning companies and government agencies have not only embraced BPM disciplines and technology but have also turned their business process vision into operational solutions that deliver measurable results. Many BPM trends discussed later in this post have been road tested by these companies and are ready to roll out at organizations seeking to emulate the winners, so it’s a good idea to pay attention to these implementations.

(Note: The WfMC is a standards organization for workflow and business process technologies that presents annual Excellence Awards in Business Process Management and Adaptive Case Management. See the WfMC Awards for Excellence in Case Management for an overview of the case management standouts in 2017.  The winning 2017 BPM case studies will be showcased in the upcoming 2018 BPM book from Waria, written in the style of Digital Transformation, which details the 2016 winning entrants.)

And the 2017 BPM winners are . . .

  • DIA is a multinational supermarket retailer with over 7,000 stores in Spain, Portugal, Argentina, Brazil, and China. Prior to automation, DIA experienced many process drawbacks, including overly complex processes; manual, non‐standardized processes; task duplication; and excessive time-to-market. These problems chipped away at performance, against a backdrop of remarkable growth in the business. For transformation, the firm embraced a philosophy of continuous improvement while tackling the digitization of more than twenty processes in four countries. The result? The firm reduced its time-to-market by forty percent–which is essential in the grocery business; increased responsiveness to customer needs, and realized an eighty percent reduction in errors.
  • EPM Gas, Energy, Water is a public utility group that provides energy, gas, water, and waste management throughout Central America, Chile, Mexico, the United States, Spain, and Colombia. Prior to automation, the company lacked unified processes for support activities and suffered from work duplication across subsidiaries; too many technology platforms for back office operations; limited economy-of-scale; difficulties supporting new business acquisitions; and, limited continuous improvement. To address the situation, the organization implemented a digital business platform powered by BPM software, leading to more than a fifty percent reduction in service costs; complete process control, visibility and traceability; and, greater than sixty percent improvements in service level agreements. The company also embraced several cultural changes, including self-service for customers (increasing more than sixty percent), sharing of best practices, and continuous improvement.
  • FiberCorp (Corporate Business Unit of Cablevision S.A.), is a telecommunications company that offers cloud, connectivity, datacenter, and video and media solutions to business customers in Argentina. Prior to automation, the firm relied on manual tasks for product management processes; experienced internal competition for IT resources; and, often deployed business solutions that did not address process issues. For transformation, the company adopted integrated processes that supported the customer and provided greater service; adopted a customer-centric perspective for business processes; and, deployed an end-to-end solution for product-related processes. Benefits included the deployment of a single virtual desktop for employees; customer-activated and managed products now taking only 5-10 minutes (versus two weeks); more than 120 new automated processes; and, the implementation of thirteen end-to-end processes for products.
  • Grupo A is a forty-five year old company in southern Brazil that offers content, technologies and educational professional services to businesses, educational institutions, and their audiences. The firm’s process automation journey began ten years ago in the editorial area of the company, and ultimately extended to business processes in other areas and to internal controls. Currently, BPM encompasses all the organization’s critical processes, focusing on mapping, automation, documentation, and change request. This process encompasses the channel whereby over 200 employees can suggest changes in processes, review requests, and make suggestions for new flows and processes.  The initiative has transformed the role of both IT and the quality departments. The solution systematically promotes collaboration and the improvement of internal communication, and most importantly, reinforces and encourages a culture dedicated to excellence in projects and business processes.
  • Hilti AG is a global leader in the construction industry that sells products, software, and services to customers worldwide. The family-owned company, headquartered in Liechtenstein, employs around 25,000 employees. Prior to automation the firm relied on decentralized processes, a diverse number of local business solutions, and heterogeneous IT systems that impeded the adoption of good business practices on a global basis. In a transformation initiative involving both culture and technology change, Hilti AG implemented a holistic BPM program complete with global processes and data, and the standardization of IT and processes on a global level. They achieved major cultural change by creating global process ownership and building process communities. As a result, the company now has greater digital maturity for new technologies and innovations; higher customer satisfaction; gains in operational excellence and efficiency; and one corporate culture.
