06/01/2011

By Jamie Stewart, Managing Director UK and Ireland, Exact

All businesses embrace processes. Whether these processes are documented on spreadsheets, Post-It notes, or in employees’ heads, they are what keep business moving forward on a daily basis. One of the reasons companies first turned to ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) solutions was in an attempt to capture the data and information associated with their business processes. However, while ERP technology gave organisations a means to start obtaining much needed operational visibility it was largely limited to product and order processing and failed to provide a complete, consolidated view of their entire business.

In today’s global enterprise, numerous business processes occur each day that are outside the scope of traditional ERP – from filling out a purchase request, to interacting with business partners, to assigning documents for review and approval. Increased regulatory factors and compliance issues are forcing companies to provide a broader view of their businesses and demanding real-time access and visibility into the processes running the company. In the era of the extended enterprise, the ability to capture, store, and locate information has become critical. Instant access to critical information creates an environment in which businesses are better prepared to react to changes, and can adopt a “plan anytime” mind set.

Business Process Management (BPM) technology was introduced to try and address these challenges. Its goal was to not only focus on solving processes through technology, but also to encourage the sharing of information. BPM promotes the notion that a business moves forward based on the information that is stored, shared, and circulated amongst employees. Its purpose is to make information available to all those who can use it, enhancing any existing investment in ERP solutions and allowing for greater efficiencies throughout the entire value cycle of a business.

BPM solution vendors often talk about automating manual processes and creating new efficiencies across the enterprise, enhancing decision making, reducing overheads and simplifying complex, mission-critical business processes. They often claim that BPM can help to manage organisational change, keep businesses agile, and become a foundation for ongoing improvement while also centralising corporate information, and integrating with existing ERP systems.

The truth is BPM providers have made a great deal of promises that they have yet to deliver on. The problem with the majority of BPM solutions is that they look and behave more like extensions of the “islands of automation” paradigm often associated with ERP deployments. They have a tendency to be too specific in function and often fail to focus on the entire organisation, leaving certain segments of the enterprise fragmented and fending for themselves.

Companies need to understand that business processes should not be viewed within the confines of departmental or even organizational boundaries. Businesses are becoming increasingly horizontal and role-based, and thus, the rules for structuring these organisations must be based on how people interact on a daily basis. Business processes are intrinsically linked and consequently a “departmental approach” to BPM will eventually fall short of the intended goals.

To obtain full value from BPM solutions, enterprises need to utilise an integrated suite approach that extends across the entire enterprise, providing a holistic view of the business. Through unifying these individual plains which departments and employees are operating, yet another level of efficiency can be reached. This is what advanced ERP systems which integrate PBM functionality are now capable of achieving. In essence, creating a platform which an entire business can utilise and operate from, providing a complete, holistic view of the business.

Through greater centralisation of critical business information for real-time decision making, companies put themselves in a better position to boost profitability and reduce operational costs, increase accuracy and timeliness of cost allocations, and ultimately maximise financial decisions that shape the future of the company.

Exact are one of the leading providers of scalable solutions which cover all key business processes, allowing your people to share information and collaborate in real-time on a single platform. As well as helping organisations grow, Exact's solutions consolidate the processes of companies conducting business internationally.

Business on an international scale heightens the need for precise reporting and visibility; Exact offer a solution that is dedicated to giving a company's HQ total clarity on the entire business, from foreign subsidiaries to localised trading silos. With many businesses still performing a lot of tasks manually, or utilising IT systems that don't work together this provides complete process visibility and helps ensure employees work together to add value to the business.

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