Business process management (BPM for short) gets a bad wrap. Some consider it industry jargon, others an ineffective management “hack”, and almost all see it as boring.
However, there is no better way to increase efficiency and consistency in your business than by managing your processes effectively. To prove it, this post will dive into 17 BPM statistics to show:
- The growing trend of using BPM software
- How common (and important) documented processes are
- The importance and benefits of processes
- The dangers of not managing processes
- Why everyone in your company needs to be involved with your processes
It’s not a question of whether or not you should be documenting and managing your processes – you absolutely should in order to avoid catastrophic human error and inconsistencies.
You also need to make sure that everyone in your business is sold on your processes and understands their importance in order to make sure that they’re actually followed. This is exactly why you should be using workflow software or a dedicated business process management software!
After all, the Chernobyl disaster wasn’t caused by a lack of processes. It was caused by people not following those processes, and that’s precisely the kind of thing that BPM software is great for handling.
1. The global BPM market is expected to be worth $13-14 billion by 2021
To start us off strong, the predicted value of the BPM market by 2021 has been pegged between $13 billion and $14 billion. The growth of the market as a whole has been steady as more businesses realize the power of documenting and managing their processes.
Some of the figures in this post will demonstrate core examples of just how important BPM is to running a successful business (thus the growing market value), but to give you a brief overview, documenting, tracking, and managing your processes lets you:
- Limit or entirely eliminate human error
- Ensure that no shortcuts are taken
- Have everyone performing their tasks correctly and reliably
- Reduce the friction of tasks by ensuring everyone always knows what to do and how to do it
- Reduce costs by improving on outdated or downright bad processes
- Easily track the performance of your employees across their various tasks
- Increase the accountability of your employees (both to motivate them and to see who is responsible for what)
- Show managers, stakeholders, potential investors, or just your employees as a whole how your business is run, what goes into completing every task, and the due care taken to achieve the results you do.
The only time that it’s not worth it to document workflows and processes is when you are performing a task that will literally never be carried out again. Even then, it’s often worth noting down at least a rough structure to know how exactly you’re going to tackle the task.
2. 96% of companies had some kind of documented processes in 2015
A 2015 BPTrends survey highlights a growing practice which, even if only done very occasionally, can have a massive effect on the business. This massive trend in documenting at least some of a business’ processes in order to execute them consistently is also part of the reason why the market is estimated to grow so much by 2021.
However, just because 96% of companies had some kind of documented processes doesn’t mean that they are documenting enough.
The whole point of having processes is to let you carry out repeated tasks consistently, easily, and effectively, with any problems being recorded and prevented in future runs by improving the process. As such, any and all tasks that are carried out more than once should be documented as a process which can then be run repeatedly.
3. Only 4% of companies measure and manage their documented processes
Our third BPM statistic comes from a survey undertaken by Łukasz Tartanus of Procesowcy.pl, looking into the process maturity of 236 Polish companies in 2016. He found that 69% of companies had documented, repeatable processes but only 4% measured and managed them.
This shows that just having the process isn’t enough, since methods can quickly become outdated and actively harmful. If you’re not actively measuring the outcome of using the processes you’ve documented, there’s no way you can know whether or not you’re even doing the right thing.
On that note, failure to measure and manage your processes effectively leaves you wide open to the normalization of deviance. This means that a mistake makes its way into your process and (because you’re not measuring it properly) that mistake becomes normal, resulting in your team consistently getting their tasks wrong in the same way every time.
Just because you’ve documented your processes doesn’t mean that you’re done. BPM is an ongoing effort which requires a careful eye to make sure you’re not going wrong.
4. 78% of companies surveyed by CultureNext in 2017 have a documented employee engagement strategy
Employee engagement isn’t something you would typically think could be documented in a process. Everybody is different and the tactics used to engage one person might completely alienate another, so this means that you’d need to take a completely unique approach to properly engage each employee, right?
