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Business Process Management Moves Beyond Workflow to Business Optimization

Banks are using business process management to improve the customer experience.

It has been said that business process management (BPM) is where business and IT converge. It's the act of putting what businesses do on a day-to-day basis into IT systems to optimize the processes and gain efficiency. While BPM traditionally has been viewed as a method of visually representing workflows, it's actually much more than that. In fact, when implemented thoughtfully, BPM can change the competitive position of a financial institution, according to experts.

With the growing popularity of BPM, banks are taking a fresh look at their processes, which at many financial institutions still tend to be siloed and manual. The resulting ability to streamline and often automate key functions -- such as lending, payments and account opening -- has become a key factor in the race to win new business, improve productivity and gain a competitive edge.

While BPM initially emerged as an efficiency play, the drivers for BPM initiatives have changed. According to Phil Gilbert, chief technology officer and EVP of the products group for Austin, Texas-based Lombardi Software, which provides a suite of BPM software, BPM most often is implemented today to improve the customer experience -- for internal and external customers -- rather than simply boosting efficiency.

Mary Pilecki, a senior analyst with Forrester (Cambridge, Mass.), says the goal of improving customer satisfaction is driving banks to automate their processes. "It's not about saying 'hello' and being friendly," she says of the customer experience. Rather, it's about "the process customers have to go through."

Of course, BPM technology and methodology have matured, allowing banks to rethink how they deploy BPM. And now that BPM is available as thin-client technology as opposed to host-based solutions, banks are expanding its use throughout the enterprise.

"Banks first used BPM for case management tools -- research requests, adjustments, retractions," notes Pilecki. "Now they are expanding out."

But there is no one common area of the business in which banks are implementing BPM, Lombardi's Gilbert asserts. "We have a customer that is doing optimization around customer-statement generation, loan-officer onboarding and normalizing the loan process across all loan types," he relates. "Another bank is doing teller support, all of the back-office support; [and another] is doing the debit card charge-back process. It's all over the map and comes back to areas of pain for that particular company."

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