Some people may think of implementing business process management (BPM) within their organization as a purely tactical effort, one that serves the ‘process automation’ needs of an organization. The generally accepted wisdom is that given reasonable parameters, a BPM solution ‘should’ be able to address and manage internal processes. It ‘should’ also create a more efficient working environment; it ‘should’ reduce the number of steps required to achieve a satisfactory solution. It ‘could’ or ‘can’ also lead to optimizing those processes that are being automated. Certainly those are characteristics of a BPM tool, but if that’s the extent of one’s vision, then that is a short sighted vision.

Michael Porter, a business professor at Harvard Business School and one of the leading authorities on corporate strategy, says that being efficient with processes is one of the most important competitive advantages an organization can have. To achieve a meaningful level of efficiency, however, is far more complex than just reducing the steps in a workflow. Instead, it involves using all available players, resources and data appropriately and intelligently. Efficient (we’ll call it ‘intelligent’) BPM solutions should include all the parties that are strategic to your organization and the data that will impact their decision-making.

Porter also highlights the importance of customers and suppliers to an organization’s operations. Without the involvement of these third parties it’s almost impossible to deliver goods and services. It is, therefore, essential to include them in those processes that will help the company run more efficiently, getting its products and services to market faster. The involvement of these players is a critical element of business efficiency. Arguably, by extending your BPM solution to include them, it is also the best way to incorporate them into your organization’s workflow.

Irrespective of the specifics of ‘how’ you interact with customers, suppliers and other third parties, the involvement of all these players leads to a level of transparency that ultimately provides better results for your business. In addressing the issue of competitive advantage, Porter explains that a business simply cannot sustain an advantage over competitors unless it : 1) Creates channels,2) Understands stakeholder needs, and 3) Adapts to what’s in the best interest of strategic third parties. We see examples of this with customers like Bechtel and Starwood Hotels & Resorts who have put Process Director to use solving important business issues and being inclusive with their approach. These and other customers realize a sustainable advantage in achieving their business goals, reducing costs and increasing efficiency.

Efficient companies are generally also agile companies. They can respond to what’s needed to address business process optimization, irrespective of where the forms, decisions, signatures and other actions ‘live.’ To that end Process Director has built-in capabilities that allow you to easily extend your processes beyond your company’s walls. With comprehensive business process governance, risk and BPM compliance functionality to guide and govern all actions, Process Director facilitates the capture and use of digital signatures by the relevant actors, creates and embeds business rules into workflows (in a way that adheres to the requirements of each participant), and enables the use of eForms irrespective of where they are generated.

When you look at this kind of solution in its entirety, you can begin to see how an insurance company we’re working with was able to reduce the time it took to deliver a new life insurance policy from 22 days to only three. To make this happen requires a fairly complex workflow that includes issuers, underwriters, funders, legal teams and the insured party. That may seem like a lot of moving parts for a lot of different functional areas — however when they all have access to the same processes and can easily contribute their part of the equation, then Porter’s vision of competitive advantage through efficiency is realized. That’s precisely what a BPM solution is for.

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