In 2017 CultureNext performed a study of over 100 companies which contained over 1,000 employees, finding that a massive 78% of them had some kind of documented employee engagement strategy. While this doesn’t necessarily mean that their strategy was successful, it does show how widespread the use of processes can be.
No matter how unique you think the task you’re performing is, you will benefit by having a process for it if it will ever need to be performed again. Just having an employee handbook isn’t going to cover it.
For example, employees certainly require personal consideration if you’re going to engage them and encourage them to really blast through their tasks or get creative with their solutions. However, this doesn’t mean that you need to cover every possible situation with your engagement process.
The process lays the framework, but doesn’t have to hold the answers for every use case under the sun. Simply leaving some blank space to fill out with extra information (eg, a particular employee’s goals, interests, and hobbies) gives you the flexibility to apply that same process to multiple different cases.
In short, having rough guidelines that can be filled in later is better than trying to be too overly detailed. Remembering this will let you create processes for more than just your standard work duties. You don’t have to go full standard operating procedure software straight away!
5. NASA’s lack of processes caused a mistake resulting in the $193 million Mars Climate Orbiter satellite disintegrating
You’d be safe in assuming that NASA is full of extremely intelligent people – they’re literally rocket scientists. However, that doesn’t mean that they’re immune to silly mistakes brought about by a lack of properly documented processes.
The Mars Climate Orbiter was intended to maneuver to orbit Mars at a height of 226km, but it was built to be able to withstand a minimum altitude of 80km just to be safe. Usually, this would have been a healthy margin for error, but it disintegrated after being set on a trajectory which would bring it within 57km of the surface.
The cause? Unit conversion.
Essentially, through all of NASA’s precautions and research, their processes either never included a step to make sure that their units were consistently imperial or metric, or that step in the process wasn’t followed. The resulting lack of conversion led to the disastrous trajectory being calculated, completely obliterating the satellite which cost $193 million and countless hours of experienced manpower to make.
Sometimes preventing simple human mistakes is the most powerful thing a documented process can do.
6. 30 deaths, $720 billion, and an uncountable amount of environmental damage caused by a chain of 6 preventable human errors in the Chernobyl disaster
In 1986 the biggest nuclear accident to date occurred in the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, near Pripyat in Ukraine. This terrible incident was the result of six critical human errors (including the staff thinking it was acceptable to turn off the emergency cooling system), and caused a “true nuclear blast”.
30 people were killed and an inflation-adjusted $720 billion in damage was caused, along with an utterly unknowable amount of environmental damage and unsafe radiation levels for years to follow.
The Chernobyl disaster is mostly discussed in conversations about the dangers and benefits of various types of energy, but it also serves as a core example of why it is vitally important for documented processes to be followed, and the potential results of those processes being ignored.
Obviously, most processes won’t result in deaths if ignored. The point is that even the most carefully laid processes in the world need to be carefully monitored and enforced in order to take effect. Not only that, but literally every person involved in the process needs to know exactly why the process is important, and why each and every element in the process has to be carried out in the way that it does.
A perfect storm of 6 human errors — culminating with staff thinking it was okay to turn off the emergency cooling system — caused the Chernobyl disaster, costing an inflation-adjusted $720 billion, 30 deaths and an extreme amount of unsafe radiation.
7. Microsoft Azure experienced 4.46 billion hours of collective downtime after their standard deployment process was not followed correctly
Chernobyl is a sobering example of how failing to follow the processes put in place can bring about serious (if not life-threatening) damage. However, Microsoft Azure takes the cake for demonstrating how assumptions can cause massive damage to a business or product, and how proper BPM is required to prevent that.
Each of Azure’s 425 million customers experienced a whopping 10.5 hours of downtime when an engineer made a small assumption outside of the regular process. A fix was deployed which had previously been run on a small section of the product’s infrastructure without issue, and the engineer thus took a shortcut by thinking it would be fine to push through.
