In my previous blog, I discussed at a high level why organizations (corporations and law firms alike) who have implemented ERP systems require Business Process Management (BPM) to achieve success. Note - this isn't a 'might need' scenario - it's a 'must-have'. It just varies in terms of when the realization strikes the firm. In fact, in some cases, law firms utilize BPM in lieu of ERP.
Ok, so wait. ERP Alone = Not Good; ERP + BPM = Success; BPM Alone = Success. What gives? Do you need ERP or not?
The question of 'whether to ERP or not' doesn't have anything to do with Business Process Management. That's because ERP systems are not BPM Systems (more about the ones that say they are later). They are application and data management systems. ERP provides functionality surrounding the management of information regarding various 'things' - like suppliers, employees, clients and matters.
BPM systems, on the other hand, are WORK, ACTIVITY AND DATA GOVERNANCE systems. BPM provides functionality required to organize and coordinate the involvement of people and information (business systems including ERP) in the business processes that make-up your firm. These processes may be departmental, but most often they are cross-department, cross-geography and sometimes cross-organizational.
Why is BPM So Important?
Does every organization need BPM? In my book - most do. Why? Because every organization requires more efficiency, better loss prevention and greater agility than ever before. There's no margin for ineffectiveness being filled by 'more' of anything - more people, more money. There's no room for unexpected and uncontrolled losses to degrade law firm profitability. There's not time to spend months or years making strategic or risk management adjustments to the running of the business. We don't live in that world. We live in a world of exponential acceleration, constant paradigm shifts and 'with less, do more'. Anyone out there not living in that world? Remember the days of the 10-year strategic plans? Ha! Now that gives me a good laugh.
When is ERP Important?
So - what about ERP (or 'baby-ERP' finance systems for law firms)? Who needs those? The answer to that question is more nuanced and dependent on specific functional requirements. The reason its dependent on specific functional requirements is because these systems are FUNCTIONALLY-based. That's what they do - manage data around FUNCTIONS and FUNCTIONAL areas (HR; Finance; Supply Chain). So, if you find that you have financial or accounting needs that require specific data management assistance - then perhaps a finance or accounting module from an ERP system will do the trick. If you find you need better organization of information relating to employees, then maybe an HRIS or HR module of an ERP system is required.
Remember this - good data management and data governance relies on good PROCESS MANAGEMENT. BPM ensures that the MEANING AND CONTEXT of the data is clear to end-users (because BPM is friendly - so you can ask for information with understandable questions or phrases - you don't just throw an ERP field at the user and expect them to know what it means!). BPM automatically involves the right resources in review of the entered information BEFORE it makes it into the ERP system. BPM systems automate the push and pull of relevant information from ERP systems to ensure accuracy and efficacy of the information as a natural part of every day work.
Coming Next...Don't Get Fooled - Know What Real Success Looks Like
Coming next...beware of ERP / Law Firm Finance System vendors who tell you they have the solution you need for 'BPM'. They know they need BPM to be successful - but don't get fooled by their attempts to fill their hole themselves. Also, I'll share some real-world success stories of law firms and corporations getting the most bang for their buck with BPM with and without ERP.