ANOTHER VIEW

Business process management can boost e-gov

Neal Bonner

Over the past several years, information technology soothsayers have preached about the transformational effects of IT on federal agency programs. Under the rubric of electronic government, many agencies have embarked on large IT initiatives to achieve these promised benefits.

While some of these initiatives have met expectations, what has emerged from the reinventing-government push is a fundamental shift in how agencies approach achieving their missions. They are emphasizing increased efficiency, return on investment and improved responsiveness.

Recently, a Gartner Consulting team surveyed program and IT managers to determine the extent to which agencies are deploying IT to reinvent how they are achieving their missions. The group looked at whether legislation, such as the Government Paperwork Elimination Act or the Federal Financial Assistance Management Improvement Act was benefiting these organizations.

With respect to the paperwork reduction legislation, many agencies have focused on data extraction from legacy systems and data presentation or accessibility. This typically involves development of a Web portal, some application and systems integration, and perhaps a document management system.

These efforts certainly will make strides to accomplish the goals set forth in GPEA. But they neglect to incorporate something powerful, namely a business process management component. BPM builds on business process re-engineering.

Data extraction and presentation are indispensable components of a BPM system.

But much more process improvement comes when you adopt integrated workflow and management capabilities that streamline the work of people using the system. Some examples include deciding on grant applications or performing investigations.

Gartner Consulting's research identified key three benefits of deploying BPM: improved responsiveness, cost containment and process standardization. To get these benefits, though, Gartner strongly recommends agencies develop thorough requirements analyses, establish agencywide support and work with a solution provider to develop metrics for your project.

That brings up the question of how to choose a BPM vendor. Gartner recommends that agencies assess vendors by asking them these questions:

  • What are its reference accounts and what types of business processes do they represent?


  • What resources will the vendor commit to solve my business problem?


  • To what extent is the vendor providing an end-to-end solution to BPM?


  • How well does the vendor understand my agency's business processes?


  • If the vendor is employing a best-of-breed approach to software, how will it support the applications?


  • To what process improvement metrics will the solution provider commit?


If you manage core agency business processes, BPM could be one of your most critical IT initiatives.

BPM will change the nature of the work performed by your organization. You'll become less occupied with keeping the ship afloat and more focused on exception processing and program improvement.

Most importantly, you'll gain a clearer picture of the status of each stage business you manage'a powerful tool for improving customer service and responsiveness.

The reward for taking the BPM plunge is a more tractable business process and happier stakeholders.

Neal Bonner is associate director for marketplace consulting at Gartner Inc.'s McLean, Va., office. E-mail him at neal.bonner@gartner.com.

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