Thanks to that one assumption, an infinite loop was created in the source code which required reverting and a full restart for anyone stuck in the loop. The damage was done, however, and a collective 4.46 billion hours of downtime across your customer base isn’t something any sane company would wish for.
This shows how vital it is to manage your processes correctly and make sure that everyone involved understands why every step is important to achieving the final goal.
The Azure engineer at fault knew precisely what the process was but instead chose to assume that the deployment would be low risk and thus not a problem. If he knew the potential consequences (and subsequent downtime), the extra time would have been taken to follow the process to the letter.
As a side note, this habit of taking shortcuts and skipping elements of the process can be limited by using a piece of BPM software that lets you track the progress of every run of every process. For example, Process Street lets you document your processes as templates and then run checklists from those templates to track an individual instance of a process.
This can sound a little complicated, but take employee onboarding as an example. Your employee onboarding template is the record of the actual process to follow – the guidelines which tell you how to complete every task and supply the resources to do so. Then you run individual onboarding checklists to track your progress for every employee you hire. Suddenly, you’re using onboarding software.
8. Taco Bell went from losing money to being worth $1.98 billion in 30 years by re-engineering their core processes
Taco Bell wasn’t always the fast food powerhouse that we see today. In fact, back in 1983 the regional Mexican chain was returning a sorry -16% annually.
Something needed to drastically change in order to make Taco Bell profitable, and that change came as a result of re-engineering their food production and distribution process.
Business process re-engineering is a vital part of BPM, and is the more extreme equivalent of process improvement. Instead of taking a current process and tweaking it to perfection, you uproot the whole thing, throw it away, and build from the ground up. This is a great way to get to the root of a problem, although the time and effort it takes to do so make it only worthwhile in severe circumstances.
In the case of Taco Bell, they changed the way they made their food to make it quicker and much cheaper. Instead of preparing everything fresh on-site, the various elements were prepared in centralized commissaries and then delivered to the individual locations to order. When a customer ordered an item, the ingredients would just be combined on-site, giving faster delivery and a much cheaper, centralized ingredient regulation.
As a result they were not only able to slow their decline, but grow to an international chain worth $1.98 billion some thirty years later.
9. Triaster calculated that one of their clients could save over £300,000 per year by improving just one process
Once you start to document your processes you won’t always need to completely re-engineer them in order to update them. Most of the time you’ll just need to review your processes every so often and make minor improvements.
However, even minor improvements can result in massive savings over time (especially if made on processes that are commonly repeated).
While working with their clients to analyze how BPM could save them money, Triaster discovered that by improving just one process that was often run, a particular client could save over £300,00 per year. Unfortunately (but understandably) the specific client or process isn’t listed due to what I assume are privacy policies, but this is still a powerful example in showing how even small improvements to processes can really add up over time.
The process in question originally cost £396 for every run, and by making some improvements was cut down to just £173. This process would generally be run 247 times per year in a single business unit, saving that unit £43,000. Across the whole company, however, the process was carried out roughly 1,812 times per year, making the improvements save a massive £313,476.
That’s to say nothing of the non-monetary gains which would occur depending on the type of process. For example, if this was a support process it would probably also result in faster response times, thus improving their customer’s experience with the company and making them likely to return.
10. Structured onboarding programs result in 58% more new employees staying with a company for more than three years
With the cost of employee turnover being so high, it’s vital to the success of any company that you encourage as much loyalty and longevity in your workforce as possible. As such it would be madness to ignore this beauty of a BPM statistic from The Wynhurst Group.
The vast majority of turnover happens within the first three years of an employee’s career in your company, but by having a structured onboarding program you can help make sure that 58% more employees stay with you for three years.
That’s 58% more of your new employees that you haven’t spent time and effort assessing, hiring, training, and putting to work, only for them to leave relatively quickly and force you to repeat the whole process again.
So, structure your employee onboarding program by documenting the process behind it. Have a set framework to follow to make sure that every new hire gets the training and attention they need to feel like part of the team and to encounter as few roadblocks as possible.