  • ISS Facility Services is a facility services company that offers cleaning, support, property, catering, security and facility management services. The company has about 520,000 employees in more than fifty countries in Europe, Asia, Pacific, North and South America. Prior to automation the company experienced a significant lack of control and information in human resources (HR). For example, employee requests would take, on average, one to two months before resolution. Each request generated large volumes of e-mail which slowed resolution and led to major employee dissatisfaction. With more than half a million employees dispersed around the globe, this was a dire situation. The company deployed and integrated BPM for agility and efficiency within HR. After this agile implementation proved successful, other areas began adopting the BPM platform. Since deployment, the company has experienced an eighty-four percent decrease in the average time for hiring staff while employee satisfaction has increased dramatically. For example, ninety-nine percent of the staff no longer have benefits issues and new service levels mandate resolution within 48 hours.
  • New York State BackOffice Operations (deployed by NYS Office of Information Technology Services) was chartered by Governor Cuomo and the Spending & Government Efficiency Commission (SAGE) to consolidate redundant operations, such as invoice processing, in fifty-seven agencies into a single organization. The new Business Service Center became the single, centralized back office operation for processing an enterprise accounts payable application, including constantly watching all invoices. The state increased its organizational efficiency while spending a fraction of its former costs and staffing. With the new system, seventy percent of invoices are now completely electronic, and 700,000 invoices were processed in 2016. The new system is based on BPM, document and data capture, and content management technologies.
  • Pret Communique is the largest AT&T distributor in Mexico, with one hundred point-of-sale locations throughout the country. With the explosion of mobile technology leading to rapid business growth, the company experienced severe growing pains that included constant change, manual processes for each sale, work duplication, and numerous processing errors in controlling day-to-day revenue, and paying sales commissions. After embracing a digital transformation and continuous improvement effort, the company went paperless by implementing both a zero-code BPM suite, and a communication and collaboration platform that integrated into existing systems. The transformational shift to paperless processes and continuous improvement increased customer satisfaction, led to a seventy-five percent reduction in resources, and reduced processing time from two hours to twenty minutes.
  • Rio de Janeiro’s City Hall supports businesses across Brazil’s second largest metro area—a rapidly growing global hub for energy, and oil and gas. Improving the speed of business development and permit processing are critical for the city’s business services and tax revenues, yet the process was highly bureaucratic and far too slow. To obtain permits, businesses and individuals had to work with multiple agencies; repeatedly present the same documents to various individuals; and face long queues. Seeking to transform all manual and automated processes for zoning, permits, and resource management, the agency reengineered its document-laden, manual system for permit alterations and revocations. In addition to using BPM to integrate multiple silos and drop existing redundancies, the agency integrated the new process with other systems. They achieved unprecedented service levels, now issuing forty-five percent of permits within thirty minutes, with seventy-two percent of the work done without human interaction. Paperwork, labor and other infrastructure costs fell drastically; and the number of offices shrunk from nineteen to nine. In addition, revenues increased by twenty-five percent.
  • Solix, Inc. is an IT services company that supports government, telecom, utility, and healthcare through customer communications, big data applications, business process technology, and consulting. Offerings include application/claims processing, customer care center, an information life-cycle framework, program administration, and regulatory compliance. Customers expect fast, accurate, compliant decisions delivered with excellent service and experience. To fulfill this promise and position for growth, the firm deployed a new contact generation system for decentralized processes that were historically hard to keep at required service levels. Before, Solix used custom systems to manage large volumes of data for enrollment programs offered by multiple customers. These processes included receiving eligibility documentation and data from many sources, including mailrooms (scanned documents), mobile devices, contact center agents, and paper-based or electronic applications. In the older system, Solix cross-referenced all documentation with state and federal databases before reviewers manually validated the information—which was highly labor-intensive. The new cloud-based BPM system supports mandated service levels; provides mobile and web device independence; is multi-tenant; offers tightly coupled integration; and can add robotic process automation in the future. BPM delivers faster time to market, has improved client joint-development efforts, and position the firm well for future growth.
