Green savings with BPM and EA

November 2009

Recycle LaptopLaura Mooney, Vice President Corporate Communications, Metastorm, looks at how you can get cash and environmental savings in your organisation using business process management and enterprise architecture and modelling techniques.

With green credentials becoming increasingly important and the future of our environment creating much debate, it is clear that change and ‘green’ improvements must be driven by organisations across all industries around the globe.

While one definition of greener IT may be reducing the amount of power consumed by systems, there are other ways that organisations can drive change to support the environment - while at the same time generating significant cost savings for the business. To do this, IT and other corporate stakeholders need to re-examine the fundamental processes that drive business on a daily basis:

  • Paper: How much paper do you consume as an organisation?
  • Fuel: How much fuel is wasted on inter-office location mailings and paper mailings to customers and suppliers?
  • Hardware and software: How often do you bring on yet another specialised application or system to support a single business process or business function?

Organisations have the power to leverage technology to significantly reduce consumption across these three areas. By adopting and standardising on a common business process management (BPM) and enterprise architecture and modelling (EA) technology platform companies can have an immediate impact on both cost saving and environmental improvements and deliver a solution for ongoing improvements and long-term sustainability.

BPM and EA

BPM is an approach to business process improvement that focuses on understanding how you do business, looking at ways to improve the efficiency of key business processes, automating processes, and measuring, monitoring, and fine-tuning processes for ongoing improvement across your operations. A BPM suite is a set of technologies that allow you to achieve effective business process management and support continuous improvement. The best BPM suites are designed to provide a platform for deploying an unlimited number of processes of all types on a single technology platform.

Enterprise architecture and modelling are functions designed to understand the current assets (systems, people, products) in an organisation and their interdependencies and to create new business models that would support asset acquisitions and future growth. EA and modelling technology allows for the graphical modelling of the enterprise, collaboration on models and enterprise strategy, and the management of the company’s asset portfolios.

A common platform for BPM and EA provides significant short-term and long-term benefits in the form of greater visibility, lower operational costs, increased productivity and enhanced agility and response time. BPM and EA technologies also have the potential to deliver greener operations.

Green IT Initiatives

  • Reduce Paper Consumption

BPM software not only allows commercial and government organisations to create online forms and documents, it also enables them to incorporate those online documents into automated processes that remove the need to manually track paper. As a result, BPM eliminates the cost and environmental burden of paper, while at the same time allowing for more effective governance and control - including online audit trail capture, system-controlled security access to information, and online storage of documents, thus eliminating the overhead of physical storage facilities.

While some specialty applications can also deliver similar capabilities, those applications are typically limited in terms of extensibility or ability to support the entire organisation across all business functions, documents, and processes. With BPM, there is no limit to the number of processes and paper that can be taken online. BPM software can serve as the common platform for eliminating paper and automating processes. The environmental savings are huge - and at the same time you gain greater control and visibility to more effectively run your operations.

Likewise, the documentation of the processes themselves often results in volumes of paper being consumed and stored - this is further exacerbated if the organisation is engaged in formal industry quality programmes like ISO Standards or DMAIC, a component of the Six Sigma methodology, in which documentation of processes plays a critical part.

  • Reduce Fuel and Transport

Reducing or eliminating paper also cuts down on the amount of physical transport that is required to share information. The ability to complete and submit forms online eliminates the need to mail documents such as applications, purchase orders, and expense reports. In addition, because BPM also allows for the automation of human-intense processes and the movement of mission-critical paperwork such as case files and product design diagrams online, knowledge workers are able to review, annotate, and collaborate online - eliminating the transport of large files to multiple office locations and reducing the frequency of business travel needed to accomplish group activities.

The savings in transport and travel is huge from an environmental perspective - lower transportation emissions, less fuel usage, and less wear and tear on the physical infrastructure that supports these activities - and it is also huge in terms of the cost savings to your organisation.

