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Benefits of Business Process Management with Peter Evans

Welcome to the wonderful world of business process management. For this blog series, we've teamed up with operational excellence leader and former continuous improvement director at the LEGO Group, Peter Evans. Peter has over 30 years of experience in deployment of operational excellence, Lean Six Sigma, operational performance management, change management, and more. Like a Sherpa guiding thrill-seekers up Mount Everest, Peter will guide us through the tough parts of BPM so we can reach our peak and enjoy a clear, 360 view of our processes. 

What exactly is BPM?

Business process management (BPM) is a practice used to improve organizational performance by reviewing, documenting, and redesigning business processes and systems for greater efficiency. In more simple terms, BPM is a process-focused way to improve your business. 

Some of the main components of BPM include:

  1. Process mapping
  2. Workflow automation
  3. Process optimization
  4. Process monitoring

A brief history of the rise and fall of BPM

You can say that business process management started in the 1970s when Dr. Joseph M. Juran introduced the concept of operational excellence. By the 1980s, we saw early versions of digital workflow software.

Much like pagers and iPods, BPM was at its peak of popularity in the 1990s and 2000s. 

The actual term "Business Process Management" was coined by Gartner. The management consultant company first mentioned BPM in the early 2000s to describe business process management suites - or software used to manage enterprise business processes.

Much like many other trends identified by Gartner, BPM fell out of fashion and was replaced by more flashy buzzwords. But now it's back in fashion and is once again seen as the coolest kid on the block in many enterprise businesses.  

Today, you don't have to look far to meet a hardcore BPM fan; we have the statistics to prove it. According to Markets And Markets, the business process management market size is expected to grow to 14.4 billion by 2025. 

At Workfellow, we've teamed up with fellow hardcore BPM fan Peter Evans. Here, you can read about his extensive experience and unique insights into business process management.

Over the next few months, we'll harness Peter's 30-plus years of knowledge and wisdom to bring you a series of articles guiding you on a Wonderful BPM journey. So, sit back, relax and enjoy your tour through the wonderful world of BPM. 

Peter Evans' journey to BPM greatness 

In the early part of his career, Peter worked in finance organizations for manufacturing and service businesses. There, he quickly got a reputation for fixing things. "Things really started to grow in a vehicle leasing business that got bought by GE Capital in the 1990s. The whole business was moved to Manchester and merged with a couple of other businesses. At the time, I was running accounts receivable credit and risk," Peter explains. 

"In a short period of time, we got all the processes aligned and dramatically improved the situation in terms of the money we were owed and "our risk profile.". Because of this, Peter was asked to go and fix another problem on the payroll side of finance. 

"I was asked to go and fix what was "a complete disaster" and bring some of my management skills to fix things as we were on hold all over the country. We were not paying our invoices, and all we had was confusion. But we fixed it by working with some amazing people, most of whom were mothers who were job-sharing and had been very poorly led and motivated before we got started. 

At this point, Peter moved to ISO 9000 for the business and away from finance for a while in a "short-term" project. "We achieved that by getting the whole business aligned. For the first time in that business, we could describe all of our processes and understood how the whole thing fitted together," Peter explains. 

Due to his reputation for being able to fix stuff, Peter was then asked to move to a systems-based project to oversee business processes. This task turned into a broader European project based in Brussels, where Peter held the title of Operations Lead.

"I was lucky to be at GE Capital – now General Electric – in the 1990s. One Friday at around three o'clock, the company's European President said there was a meeting in Connecticut about quality. He asked if I'd like to go.”  

"So, I turned up to this meeting where myself and a few hundred other people in a hotel in Stamford, CT, watched a video of Jack Welch, the CEO of GE, telling us all we were going for Six Sigma and that we were going to be the people to lead it. 

"That was the start of my journey on a formal toolkit and a formal understanding of processes. Everything before was driven by common sense and doing our best to figure things out," Peter explains. 

The mid-'90s was the start of a new journey for Peter. "It took me from an understanding of people and change to a deeper understanding of processes and how they work. Over time and a number of other businesses, I had the opportunity to lead and make a difference by understanding what's really going on in the business." Peter says. 

"Then, in the mid-2000s to about 2012, I ran my own gigs where we could think in terms of Operational Excellence and connect all the dots of the business together." 

But it wasn't long until another opportunity came Peter's way. 

"All this experience and knowledge landed me a job at the LEGO Group, where I further developed a whole new perspective on how businesses should perform and how they become operationally excellent," Peter concludes. 

The magic of BPM 

Peter explains that the magic of BPM is its ability to give you a picture of what you're doing day to day. If your business is well-balanced, BPM connects people to their purpose. It connects the why and the what with the how, which is vital for keeping organizations running smoothly. "Without BPM, you're shooting in the dark," Peter says. "BPM is a very important facet to businesses that operate continuously well."

BPM: friend or foe? 

