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Business Process Management from a historical perspective

Business process management (BPM) is about innovating, automating (also referred to as digitization in this context), improving and designing an organization and its business processes more efficiently. Organizations are interested in business process management because they are looking for ways to improve their business performance. But what does it mean and what are the benefits of BPM? In this article we place BPM in a historical perspective and identify its most important benefits.

Business process management deals with the documentation, optimization and also, in a later phase, with the digitization of business processes. It provides insight into relationships between processes, the processing of information and the workflows of an organization. With BPM, business operations become more transparent so they can be improved and as such help to achieve the primary objectives of the organization.

If we place this in a historical context, we see that managers have only come to see business processes as a dominant organizational unit quite recently. Since the industrial revolution there has always been much more emphasis on the functional division of an organization into departments, departments and the like. Each component has a set of tasks that must be executed in order to contribute to the business objectives. Essential here is the optimization of these tasks, for example by reducing costs or by increasing the quality of the (partial) product delivered. The disadvantages of this are that there is a lot of duplication, the work takes up relatively much time and there is little involvement with the end product and the customer.

The emergence of process thinking

Because of the changing behavior of customers, organizations are now trying to improve their performance in a completely different way. Instead of a functional orientation, emphasis is placed on over-arching business processes; the routes that information goes across the organization from start to finish. Even the distinct steps that are carried out in a larger organization can easily run straight through several departments.

In a culture where change, improvement and optimization are essential, it is impossible to realize these things without understanding the business processes in full detail. The use of business process management provides a grip on the performance of (operational) business processes and offers clarity and control over the quality of these processes.

By emphasizing better coordination between the individual steps of the process, regardless of where they take place, and the use of business process management to support the entire process, drastic efficiency gains were achieved quickly. A clear and early example of this is clearing up all kinds of duplicate local administrations and providing centralized information for all departments. What was striking here was that it was precisely the customers who immediately benefited from this kind of improvement in organizations - although the change was implemented in the back-office. It is the customer who experiences and evaluates the total performance of a business process, from start to finish.

Business process management and the approach to change

It has turned out that business process management generates an important revival of the insight that an orientation on processes in an organization is worthwhile. Here it is important how an organization drives and manages change, improvement and optimization.

Improve continuously

An integral part and purpose of business process management is the continuous improvement that takes place. In that sense, the term "management" is therefore not a shallow element of the concept. BPM implies an involvement in the business process that goes beyond the high-level identification and incidental analysis of a process. It is also about continuing to monitor the performance of a business process, linking it to goals set for that process and initiating new improvement actions.

This constantly strives for greater efficiency of the organization. The continuous improvement increases the flexibility of the processes and the agility of the organization, while the customer remains central.

The role of IT

New software technology supports the success of business process management at the moment, because with this modern software it is much faster and cheaper to implement process improvements than in the past. In an organization, discovering how a process works is often already a worthwhile exercise. But with the digitization of the business process, improvements in the process are actually implemented.

The most important type of BPM systems are systems that handle the flow and mechanics of a business process based on a predefined blueprint of the process. The process can be arranged in such a way that work always reaches the right person at the right time, so that employees or managers are no longer busy coordinating the work process. The capabilities for monitoring processes by means of KPIs and for generating management information have been greatly improved.

It is our experience at Kien, with the implementation of BPM projects at various organizations, that it has undeniable positive effects on lead times, processing times, process costs and the occupancy rate of employees. In other words: through the use of BPM and modern software technology, organizations work smarter and faster. In addition, these organizations greatly improve their customer experience by providing their customers with transparancy of their interactions through up-to-date process and task information.


Business process management is a systematic approach to the optimization and digitization of business processes. The essence of this is that of process thinking and it drives the priority that organizations give to consciously improving and managing their business processes. Such a process-oriented approach has positive effects on the performance of an organization and on the experience of customers. Modern BPM software offer an important and reinforcing contribution, because it actually converts business processes into effective and efficient business applications. In addition, BPM strives for continuous improvements and measurability of results.