More strategically, the use of enterprise modelling software allows you to lay out the big picture of your organisation and analyse it for ways to reduce physical transportation of goods - whether they are goods that you produce or goods that you consume. For example, a complete view of your supply chain will help you plan more efficient distribution of product and sourcing of raw materials. An understanding of what goods your organisation consumes and at what locations will help you identify local sourcing opportunities and perhaps identify more eco-friendly supply options. Enterprise models also provide the framework to better identify areas for cost savings and reuse.

  • Consolidate Systems

A fundamental premise of a BPM suite is that it can serve as a single platform for reducing the complexity of backend systems and databases and provide a consistent process layer for end-to-end visibility across processes that span multiple departments, employees, customers, and suppliers. As a result, organisations deploying BPM technology are often able to reduce the number of backend databases (and associated hardware), reduce or eliminate the reliance on legacy systems (thus retiring outdated systems and hardware), and gain greater visibility into additional areas for improvement and efficiency. The result: lower costs, reduced overhead, and a greener IT footprint.

In addition, enterprise modelling software allows you to gain a complete picture of all of the assets in your organisation. This comprehensive understanding will allow you to identify overlap in shared resources, isolate and redirect work from underutilised systems, and plan more effectively for the future state of the organisation. The capabilities that a common enterprise modelling platform provides enable you to realise both environmental gains and cash savings through the elimination of duplicate and unused systems, the more efficient use of existing resources, and the ability to model green IT objectives into your overall enterprise architecture and organisational strategy.

Go green

Environmentally sustainable business practices are important, and most likely governments are going to force the issue through new regulations and requirements in the near future. Taking the initiative to proactively improve your business operations will not only have a positive impact on the environment, but will also deliver measurable cost savings and a long-term platform for ongoing sustainability and strategic advantage. Implementing a common technology platform for business process management and enterprise modelling  will allow you to ‘go green’ in more ways than one.

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    Alberto Manuel wrote on 28th Nov 2009

    I remember 15 years ago when working in refrigerators industry the possibility that the appliance could be integrated with supermarkets, manage orders, order products online and so on. I saw the emergence of prototypes with integrated screens and internet connection. But then people did not want that.

    During all these years analysts advocated paper consumption will decrease with the emergence of communication tools like e-mail. The reality is quite the opposite. People still do not lose the habit of printing e-mails. I know quite a lot o people that print forms from BPM systems.

    I think as a BPM mentor for 10 years, BPM philosophy serves among other things to identify risks in business processes and ensure that management can overcome it changing and improving business processes.

    BPM as a discipline, integrated with strategic management used for example in road transport business can help to develop techniques for reducing fuel consumption, the environmental risk that has a high impact on business. This indeed is the added value that BPM can help in business management.

    The example you use - records necessary to demonstrate compliance with quality management systems (ISO 9000) that consume tons of paper, exist only in companies that did not migrate to digital media without using any specific software for this purpose. Before BPMS systems exist, people used Microsoft Acces.

    The other example you use to improve supply chain procurement, I would like you to give a real world example. It is virtually impossible to give importance to the fuel consumption when the important thing is to buy raw materials at lower cost. If you can buy aluminum $ 1 cheaper per pound and if you buy 1,000,000 tonnes/year, it does not matter if you can decrease fuel cost to purchase from another supplier whose price is higher. It only matters if raw material and fuel cost combined is cheaper, but once fuel is the forwarding agent cost and it does not reflect so much on transport cost you will look always to the raw material cost first.

    I think finally that there is still considerable confusion between BPM and BPMS systems. I mean you are trying to say that a BPM suite helps to reduce carbon footprint, when is the opposite: BPM you do it. Systems continue to be one of the solutions available - process automation. I’m sorry but I don’t see BPMS to help you go green. I think BPM will drive you go green.

    BPM is a method to manage business processes and it can result to choose a BPMS system to improve a process and help people to do its work.

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