11. Wodify halved their employee onboarding by switching their BPM software
“[Before Process Street] we would probably hold our new employee’s hands for a good month… But now we’ll show them something for two weeks and then we’re able to throw them into things.”
Sometimes the process that you’re using isn’t necessarily the problem. A craftsman is only as good as his tools allow him to be, and without an effective piece of BPM software, you’re only going to be able to do so much to structure, improve, and manage your business’ infrastructure.
Your software needs to allow you to document, manage, improve, track, and use your processes in any way you wish. Having an overview of the processes your team has worked through (or is currently performing) is invaluable for letting managers quickly assess what’s going on and whether something needs to change.
Gym management software company Wodify were in this exact position, and upon switching to Process Street and making some adjustments they halved their employee onboarding time from a month to two weeks.
This is just one of the many examples in which your software can affect your ability to manage your processes. Microsoft Word and Office 365 are still used by many, but the sheer number of disadvantages to these over a dedicated piece of software are too many to list in this short space.
For a full rundown, check out the following blog posts:
- How to Switch to BPM Software When You’re Just Using Paper
- Best Process Documentation Software Compared: Office 365 vs Process Street
12. Implementing BPM boosts the success rate of your projects by 70%
Research giants Gartner have consistently been a great source of statistics and analysis for those interested in BPM (among other fields). While this specific figure dates back to a study they conducted in 2004, it remains a cornerstone for those looking into the benefits of structuring your processes and managing your efforts effectively.
Looking at the results of 150 BPM implementations, Gartner found that 95% of projects undertaken were successful. This was opposed to a mere 25% success rate for general IT and enterprise resource planning projects.
This might seem ridiculously low for projects undertaken without BPM, but take a moment to think of the sheer number of elements which have to come together in order for a project to work. Everything from the scope planning to the method taken has to be meticulously calculated in order to make sure that everyone knows what they have to do, who to report to, and why their duties are important in the first place.
In short, attempting to carry out a project or task with any kind of reliable success or consistency is madness without having some kind of process to follow or framework to build from. You’re better off rolling weighted dice and betting on a random number (note: don’t do that).
13. 21.6% of top and middle management think that their processes are handled better than their subordinates do
This figure seems a little odd at first, but it essentially means that 21.6% of higher level management think that their processes (and their BPM in general) are better and more effective than lower management and regular employees.
Coming from the study of Polish companies in 2016 that I mentioned back in the third point of this article, this figure shows a massive disconnect between how upper management perceives its process management and how it is felt by those actually carrying out the tasks.
This is dangerous because of the implications it has for the health of your processes and business in general. If upper management doesn’t see a problem while the rank-and-file have many, the problem can easily go unaddressed for far longer than it should.
BPM is a two-way street when it comes to the different levels of your company. Everyone needs to understand the importance of the process and every step therein, but everyone should also be fully aware of the precise state of the process, and how it is being carried out.
Clarity and transparency are key because without these elements you simply won’t be able to detect problems as they occur.
14. 46% of companies see business processes primarily as a way of reducing costs.
The final statistic from the aforementioned 2016 study of 236 Polish companies, this shows that almost half of businesses think of BPM as reducing costs. While this is certainly a massive benefit, it’s not the most important thing that the practice has to offer.
A solid BPM program (or really any kind of extra effort put into your processes) not only saves you money, but sets the stage for the continuous improvement of your team and company as a whole. The cost savings will indeed build up hugely over time, but you’re also helping to make tasks quicker and easier, thus helping your team be more productive, motivated, and engaged with what they do.
Admittedly, this is not entirely a missed opportunity, but instead another disconnect between various parts of most companies. This time, those responsible for and involved in BPM projects tend to think of the benefits in terms of continuous improvement, whereas everyone else mainly sees processes as a way to save money.
Saving money isn’t a bad thing, and the idea of BPM can be difficult to explain, so it’s only natural that many would be content with thinking “this will cut costs”. However, in terms of truly selling the idea to your team, you need to go beyond the monetary benefits and tell them how it will make their tasks quicker, easier, and generally less of a pain.
