Process management is an approach to creating, managing, and optimizing a process with the goal of improving results. Instead of focusing on individual tasks and bottlenecks, process management looks at an entire process. It’s a component of business process management or BPM, which refers to a business-wide methodology, rather than one that looks only at a single process.
There are four stages of process management. Think of them as a cycle rather than as steps. Process management should never be seen as a one-and-done task—the goal should always be continuous improvement.
To begin, you’ll need to understand your process gaps. If you don’t know where the process is failing or lacking in efficiency, do some pre-work by researching the biggest bottlenecks. Then check with the teams involved to make sure they agree with your findings. Once you know the issues with the process, the first stage of improvement is planning your “to-be” process. What would the ideal process look like? Map out the different steps that should be involved, noting where you could add in automation.
Use a low-code enterprise application platform to design the workflow for your revised process. This visual design style makes it easy for professional developers on IT teams to liaise with business users, and it lets them iterate quickly when the workflow needs to be revised, since developers can draw from a library of reusable components (rather than hard-coding each aspect of the workflow). A platform like this also gives you the ability to add in process automation where needed, as well as a way to orchestrate data, workers, and systems across the workflow. Once you’re done designing, put your process into action and get feedback from users on how it works.
After the revised workflow has run for a few weeks, use process mining software to find inefficiencies. While you may pair it with research and feedback from the users, it’s a helpful way to create an objective, data-led approach to documenting how work happens and where bottlenecks exist.
Then, optimize. This is the last stage in the cycle of process management. When you use a low-code process platform, you’re able to change your workflow as fast as you built it, which enables quicker delivery of the revisions.
Now that you know how process management works, visualize how process management can improve your business operations with these three examples.
One marketing agency faced an enormous workload: manually processing and verifying 14,000 invoices per year from more than 190 suppliers. The company took a process management approach to revise this process. Optimizing the invoicing process required a combination of technologies: AI-document processing to pull important information from the invoices, workflow and business rules to compare data against orders already in the system, and robotic process automation (RPA) to enter and update information into a legacy application. The agency estimated that with the new application, they save roughly 3,000 hours yearly, giving the team time back to focus on decision-making and exception management.
A major telecommunications provider wanted to better manage the billing process by launching a paperless billing service for their customers. Paperless billing would not only be more convenient for customers, it would also save the company a lot of administrative time and money. But going paperless came with challenges, like retriggering SMS text billing notifications for all the customers who chose to participate in the service. They decided to move forward with the launch but quickly found themselves drowning in a massive backlog of bills, which they figured would take a full year to process manually. They looked at how they could optimize this revised process.
They realized they could get all of this under control much faster with automation. They decided to run four RPA bots 24 hours per day to process their lengthy billing backlog. They also used a low-code process modeler to build full applications and workflows using business process management diagrams, orchestrate humans and bot workflows, apply business rules to validate and prioritize items, and perform exception handling to reduce human effort.
The result? In just one month, they were able to text their “paper to eBill” notifications to approximately 230,000 accounts and manage their full backlog using four bots—much faster than the full year it would have taken to do this manually.
For insurers, producing quotes is a central business activity. Getting it right—and doing so quickly—is mission-critical. The company’s agents were spending roughly 20–30 minutes per case, navigating through multiple back-end administrative systems, just to collect and produce a quote for customers. They already had a price quoting application built on a low-code enterprise application platform, but they wanted to further automate the process.
When they redesigned their process, they paired workflow and automation capabilities to reduce the amount of manual effort required. The automation project used RPA to integrate with an internal, web-based quote application that orchestrates between policy, pricing, agency, and underwriting engines. The end result of the workflow involves storing information in a document repository and sending it to the end customer.
The effect of optimizing this process? Not only did the insurer save 5,000 hours per year, they also improved accuracy by eliminating a good chunk of manual data entry for the quotation details, freed up frontline users for higher-value work, and started delivering quotes to their customers faster.
Keep these two things in mind before you launch into a process management project.
Starting small with one process and then expanding can be a great way to test and refine your process management strategy without taking on too much risk. Look for opportunities with well-defined and measurable outcomes, where you can achieve success quickly while still making an impact on the business. Then, use those successes to evangelize buy-in and broader use across the organization. Delivering successful results can spark interest in other areas of the organization, driving new process management projects and earning buy-in from leadership.
On the other hand, you’ll likely not stop with one process once you see how much better your results are with a smart, well-designed, automated workflow behind the process. So think big. You’ll want to make sure you invest in software that can carry your process management initiative beyond a single workflow—all the way to developing a discipline of business process management at your organization. By investing in a process platform that contains all the capabilities you’ll need to design, automate, and optimize your processes, you’ll avoid common pitfalls like building islands of automation or creating technical debt.
So what is process management? At the core, it’s a way to accomplish more with your processes, faster. By continually moving through the stages of modeling, building, analyzing, and optimizing a process, you’ll help the business become more agile and productive.