Despite its popularity, there are many people who are resistant to BPM. A study by Emerald.com found the main causes of this were fear, stress, and anxiety. Peter agrees that many people who see BPM as a threat do so for a good reason. 

"These things are difficult to understand. So, if people don't understand its purpose, it can look like managers are spying on people," says Peter. Of course, the reality is that all they're doing is measuring system activity so humans can enjoy more meaningful work. But BPM can become problematic in companies with a blame culture and what Peter calls badly-behaved managers. "As the old saying goes, the beatings will continue until morale improves," Peter says. "Those businesses are still out there, and they make changes like this seem like another way of making life miserable for employees." 

You'll always be "too busy" for BPM

You might be surprised to read that the good people at Workfellow and hardcore BPM fan Peter Evans both agree that there's no right time to introduce BPM. Let's face it. Everyone is busy with work all the time. If they weren't, they wouldn't have a job. So, if there's no right time to disrupt your processes in the name of progress, when should organizations be expected to think about BPM? 

"If I was to start a business, I'd implement BPM right away," Peter says. Of course, most businesses don't start like that. "They start out doing something they are good at, and before they know it, they think, bloody hell, I'm doing so much stuff now, and I need to keep things consistent. It's like having a big ball of string that you must find the other end of while understanding how it got there."

But, if everyone in an organization is already stressed and finding it hard to get their day job done, then implementing BPM and asking people to take time out to learn something new requires careful planning. Peter explains that all these things boil down to time, cost and quality. People must know why they are doing something in the first place. If it's rushed, people will ask themselves what the hell is going on here?

"I'm not saying don't do it because people are busy. People are always busy. But you really need to think it through quite deeply and make sure you understand why you want to do it."

If it's brown and smelly, it's probably not chocolate ice cream

The above title is a quote from one of Peter's old bosses and is a perfect analogy for implementing BPM. "I know you can plug in your software these days and understand how things tie together, but that and business process mining alone won't show you the whole picture," Peter says. "There may be loops that you just don't understand that need to be understood before you can move forward." Simply put, plugging in some software and expecting AI to sort everything out can leave you with a huge mess on your hands.    

If your technology is only understood by nerds, you're doing it wrong 

Back when Peter was looking into the processes of a call center, he noticed a lot of people who were very wedded to eTom. 

First published in 2001, eTom is a framework for enterprise telecom management. It's a highly comprehensive model for managing telecom infrastructure and services. The model is based on ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) best practices and was designed to provide a holistic approach to managing telecom services. 

"eTom is massive and has thousands and thousands of boxes. It's a lovely thing if you're in that nerdy process-loving community and like to see how this stuff works," Peter says. 

But, after a short chat with senior people in that particular telecoms business, it became crystal clear that nobody really understood what these big fancy models were doing for the business. "If you show anybody a page with a few hundred boxes, they'll obviously just glaze over." 

Peter stresses the importance of simplifying complex technology so everyone can understand it. "Most people don't even care about the complex details. What they care about is how technology can make things easier. "You must be careful about how you describe these things." Peter continues. 

Why BPM projects fail

"BPM normally fails due to lack of ownership. If the process is trapped in the walled castle inhabited by nerds, the whole idea dies when they leave the company. I've seen this happen so many times," Peter explains.  

It's very important to get it to the point where the business is living it, connecting customer journeys to process models and those to employees. "With these aspects, BPM becomes ingrained in the way you do stuff and stands a good chance of survival." 

Successful BPM requires investment in: 

  1. People 
  2. Processes 
  3. Technology 


These steps are often referred to as the Golden Triangle. Simply put, technology needs to be surrounded by excellent processes to be effective. The value of a process is strictly determined by the people who execute them.  

Process Management: The Golden Triangle
Process Management: The Golden Triangle

What type of person is wonderful at operational excellence and business process management?

So, now we know what good BPM is, we asked what characteristics someone needs to lead a team to success. 

"If you were the sort of kid who used to take your biro apart to see how things work and have a knack for improving things, experimenting, and understanding the complete workings of anything, then this is the job for you," Peter says. 

Peter adds that to be wonderful at operational excellence and business process management, you must have a passion for improvement.  

"If you lack tolerance for failure, or you go to the supermarket and get pissed off with the queue or can't stand how your local coffee shop is organized, you're probably the right sort of person for an operational excellence career." 

But being wonderful in this area isn't just about organizational skills. "You need to understand all the aspects of the business, not just the processes. You must also understand the culture, the people, and the customers. What's more, you must understand how all of those connect for a unique view of how businesses work and the rare opportunity to help businesses improve and be the best they can be." 

The wonderful BPM blog series 

If you enjoyed reading about Peter's unique insights into people, management, business, BPM, and process excellence, stay tuned for our next article, where we pick Pete's brains about connecting your vision for BPM with realistic and achievable goals.

Written by

Josef Konderla

Content Marketing Manager