  •  Valeo is a publicly traded French automotive supplier with 106,000 employees worldwide and annual sales of €16.5 billion (2016). Valeo strives to keep its technologies and processes as up-to-date and built for growth as possible to support innovative products for CO2 reduction and intuitive, driverless cars. The company started digital transformation seventeen years ago and is now on its third BPM solution. Most recently, the firm rebuilt its systems for greater efficiency, transparency, and scalability; and streamlined and standardized many duplicated processes that were automated in prior BPM systems. It has now automated 267 processes for nearly 30,000 users across offices in thirty-two countries. The BPM team focused on process quality testing and integration with unique internal roles. These processes cut across information silos by connecting document systems, the SAP ERP system, and various internal point solutions. The transformed processes include HR, finance and accounting, operations and development. The new BPM system supports process automation and case management, and is customizable within three days following requests. The result is an impressive eighty percent efficiency gain in platform response time while supporting more than 75,000+ cases. Most importantly, the new system has transitioned Valeo to a fully digital company that competes effectively in the rapidly morphing automotive technology space.
  • Vincula MDT is a Brazilian multinational manufacturer with thirty years in the medical implant market (e.g., MDT Implants, Meta Bio and Biotechnology). The firm places a high priority on adhering to international quality standards in the manufacturing and delivery of prosthetics products, including orthopedic implants for the knee, hip, spine and jaw. As part of its growth strategy, it opened a new sales channel for direct service to hospitals and HMOs, replacing or augmenting its B2B distribution network. At the same time, a corruption scheme surfaced that pressured Vincula to shift channels quickly. The corruption involved distribution companies, doctors and hospital/HMO workers who were dealing in overpriced materials. To change quickly, Vincula MDT sought a tool to manage its information load, organize tasks, coordinate workflows, and orchestrate an end-to-end process that started with surgery quotes/requests, spanned activities through surgery, to finish with billing for materials used. This end-to-end process required the firm to integrate systems to ensure that all information about surgical procedures resided a single place and was easily accessible to process participants. But this goal proved complex because each instance of work is different and involves quoting the material, separating the material used, shipping and returning the material to the hospital, and billing for items used. Overcoming this challenge, the firm now has a BPM system with 100% traceability and has reduced processing time by approximately fifty percent. Most importantly, client and stakeholders are well-satisfied with the new solution.
  • WellCare Health Plans, Inc., is a standout winner because in addition to the 2017 BPM Excellence Award, it also won the WfMC Case Management Excellence Award in 2017. WellCare focuses exclusively on government-sponsored managed care services primarily through Medicaid, Medicare Advantage and Medicare Prescription Drug Plans, to families and individuals. As of Dec. 31, 2016, WellCare had served about 3.9 million members, partnered with 417,000 contracted health care providers, and employed 7,600 associates. Within the business, the creative services team develops all marketing and regulated materials required for members, partners or internal departments. It faced a herculean task of working with more than sixty media types in nearly thirty languages using a manually based system. Prior to automation, work was ninety percent paper-based, with most of the data in printed form. Workers collected documents in physical case folders and passed them manually between groups. Proofs were usually printed, marked up, and added to the paper folders. The legacy tracking application was a flat file with basic form data about the media piece and a tracking number. The system was unable to track workflow other than producing a sequential log of free-form comments entered by employees. In contrast, the new system is a unified goal-oriented collaboration platform that allows the team to interact with each other and third-party providers. Workflow and data are processed without paper. After implementing a BPM/case management/collaboration platform for campaign management, the firm realized twenty percent savings on job lifecycle time; a seventy-five percent reduction in printing, paper and file storage costs; and a twenty percent reduction in rework. The business is more flexible because of full transparency into open jobs and tasks, and can adapt immediately to changes.

Digital transformation is sweeping the business landscape, driving enterprise-wide BPM projects

As these case studies highlight, BPM initiatives are not performed in a vacuum or because some manager decides to bring in new technology to replace older solutions. Instead, digital disruption is driving companies to strategically transform their end-to-end processes or risk being left behind. The organizational and technological fallout from digital disruption touches every single industry, organization, and business process around the globe. More companies and government agencies now realize they can no longer operate with the same old business unit, geographical, functional and departmental silos that may have been created as long ago as 100+ years. As corporate directors, CEOs and C-suite executives absorb this new reality and scramble like crazy to avoid being “amazoned” or “ubered,” business leaders everywhere are taking a fresh look at their thoroughly outdated and outmoded business processes, which are usually too internally focused, too manual, and too paper-driven–plus they don’t leverage the power of recent technology advances. This digital disruption megatrend is driving virtually all BPM projects relentlessly toward transformation. The 2017 BPM Excellence Awards winners have embraced digital transformation to re-imagine their business models, reinvent their processes, become customer obsessed and infuse efficiency and excellence into internal operations.

