When we think of BPM and process improvement, often the ROI is characterized through eliminating “waste” or manual steps and replacing them with process automation. An activity based costing analysis could identify opportunities to remove manual steps (i.e. steps involving redundant, repetitive, or predictable human work), and either eliminate them or replace them with, for instance, automated policies or straight through processing. Since tasks that are typically performed by human participants are eliminated, this of course translates to losing jobs. In fact, most often BPM is positioned as a platform to save and provide returns through transforming existing processing (“as is”) through automation and productivity (“to be”) – justifying the transition through concrete estimates of the savings. Translation: lost jobs.
Not too long ago, I was discussing process improvement with a colleague who does Six Sigma training. He told me that during one of his training sessions, a representative from a union came and sat in the back of the room. After two days of training he finally raised his hand and asked just one question: “how many jobs will be eliminated?” For many workers “process efficiency” means cutting back and losing jobs. BPM automation can reduce and eliminate waste. This could mean eliminating jobs. If Lean Six Sigma (LSS) principles that are realized through BPM automation mean eliminating waste and unnecessary work, does it make sense to consider BPM for creating new jobs? More importantly can BPM preserve and empower existing jobs while create new ones? Absolutely. In fact BPM’s contribution in creating new jobs, and even preserving existing jobs, is often overlooked. I would go as far to say that BPM’s contribution in creating new jobs and preserving existing jobs through empowerment far outweighs cost cutting or waste elimination. Let me explain.
- BPM Helps Achieve Business Objectives: First and foremost, BPM is the “bridge” that helps management realize their objectives. These objectives typically include growth and additional market share. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) can be directly linked to automated processes. This empowers managers and decision makers through robust visibility, transparency and control of their operations – through BPM.
- BPM Empowers Workers: Workers can now have the power of BPM automation assist them in carrying out their tasks and objectives. BPM captures policies as well as procedures – that guide the work. Furthermore, BPM helps workers monitor their own performance and service level commitments – and proactively governs projects or tasks that are in danger of missing their deadlines or objectives.
- BPM Realizes Lean Six Sigma: I will be blogging more on real-time, Lean Six Sigma, but for now suffice to say that with BPM you can have workers focus on value work. This increases the worker’s value and will make them less subject to replacement or elimination. With LSS you will also improve your processes and thus the satisfaction of your stakeholders. That too translates into job preservation.
- BPM Implies Innovation: this is perhaps the most significant contribution of BPM done right. Innovation through BPM spans:
- The ability to create new innovative products or solutions quickly and efficiently
- The ability to improve processes through innovative processes – while provisioning existing services or products
- The ability to customize creating new solutions for specific customer situations or needs.
(Each one of these possibilities could potentially create new jobs or preserve existing jobs. They all improve the organization’s profit.) Recently Jim Sinur from Gartner posted an interesting a blog with the title “BPM Delivers to the Triple Bottom Line of People, Planet and Profit” in which he states – and I agree – Profit is the fuel that drives BPM. With increased profit you have job preservation and in fact, also job creation. Modernization, automation and advances in farming and manufacturing did eliminate some jobs. But it also created new ones, and more importantly, it empowered farmers and workers. Automation and modernization spurred an unprecedented era of economic growth and innovation. Similarly the ultimate benefit of BPM is in preserving jobs through focusing on value work: through assisting clerical as well as knowledge workers with policies or knowledge that helps them achieve their objectives on time and within budget. BPM also creates new jobs through innovation and just-in-time customized solutions.