Lately it seems the moon and the stars are perfectly aligned for BPM (business process management) -- the tools and methodologies for modeling, developing, and maintaining enterprise business processes. Scores of vendors now offer BPM software, which provides the means to analyze, optimize, and automate business procedures, from procurement workflows to insurance underwriting.
BPM's growing popularity stems mainly from businesses' relentless desire to streamline processes and save money. But the graphical view of workflows offered by BPM also gives business managers a broader view into and more direct control over business process logic, thereby fostering innovation, flexibly, and smoother compliance with shifting regulations. The growing adoption of SOA combined with progress in systems integration have made it easier to create layers of software that sit atop multiple systems and help manage end-to-end processes.
With all the talk about BPM and its various permutations, many wonder how enterprises are using it. Has it lived up to its promise? What lessons have early BPM adopters learned? To get answers, we talked with four enterprises in various stages of deploying BPM initiatives.
Pulte Mortgage: Making success repeatable
Business has been good for Pulte Mortgage, which issued $7 billion worth of mortgages in 2004 for its parent company, Pulte Homes. But a couple of years ago, according to Senior Vice President and CIO Chris Burckhardt, the company recognized it needed to streamline and consolidate its operations to handle growing business volumes.
The company had grouped its 1,000-person workforce into teams, each with its own best practices, relationship management approaches, and reporting systems, Burckhardt recalls. "We needed to identify best practices across all these groups and implement a BPM tool that would allow us to take performance to the next level and provide consistency across a broad workforce," he explains.
As for technology, Burckhardt recalls, the company had many different systems for loan origination, servicing, and reporting, written in a host of different languages, including Java, Cobol, and C#. "We wanted a layer across all that technology that would make it more consistent and drive the work across all those systems," Burckhardt says.
After getting buy-in from top management and going through a rigorous tool selection process, Pulte chose to deploy a system from Lombardi Software. According to Burckhardt, step one was to use the tool's scoreboarding capability to understand the current business, including how the various teams and individuals were performing against specific metrics.
"We identified some major 'ah-has' in terms of where time and energy were being spent," including opportunities to expedite time-consuming steps such as loan pricing and customer contact, Burckhardt recalls. Another realization, he says, was that "we can more effectively allocate work -- giving more complex products to more experienced underwriters, for example, rather than a round-robin-type allocation."