Ten BPM trends for 2018 and beyond

The top ten trends driving BPM now and in the future are:

  • Trend #1: Companies in every industry around the world will embrace BPM and case management for large-scale deployments. Over many years–actually, ever since its inception– the BPM market has been dominated by implementations in banking, insurance and financial services. While these are still absolutely vital sectors for BPM suppliers, and will continue to be so, other sectors have awakened to the power of digital transformation fueled by BPM. For the first time, non-financial services companies have taken the lion’s share of the WfMC BPM Excellence Awards. Just consider– this year’s winning industries include: automotive, business services, construction, education services, government (local, regional and national), health care insurance, high-tech services and software, manufacturing, retail, telecommunications, and utilities. In addition to penetrating new industry sectors, BPM will increasingly move beyond its traditional national and regional borders. In the past, BPM has largely been a North Amercian (e.g., U.S.) and European trend. Now, BPM is flourishing in other regions—particularly Latin America and the Middle East, driven by ambitious government programs, and growth in telecommunications and energy. Many of the 2017 BPM award winners implemented BPM across large, geographically dispersed enterprises, often displaying the power of BPM beyond the U.S./European epicenter. This trend will continue throughout 2018 and beyond, and also accelerate.
  • Trend #2: BPM deployments will focus on customer experience and operational excellence at the same time. In a world in which consumers, politicians, educators, students, and even kids thrive on new technologies (such as mobile apps, social media, virtual reality, games and gamification, analytics, ecommerce, the list goes on), consumer expectations have blown through the roof. People now have extremely high expectations for how websites and mobile apps they use cater to their preferences and whims. And they have extremely low tolerance for delays and repeated questions about basic customer information while being passed mindlessly from one customer service rep to another, after calling a toll-free number for help. Until recently, the BPM world has not focused on customer experience (although BPM practitioners have tried to awaken interest). But now that is changing for the better because companies focused on BPM for operational processes can ill afford to ignore the steady drumbeat for better customer experiences. For digital transformation to be truly transformational, customer experience and operational excellence must reign together. It isn’t enough for the front office to deliver awesome customer experiences; the back office must step up by providing operational excellence that ultimately serves the customer as well as back office workers. Without a cross-enterprise focus, organizations won’t be able to deliver true end-to-end-processes, and won’t transform the business–no matter how good they make internal operations work. (For more insights, see Transform Customer Experience and Operational Excellence By Going Digital Outside and Inside.)
  • Trend #3: Enterprises will streamline inefficient, duplicated processes and move them to shared services. This year’s winners clearly show that many companies suffer from duplicated processes that operate in pockets throughout the enterprise. For example, New York State BackOffice Operations (deployed by NYS Office of Information Technology Services) had many redundant operations, such as invoice processing, across fifty-seven agencies. The state streamlined invoice processing by consolidating the duplicated processes into a single process that served all participating agencies and then moved process execution into a shared service. The fact that this improvement was mandated by Governor Cuomo and the Spending & Government Efficiency Commission (SAGE), shows that process standardization and enterprise-wide shared services deployment can become a strategic issue with senior executives because of duplicated costs and deviations from best practice. The challenge with duplicated processes not just a government issue; private-sector companies often suffer from the same problem, particularly if the firm has a world-wide reach or grew through acquisition. For example, even though award winning Valeo had previously implemented BPM systems twice before, many of the firm’s BPM-enabled processes were still duplicated across the company. Recognizing the potential to streamline and consolidate, the firm rebuilt its systems for greater efficiency, transparency, and scalability; and then standardized these processes. Similarly, DIA, EPM Gas, Energy, Water, and Hilti, are three other 2017 BPM winners that experienced issues because of non-standardized, duplicated processes. In 2018 and beyond, government and private-sector executives will mandate greater cost savings and better compliance by combining similar business processes and shifting the new, streamlined process to a centralized shared service.
