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Today’s BPM for Small and Mid-Sized Businesses

This article is part of the Best Practices White Paper Business Process Management [January 2009]
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Business process management (BPM) became a significant topic of interest over a decade ago, yet it is still growing at a healthy pace. Last year Forrester Research estimated that BPM licenses, services and maintenance revenue would grow to more than $2.7 billion by 2009, and it may very well exceed that figure this year.

Historically, BPM has been developed and deployed primarily within large enterprises to gain greater business process efficiency and flexibility while reducing risks and costs. Substantial investments have been made in complex BPM systems that manage person-to-person work steps, system-to-system communications or both. Many of today’s BPM systems integrate and automate processes both across internal departments, as well as outside of an organization to reach customers, suppliers and other vendors.

Until recently, small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) had not taken advantage of BPM practices because they felt that they could not afford the technology to support them. But with more low-priced solutions available today, some forward-looking decision makers within SMBs realize that there is a price to pay if they don’t automate business processes that require significant human capital and other resources.

Today’s BPM for Small and Mid-Sized Businesses
During the past few years, there have been many cases where SMBs have cut operational costs in half, eliminated the need for staff members to manually process paper-based documents, and shaved down the timeframes required to complete processes from weeks to minutes. Many of these SMBs have discovered that there is a practical bridge between their document and content management systems and BPM systems, where they build workflows that manage and automate processes that used to require substantial resources. More mid-market and some surprisingly small companies are expanding into BPM use by developing workflows that perform business processes much more cost effectively, accurately, and reliably. Staff members can now add more value by focusing on strategic work rather than managing the tactical procedural steps that software applications handle better.

These four case studies demonstrate how BPM has generated impressive competitive advantages as well as healthier profit margins for diverse SMBs.

1. Insurance provider for finance, manufacturing and automotive industry

The challenges:

  • Received daily stream of claims for processing;
  • Claims received by regular mail, fax and email;
  • Manual, paper-heavy processing of a backlog of claims—needed to print claims and then assign them for processing;
  • Large volume of paper documents to store;
  • Time-consuming to find information, easy to misplace; and
  • Wanted to tame the paper overload and process claims more efficiently.

The solution:

  • Claims-processing workflow;
  • Solution accepts scanned, emailed and faxed claims into a single centralized queue;
  • Claims and other documents are assigned to appropriate personnel for processing;
  • Workflow is executed to process, approve and fulfill claims; and
  • Legacy paper documents have also been scanned into content management system for easier, faster retrieval online.

Benefits and results:

  • 40% increased efficiency in handling claims;
  • Backlog reduced from 30 days to 14 days—a "gold standard" in the industry;
  • Sales agents and claims handlers can access claims information more easily and rapidly online;
  • Printing and paper use greatly reduced—saving $8,000 to $10,000 per month on paper and toner; and
  • Projected savings in paper file storage $12,000 per year in three years.

2. Innovative mid-sized clinical stage pharmaceutical company.

The challenges:

  • Paper-based document tracking process for FDA compliance of new drug therapies was overwhelming, and done traditionally toward the end of clinical trials;
  • Needed to rapidly deploy a solution to manage the flow of scientific and clinical documents associated with clinical trials to support regulatory compliance for drug approvals by the FDA;
  • Needed a flexible, adaptable environment capable of supporting the documentation and auditing requirements for an investigational new drug application. This included the need to share content with various partners, including other pharmaceutical firms and university-based research organization; and
  • Needed a system to facilitate and manage multiple drug development tasks in parallel.

The solution:

  • Rapidly deployed an affordable Web-based platform that enabled company researchers to easily and securely share content with colleagues across the extended enterprise;
  • Built a system on top of their ECM platform that manages 21-CFR Part 11 (the detailed electronic records management requirements mandated by the FDA);
  • Business process owners could easily access template libraries and process steps, business rules, audit trails and electronic signature functionality that met FDA requirements;
  • The operation of the platform can be audited and tested by an independent third party or by the FDA, as required, to verify compliance with their standards.;
  • The system captures the successive versions of the drug-study protocol documents and captures the approvals in an auditable manner. Amendments and approvals are also captured so that the FDA can verify compliance and track who changed what, when; and
  • System deployed in about six weeks
Benefits and results:
  • The ECM/BPM platform was used at first to manage all data related to drug trials and compliance, including launches workflows and tracking/reviewing approval cycles in an auditable fashion;
  • Comprehensive, auditable compliance with FDA regulations in an extensible manner;
  • Approximately 40 employees spanning IT, finance, legal and HR initiate BPM relating to the clinical studies in addition to controlling financial reporting activities, IT projects and other routine business processes; and
  • Numerous business benefits were derived from one affordable system—the platform’s value extends well beyond the initial need that was identified.

3. Leading provider of freestanding ambulatory surgery centers.

The challenges:

  • Finance department manually managed hundreds of heavily annotated invoices and other documents daily from its 14 facilities nationwide;
  • Expensive, daily FedEx shipping of documents to central office; and
  • Labor-intensive handling of incoming paperwork from insurance companies and banks.

The solution:

  • The billing process was fully automated through a Web-based ECM/BPM system;
  • Hundreds of documents are now routed electronically each day from 14 facilities through HQ to ensure standardization and accuracy; and
  • Paper documents now digitized and electronically annotated to make them searchable during the automated process and easily retrievable when stored.

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