Business Process Management: quo vadis? Challenges and opportunities

Adopting a process orientation means putting a vision into practice by making and committing to deliberate choices for organising and executing work. In order for Business Process Management (BPM) to be able to help businesses looking for an new vision and new ways to manage an ever more complex business context, BPM needs to evolve from a mere methodology (being a stepwise, structured approach to improving business processes – often synonymous for making them more efficient) into a holistic management discipline that takes an integrated approach to the organisation and its business as a whole.

That is the main conclusion from six years of intensive research on the strategic positioning and current and future challenges of Business Process Management, led by Vlerick Business School in collaboration with its business partner MÖBIUS and the member companies of the BPM Network. All conclusions in the research paper, which outlines some of the most prominent issues and challenges faced by companies that have made the choice for BPM, are the result of a debate between all the participants in the research network. The position taken in this paper is meant to focus future “research for practice” on addressing what Vlerick and MÖBIUS think will be essential BPM challenges in the years to come

BPM as a Tool to Master Complexity

During the last century, many enterprises have taken shape as collections of specialised departments and business units. Industrialisation coupled with technological progress came with lots of specialisation. The more prominent the specialisation focus became, however, the larger the gaps between specialisation silos became and the louder the cry for business process integration. That is why the management discipline Business Process Management (BPM) received ever more attention. In the most recent years, the business context has become increasingly complex. Some of the main reasons for this growing complexity are the electronic interconnectivity of business actors, globalisation, turbulent markets, the increasing sophistication of products and services, and the growing expectations of customers. Therefore, the challenge facing BPM is to present itself as a discipline enabling enterprises to master this complexity with flexible and efficient business processes.

BPM and Innovation: Enemies?

BPM must aim at more than process efficiencies. Certainly, many enterprises are likely to benefit from streamlining and automating their business processes, but BPM can help them achieve so much more. Unfortunately, some still consider BPM as impeding and even hostile to innovation. The results from the research have proven otherwise, however. The paper shows companies successfully position BPM as a core ingredient of their organisational capacity to innovate. Linking process management to information analysis is one of the ways to accomplish this. Increasingly companies are discovering the potential of working with information to enhance and innovate business processes. BPM need not stifle creativity, even if there are also certain cases where it did. Synthesising these experiences and describing under which conditions creativity and innovation might thrive continue to be a key goal of this research.

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