Understanding the challenges in managing business processes and why in-house apps are not the solution

The immediate focus of modern companies is on strengthening core capabilities such as sales and operations before exploring the frontier of digital innovations. To get their house in order, they’re looking to re-engineer, revamp, and revive their business processes.

A survey sponsored by RedHat examining the reasons why companies invested in business process management and improvements found that 42% aimed to improve customer satisfaction, 65% wanted to improve efficiency and agility, and 37% had process change projects underway.

But the cost, resource, and technology constraints are making it hard to customise, manage, and automate business solutions. In other instances, this initiative simply gets abandoned halfway in favour of a short-term, ‘band-aid’ solution.

Let’s go through some of these major challenges.

Skyrocketing costs of off-the-shelf BPM solutions

Cost optimisation becomes a mindset that drives a company’s behaviours and decision-making. At the same time, top-brand enterprise Business Process Management (BPM) solutions out there come with a hefty price tag.

The pricing of on-premise BPM solutions isn’t about the software alone. It factors in the enterprise size, complexity of workflows, integration costs, and support costs which could run up to the tune of 6-7 figures. For most companies, that’s a deal-breaker!

And if nothing is done at all, you’ll have to put up with process inefficiencies and human-related errors which can lead to missed opportunities or worse, millions in losses—still not a pretty picture!

Complexity in building and customising business processes

Most companies resort to building in-house apps to circumvent these undesirable cost implications.

How in-house apps are put together varies depending on the company’s available expertise, existing system landscape, and the tools they’re most familiar with. They can be a collection of spreadsheets, web-based apps, forms, or workflows which can address the immediate need of building and automating business processes.

But what happens when you have to accommodate high-impact business requirements with cross-area dependencies, multi-system integration scenarios, or intricate workflows (or all of the above)?

The solution may not be flexible and scalable enough to handle all this. Sure, you can get your best IT people to add lines of code to factor in extra requirements, handle exceptions, etc., but the maintenance gets more cumbersome.

Indeed, keeping and maintaining an in-house solution can be more costly and resource-intensive in the long run. When the system encounters errors, it can disrupt the smooth running of your operations. While your people are pulling their hair out doing the troubleshooting, losses in time and money would amplify.

Embedment of data validation and quality control

It’s normal for companies to utilise a myriad of specialised systems, e.g., ERP for financial and transactional processing, SCM for supply chain planning and management, and CRM for customer-facing capabilities. In the absence of data management and governance, data becomes fragmented and data quality becomes questionable.

Your business solution suite that runs on this web of systems would need to have a mechanism to check and validate data that comes from various sources.

While you can use any of the BPM solutions in the market, most of them were designed for complex customisation and automation scenarios to attain quick results. Oftentimes, at the cost of data quality.

In the absence of a data quality layer, people have to resort to manual/semi-manual validation of sifting through data, identifying data issues, and fixing them. It’s easy to see how this method can become unsustainable in the long run when the volume of data grows. Data quality simply deteriorates into the abyss.

Frictionless collaboration with internal and external parties

Agile and modern business processes would need to involve people, so most of them would entail close communication and collaboration with internal and external parties.

Let’s take supplier and product management as an example where suppliers are tasked to fill up the information for the products they’re supplying. Without a seamless communication medium, you’ll have to go back and forth with your suppliers to chase updates and ensure product information is populated and validated. Imagine the friction and frustration that can come out of this!

And the same goes for business processes involving communication amongst your people. A process that you may take for granted like Leave Request Management should also have direct communication tools to avoid misunderstanding between bosses and subordinates. Neglecting this could cause full-blown employee dissatisfaction.

In managing and automating your suite of business processes, you’ll need to consider having collaboration capabilities such as content-specific events, real-time chat, co-browse sessions, and integration with telephony and video chat services.

The way forward

With these challenges afoot, coupled with the fact that in-house solutions are not the silver bullet, what should we do?

Choosing the right technology solution is mission-critical in ensuring your business process management and automation initiative gets lifted off the ground and doesn’t get abandoned halfway. And the platform should be robust and agile enough to overcome major challenges and incorporate requirements for highly-specialised business processes.

So, how does that work? Stay tuned to the next blog to find out more!

Author: Shigim Yusof