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Putting bang into “BPM”

Business process management blooming

Bank tech trends can make your head spin. So each week longtime Tech Exchange Editor John Ginovsky does his best to “make sense of it all.” Bank tech trends can make your head spin. So each week longtime Tech Exchange Editor John Ginovsky does his best to “make sense of it all.”

One might think that a subject titled “business process management” has to be about as boring a topic as possible. But BPM turns out to be far more interesting than it sounds.

BPM has been around for several years, but in the past year, as with all things technological, BPM has evolved in interesting ways. These include: incorporating the position of “chief process officer” into the C-suite; combining BPM and mobile technology; and turbo-boosting regular BPM into a new thing dubbed “an intelligent business process management suite.”

See? It does start to get interesting, doesn’t it?

Interesting enough that several keen observers have commented on it recently, ranging from researchers at Villanova University to analysts at BearingPoint, IBM, and Gartner.

Basics of BPM, and beyond

Just to define the term quickly BPM refers to the methods, tools, and techniques used to make business processes more flexible and effective. It uses information technology and management tools to ensure that an organization’s operating processes are helping the organization keep pace with the demands of a changing marketplace.

That’s what the folks at Villanova University say.

Wait. It gets better … really.

Villanova authors give an example of how a newly founded bank with more than 200 branches in the Middle East turned to BPM modeling software to improve its loan processing system. In short, they say the bank slashed loan processing time from two days to 30 minutes—all while complying with the added compliance burden required by Sharia, Islamic laws based on the Koran that even govern financing.

That’s pretty impressive.

Banking Exchange has been no stranger to the subject of BPM.

Last summer, Brent Gohl, product manager at Wolters Kluwer Financial Services, blogged in these pages about BPM:

“BPM has evolved into more than just a buzzword these days—it has transformed into a core driver of business success. The BPM discipline offers a holistic view of a financial institution’s operations and provides insight into areas where selected workflows might be automated to reduce risk, cut costs, increase efficiencies, and enhance customer service.” [You can read his three-part series beginning with, “Time for Business Process Management for your bank?”]

What’s happening today…

That was then, and now is now. Here are some recent developments:

• BearingPoint—Through its management consultancy BPM&O GmbH, based in Cologne, Germany, the company surveyed 300 organizations across multiple industries (20% in financial services). The research found that 75% of respondents already believe BPM is an important area of interest, and 60% assume the importance of BPM will increase within the next few years.

What’s amazing is that half of the organizations have already established and staffed the position of Chief Process Officer. CPOs ensure that the necessary coordination between the operational levels and top management exists.

Says Sven Schnaegelberger, managing partner: “Only if the management executives understand and manage internal processes can organizations exploit the opportunities provided by digitalization in the best possible way.”

What perhaps makes all this the more significant is where the survey was conducted: Germany, Switzerland, and Austria—countries that historically have demonstrated consistent and intense interest in efficient business processes.

IBM—Leonidas Drakopoulos, a technology consultant for IBM, writes in the blog A Smarter Planet about combining BPM with mobile technology. He provides this example:

“Let’s assume a retail bank wants to optimize a process that is as important and recurring as its mortgage approval process.

“This process normally requires a customer to visit a local branch and bring along a lot of paper statements in order to initiate [his or her] application. Then the bank employee needs to digitize all the hard copy information before eligibility checks can be performed. This manual process is tedious, prone to errors, and time consuming.

“What if we could provide the customer a mobile app that would use optical character recognition technology to allow the customer to digitize the paper statements from the comfort of [his or her] house? At the same time this app could initiate an automated and digitized mortgage approval process at the bank employee’s end.”

In short, Drakopoulos says, “The goal is to enable radical simplification of every customer interaction and use new mobile contextual opportunities to engage customers in new ways.”

Gartner—Okay, you have to bear with Gartner here. As usual, the firm tends to invent its own terminology to make its points. In this case the creative term-making covers what they call the shift that is underway to something called an “intelligent business process management suite,” or iBPMS.

Still, it’s worth wading through.

Rob Dunie, Gartner research director, explains it this way: “An iBPMS supports business responsiveness, often at the moment of truth in a customer interaction. The ability to provide more joined-up insight into business processes through the use of analytics—combined with support for the people involved in processes, allowing them to take advantage of this insight—is what differentiates today’s iBPMS market from earlier BPMS technology markets.”

In other words—Gartner’s words—this new thing is supposed to add more emphasis on support for greater system and human intelligence within business processes.

The idea is to embrace current BPM capabilities, such as “what if” process simulation, optimization, and the ability to gain insight into process performance. Then, on top of these, to add enhanced support for human collaboration, integration with social media, mobile access to processes, more analytics, and real-time decision management.


In any case, Gartner predicts worldwide spending on old-fashioned BPM software is set to grow 4.4% to reach $2.7 billion this year—which is pretty interesting.

Sources used for this article include:

Mobile Business Process Management: Evolving For A Competitive Edge

Time For Business Process Management For Your Bank?

Fit For The Digital Future With Business Process Management

Gartner Says Spending On Business Process Management Suites To Reach $2.7 Billion In 2015 As Organizations Digitalize Processes

BPM And Banking

John Ginovsky

John Ginovsky is a contributing editor of Banking Exchange and editor of the publication’s Tech Exchange e-newsletter. For more than two decades he’s written about the commercial banking industry, specializing in its technological side and how it relates to the actual business of banking. In addition to his weekly blogs—"Making Sense of It All"—he contributes fresh, original stories to each Tech Exchange issue based on personal interviews or exclusive contributed pieces. He previously was senior editor for Community Banker magazine (which merged into ABA Banking Journal) and for ABA Banking Journal and was managing editor and staff reporter for ABA’s Bankers News. Email him at [email protected]

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