  • Trend #4: Data will increasingly drive BPM implementations (in addition to unstructured content). Historically, BPM deployments have focused on processing paper and unstructured digital files that are scattered throughout the organization. The reason? High volumes of incoming documents still overwhelm many businesses, whether in electronic or paper form, and/or still have an unhealthy internal dependence on e-mail and manually routing office documents. (Examples of paper and e-mail bottlenecks can be found among this year’s Excellence Awards winners, including Pret Communique, Rio de Janeiro City Hall, Solix, and WellCare Health Plans.) But increasingly, BPM practitioners have learned that BPM can also tackle redundant data siloes, issues with poor data integrity, and limited data integration. Two years ago, a small number of BPM Excellence Awards winners named data integration as a key benefit from BPM. Other companies are now picking up on that same trend. Going forward, BPM implementations will focus on data in addition to unstructured content by integrating with master data management (MDM) systems, data integration tools, predictive analytics, ecommerce, and product information management systems.  This includes BPM products that either offer master data management or integrate with MDM; and tools that offer predictive analytics as part of process execution (not just used for analyzing process data after work has executed). Data integration through BPM will also be a key driver in projects that replace redundant processes with standardized, centralized processes for shared services.
  • Trend #5: Customer experience and operational teams will increasingly work together to deliver transformational end-to-end processes, but it will not be a natural marriage. Organizations that are tackling end-to-end business processes quickly discover the need to support both customers and employees with the new BPM system. So, getting customer experience teams to work with operational improvement practitioners seems like a no-brainer. But the challenge in enticing customer experience and operational improvement teams to collaborate is complex; these teams have different skill sets (e.g., journey mapping vs. Lean/Six Sigma), different work and thinking patterns (right brain vs. left brain), different tools (journey mapping tools vs. process maps/modeling), and are usually trying to solve different problems (i.e. sections of the end-to-end process). (See Customer Experience and Operational Excellence join forces for digital transformation for more insight.) Tackling digital transformation by re-thinking end-to-end processes means that the overall initiative must concentrate on operational excellence in addition to customer experience–and vice versa. Otherwise, the BPM effort will not deliver transformational results. But getting the two organizations to work together is hard work. Organizational change management has proven to be the best approach for building teamwork across diverse teams that sit in different parts of the organization and do not typically work together. Virtually all the BPM Excellence Awards winners identified organizational change management as a strategic best practice for getting employee buy-in. Without changing the hearts and minds of customer experience practitioners and operational practitioners across the org chart, getting them to work together on BPM projects will be an imperative but difficult task.
  • Trend #6: Case management and BPM projects and solutions will converge. Historically, the WfMC has awarded Excellence Awards for Case Management and Excellence Awards for BPM separately, as it did in 2017. However, this dichotomy may not continue indefinitely into the future. While classic BPM projects have focused on “straight-through” processes that were reasonably well-defined, case management BPM projects have focused on complex, unpredictable, information-intensive work that may span long time periods–a sharp contrast to BPM for well-defined processes. The vendor landscape is moving toward integrated/combined solutions, with several vendors offering traditional BPM and case management in the same product (e.g., Appian, BizAgi, OpenText, and Pegasystems) while a few others (most notably IBM) still have separate products to automate different types of processes. Standard BPM and case management are converging in two distinct ways: 1) a growing number of companies are now implementing both types of BPM within the organization, such as WellCare Health Plans (described above), and more vendors now support both styles of BPM with the same platform. (For more on the differences between the two, see BPM: making the case for case management software.) If you are considering BPM software, it’s imperative to understand how case management works and the differences in how to automate processes using case management and standard BPM.
  • Trend #7: Robotic process automation will take center stage for employee facing and customer facing processes. Robotic process automation (RPA) took businesses by storm in 2017, with standing-room-only sessions at BPM conferences. While some may disparage RPA as simple, swivel chair automation, others see great potential for efficiency and cost-savings. Many companies view RPA as a natural progression for automating the end-user keystrokes that BPM doesn’t capture or focus upon. Others see RPA as a breakthrough in customer experience when combined with natural language processing, predictive analytics and BPM to serve end customers. Going forward, RPA will still be a standalone product category, but the technology will also be incorporated into business process automation platforms through acquisitions, partnerships, and internal R&D. Any BPM vendor that ignores the potential of RPA to impact processes does so at its peril. In large-scale BPM deployments, RPA will cover the gamut from automating heads-down, manual activities to automating customer experience activities, and engaging with customers via chat. For more insights on the role of RPA in BPM deployments, see Robotic Process Automation: A Breakthrough In Getting Work Done Quickly, Cheaply, and Accurately.
