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    What Is Business Process Management?

    Business Process Management (BPM) is a strategy that models, analyzes and optimizes end-to-end processes to achieve business objectives, such as improving customer experience and implementing a regulatory compliance framework. BPM methods can apply to repeatable, predictable and continuous processes and tasks.

    Business processes are sequences of steps that businesses implement to achieve predefined goals. BPM allows you to evaluate existing business processes and identify ways to increase efficiency, minimize error, reduce costs and drive digital transformation.

    Business process management is an ongoing effort that improves business outcomes in the long term. BPM eliminates ad hoc practices and ensures a unified workflow management process. It helps optimize operations and empowers you to provide better services and products to consumers.

    What Are the Benefits of Implementing Business Process Management?

    BPM provides a management structure to improve business processes, ensuring operational quality and efficiency. If properly executed, a BPM program eliminates waste, reduces errors, saves time, strengthens compliance, increases agility and improves product delivery.

    Here are the main reasons to adopt BPM:
    • Increased business agility — You must continuously update and optimize your business processes to keep pace with changing market conditions. BPM lets you suspend business processes, apply changes and restart them. By modifying, reusing and customizing workflows, business processes become more agile, giving your organization greater visibility into the impact of process changes.
    • Increased revenues and lower costs — BPM tools eliminate bottlenecks and significantly reduce operational costs over time. BPM helps shorten product sale lead times, allowing customers to receive products and services faster, resulting in increased sales and improved profitability. A BPM solution can allocate and monitor resources to minimize waste, reducing overall costs.
    • Increased efficiency — Business process integration lets you improve the overall efficiency of your business strategy. A process owner can leverage the information provided by BPM solutions to monitor processes, identify delays and allocate extra resources when necessary. Another way to increase the efficiency of business processes is to automate repetitive tasks and eliminate unnecessary tasks.
    • Increased visibility — BPM supports automation and ensures real-time performance monitoring. You can track key performance indicators to increase transparency and control over processes and outcomes.
    • Improved compliance and security — A comprehensive business process management strategy ensures your organization is up-to-date with regulations and compliant with industry standards like the Sarbanes Oxley Act (SOX) or PCI DSS. BPM facilitates security measures with proper documentation of all processes, helping encourage employees to protect corporate assets, including physical resources and confidential data, from misuse or theft.

    Steps of a BPM Lifecycle

    A typical business process management lifecycle includes the following steps:
    • Design — In this step, you review existing business processes and perform end-to-end process mapping. You don’t change any business processes; only identify and document them.
    • Modeling — This step uses a visual display to represent the business processes. Here you refine details such as conditions and deadlines to get a clear picture of the data flow and event sequence.
    • Operation — In this step, you activate the model. While implementing the BPM plan, set up success/failure metrics to evaluate and compare the new process to the existing one.
    • Monitoring — Monitor the new BPM model’s performance after implementing it. This step verifies that the new processes address inefficiencies and bottlenecks and that people utilize them. What looks fine on paper or works well for small tests might not be effective when deployed throughout the organization. If the model underperforms, consider rolling back the deployment. Monitoring the new processes allows you to identify problems proactively and take action when necessary.
    • Optimization — This step involves continued fine-tuning and improvements to the business processes. Even a process that works well may have room to improve, such as inefficient manual tasks.

    5 Compliance Considerations for a BPM Program

    BPM ties closely into compliance initiatives at your organization because it determines how sensitive and mission-critical business processes take place. Here are several considerations for making your BPM program compatible with, and supportive of, compliance with regulations and industry standards.

    1. Aligning BPM with Compliance Requirements
    Make a plan to align your BPM program with your organization’s specific compliance requirements. The plan should include:
    • Description of compliance standards that are relevant to each business process
    • Mapping compliance standards to specific steps in the business process
    • Understanding implications of compliance requirements on each step
    • Modifying the business process if necessary to meet compliance requirements
    • Repeating the process when there are changes to the compliance standard or the business process
    2. Using a Compliance Management System
    The above process can become very labor-intensive, especially in large organizations or heavily regulated industries. A compliance management system collects and organizes policies and procedures related to the company’s compliance efforts. It generates compliance reports, facilitates audits and enables visibility for senior management.

    If your organization has a compliance management system, use it to evaluate the service compliance risk in your business processes and ensure they addresses the relevant regulations, laws, industry standards and organizational policies.

    3. Securing Endpoints and Applications
    Many compliance standards have specific requirements with regard to cybersecurity. Endpoint protection solutions protect endpoint devices and entry points to the corporate network (i.e., desktops, mobile devices, etc.) from malicious actors or activities. Modern endpoint security goes beyond traditional antivirus, providing comprehensive security measures against advanced malware and zero-day attacks.

    Another common requirement of compliance standards is having a clear, well-documented incident response plan. The plan should state how the organization will react to a security breach and take measures to contain and eradicate the threat.

    4. Managing Sensitive and Confidential Data
    It is important to identify which business processes use, collect or process personally identifiable information (PII). This could include information about company employees or customers. Some departments in an organization might continuously collect, store and distribute PII and other sensitive information without understanding the implications of mishandling this data. This could expose your organization to social engineering attacks, regulatory fines, legal penalties and damaged customer trust.

    Identify how each business process protects PII and manages sensitive data assets. This includes how the process and employees are participating in it:
    • Identify personally identifiable information.
    • Choose where to store sensitive data.
    • Evaluate and classify data assets based on sensitivity.
    • Enforce acceptable usage policies. Encrypt sensitive data and carry out key management.
    • Participate in training or education to raise awareness of PII protection.
    • Make it easy to communicate and report suspicious activities.
    5. Documenting Business Processes
    An often overlooked aspect of BPM is documenting business processes and ensuring documentation is updated. This can be done manually; however, for larger organizations it is preferable to have an automated tool that can generate documentation directly from the BPM system (many BPM platforms have this capability).

    For compliance purposes, it is essential to have a clear process to generate, update and redistribute BPM documents. There should also be a process for managing versioning of process documentation. This creates an audit trail which internal and external auditors can investigate to understand changes to business processes over time.

    I hope this information will be useful as you consider the compliance impact of your BPM program.

    Gilad David Maayan is a technology writer who has worked with over 150 technology companies including SAP, Imperva, Samsung NEXT, NetApp and Ixia, producing technical and thought leadership content that elucidates technical solutions for developers and IT leadership. He is also founder and CEO of Agile SEO.
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