How to Use Business Process Management and Enterprise Architecture Tools to Thrive in a Recession

Economic times are tough, and the pressure to cut costs has never been greater. But don't let this pressure force you into making bad business decisions that will handicap your organization for years to come. Knowledge Center contributor Laura Mooney explains how making investments in relatively low-cost, quick-to-implement business process management and enterprise architecture tools can help you make smart cost reductions, operate more efficiently with fewer resources, and keep your business operating at an effective level.


The glory days seem far behind us, as stock prices fall, retail sales plummet, budgets are cut and global markets struggle. Businesses and government organizations are both looking for ways to dramatically reduce costs, do more with less and basically just survive.

Most companies are using what seems to be a logical approach-cut, cut, cut! Cut people, cut budgets, cut travel. Or they are switching to lower-cost suppliers-anything which results in an immediate reduction in expenses. But, in essence, these organizations are just starving themselves, and it will likely come back to haunt them as the core infrastructure of the company is crippled to the point where it cannot function effectively. As the market begins to rebound, these companies will continue to struggle and be left behind.

But is there a better way to weather the storm than just through blind cost-cutting and headcount reductions? Yes. Instead of blindly cutting costs, the most effective approach for both short-term and long-term success is to invest in technology that will help you not only survive but also gain ground during this down economy. Let's explore a couple of the best ways to do this.

Method No. 1: Improve processes through business process management

Why cut blindly when there is a software application that will immediately improve process efficiency and employee productivity across the board? Business process management (BPM) software is designed to automate and improve people-intensive business processes-the processes that are often the most manual and therefore the slowest and most cost-intensive. Here are four ways BPM software can allow for cost savings:

1. Increased efficiency

The process automation that BPM enables results in greater throughput with the same or fewer resources, allowing the organization to either deliver more or reduce overhead by eliminating or redeploying resources that are no longer needed to meet objectives.

2. Get more out of what you already have

By acting as a single process layer across disparate and distributed systems, BPM software allows an organization to extend the value of its existing enterprise resource planning (ERP), mainframe and other legacy applications. BPM provides the interface needed to improve business processes, create new processes and modernize your operations without undertaking a costly system replacement effort. Users of BPM frequently cite the value of the software for extending ERP and mainframe functions at a fraction of the time and cost that would be required to build the process improvements directly on these native systems.

3. Lower risk

Many of our current economic troubles can be traced back to a lack of discipline and oversight of key business practices. BPM software allows you to completely document processes, enforce adherence through process automation and business rules, and monitor and audit both human and system activities at all levels of the organization. This transparency ensures that you are in the best possible position to monitor your operations and minimize your risk.

4. Greater visibility into dead weight

Once a process is deployed on a BPM software platform, all of the inner workings of that process become transparent. Management can identify unneeded or underutilized systems and roles, and make educated decisions on the best way to eliminate overhead-without impacting performance or customer service. Likewise, high-cost areas can be scrutinized with the simulation capabilities of the software so that process changes can be made to improve the profitability, efficiency and effectiveness of the overall process.

Not only does BPM deliver value in many ways but organizations that have deployed BPM consistently report a return on investment of 10 to 20 percent per process project. In short, BPM software can help strengthen an organization's corporate infrastructure, making organizations more effective and more agile. And, as the economy improves, an organization is primed to take advantage of new opportunities better, faster and more profitably than their competitors.