  • Trend #8: Work will get smarter, requiring a new generation of digital process platforms. Not only will case management and standard BPM platforms converge, and RPA be subsumed into BPM software, but entirely new process platforms are now underway that will integrate and support RPA, predictive analytics, content management, business rules and low-code development, in addition to converging case management with standard BPM. (For more information, see Robotic Process Automation (RPA): robots that automate routine and complex work and BPM: making the case for case management software.) The world now faces a huge shakeup in how we create, consume, and process information in support of outstanding customer experience. This shakeup (and technology breakthroughs) will drive the development of new BPM platforms–called many different new terms, including digital process platforms and digital automation platforms. Plus, it’s hard to have any technology discussion these days without mention of artificial intelligence, machine learning, deep learning and natural language processing, which will also find their way into the new process platforms. It’s an indicator that we are truly on the cusp of moving into a new world of work, where work processing becomes “smarter” and client/customer touches become just the right thing, at just the right moment. This is not a sudden development– we’ve been progressing toward that elusive goal for decades. AI is already used routinely for credit card validation, ecommerce, call centers, loan approval, news feeds, and virtual assistants. (For more, see Artificial intelligence grabs center stage at AIIM’s information management leadership council.) But the pace is accelerating and vendors are rushing to unveil their new, improved platforms that consolidate many of these previously standalone tools. This will be a big trend.
  • Trend #9: Process automation projects will go faster and deliver results quickly. If you say the term “BPM” in some circles, you’ll get frowns instead of smiles. That’s because some BPM projects have picked up the same baggage that other development projects often experience with lengthy delivery dates. It’s a fact: some continuous improvement methodologies normally associated with BPM have slowed the delivery of transformed processes, and created a mindset in some executive suites that BPM projects should be avoided. However, there’s good news on the BPM front: it is taking less time than ever to deploy newly transformed business processes that are based on a combination of low-code case management and BPM software.  In fact, the 2017 WfMC Case Management award winners exemplify how projects can be completed more quickly than ever. There are several reasons, including: vendors and their solution partners are offering more out-of-the-box process applications for specific business processes; plus the vendor community is also providing more business models, process models, accelerators, integrations, and process templates that help project teams speed up the entire project. The rise of DevOps and BPM/case management competency centers in many organizations has helped, as has the greater focus on low-code, entity modeling and RPA. (For more information, see Use Entity Modeling to Streamline Business Process Design and Development.) These breakthroughs are important because BPM/case management projects can bog down into yet more time-consuming application development projects if not careful. But proof is in the pudding; look at the case management winners for ideas on accelerating projects. While citizen developers are still tantalyzing BPM myths, there is great advantage in encouraging and training business analysts to build processes more quickly using low-code approaches.
  • Trend #10: process platforms and engagement platforms will join forces to support customer experience. Some technology research organizations have recently advocated the emergence of digital experience platforms that will include virtually every technology under the sun that touches the customer, including BPM or the  still-emerging, bigger digital process platform. However, pulling together and integrating such a wide swatch of customer experience products and then adding process technology into the mix will probably be much too challenging to make this a real trend. (For more on this skeptical perspective, see Nonsensical: the latest Digital Experience Platform Wave from Forrester.) More likely are clusters of platforms that work together in the cloud or on-premises. For example, a digital experience/engagement platform that integrates multiple customer experience technologies and channels could work alongside the digital process platform in support of true end-to-end processes. Or possibly a triad of platforms will synchronize and orchestrate work across an integrated engagement/experience platform, information platform and digital process platform. What does this mean? In essence, BPM trend #10 posits that new platforms are emerging, but the digital process platform of the near future will probably stand alongside the digital experience platform–not in it.





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