15. Documented processes let you integrate with over 750 other apps and automate the work you hate
Especially when you’re starting out, a lot of the processes you document will be very similar every time you run them. For example, when moving client data from a form to your CRM the method (and every step therein) remains exactly the same from form to form; only the information changes.
Thankfully, the act of having a set process to let you see this kind of busy work in black and white makes it easy to use services like Zapier and IFTTT to automatically do some or all of that work for you. Zapier alone integrates with over 750 other apps to pass information between them and automatically perform tasks which have a set outcome.
Process automation is a tool which can span literally any task which has a set input and output, lettings you use it to automate almost any duty you have which fits into an “if X happens then do Y” model.
I won’t go into any more detail here, but if you’d like to learn more than check out our free business process automation guide.
16. 52% of employees work remotely at least once per week
Remote work poses many unique challenges compared to the traditional office environment. There’s the danger of getting distracted by elements at home or wherever you choose to work, the lack of human interaction which is so vital for building a lasting connection with the rest of your team, and the high level of discipline which is required to consistently hit targets without supervision.
However, OwlLabs have found that 52% of employees work remotely at least once per week. This is just a small part of the explosive growth of remote work in the preceding years, and as a result, you need to be prepared for your employees wanting to do the same.
Not to mention that widening your scope to hiring remote employees allows you to widen your scope to include people of every ability level, experience, skillset, and nationality. You’re expanding your potential job candidates from local to global, which will only serve to help you find the perfect fit for the job.
In order to make remote employees work, both you and they need to have documented and managed processes. This provides the structure and support which remote work so often lacks; instead of having to spend time and energy deciding what they need to do next, they can just check their processes.
Processes also provide remote workers with a “how-to” for performing their tasks and can really streamline communication across your whole team. This is especially important when hiring employees from different time zones – when a single message can take at least a day to answer due to time zones, it pays to be as efficient as possible and to limit the number of questions that need to be answered.
17. It takes 25 minutes to focus on a task after getting distracted
Our final BPM stat is more of a reminder for the penalty of not having a structured approach to your tasks. Structured processes let you maintain your flow when moving from task to task – you don’t have to actually think about what to do next or how to do it, but instead just move from item to item.
This eliminates any friction which can otherwise lead you to getting distracted. After all, most of the time (in my experience, at least) work itself isn’t something that causes you to lose interest, but instead the effort it takes to analyze and make decisions on everything from what task to tackle to how to go about carrying it out.
If you don’t use processes, distractions are the least of your trouble. They can last for anything from an entire day (rarely) to a mere 10 seconds while you chat to a family member), so it’s hard to predict exactly how much time will be lost to whatever’s grabbed the person’s attention. The part of getting distracted which consistently takes up your time is the 25 minutes it takes to focus again after doing so.
In other words, every time you or your employees stumble in their tasks and get distracted due to a lack of a process, it’ll take half an hour to get back into the swing of things even after the person in question gets back to work.
BPM statistics aren’t everything, but they certainly help
Despite listing off 17 intimidating BPM stats, the raw figures are far from the most important thing to take away from this post to increase efficiency in your business.
Instead, take away the knowledge of just how important it is to document, manage, and implement your processes thoroughly and effectively.
Writing down your process for client onboarding is all well and good, but unless you manually review it regularly (every couple of weeks or so) it will quickly go out of date and could actively harm their experience with your brand. That’s not even considering the measures you need to take to make sure that your team is actually following the process you’ve documented.
If you don’t feel like you have time to document your own processes, why not grab one of our premade templates for free? There are no strings attached, and you can always use them as a base and make whatever edits you need to suit your own methods. Check out our client onboarding template below for an example.
By all means use these statistics (and this post) to show to anyone who’s not convinced why processes and BPM are important, but don’t get so bogged down and intimidated that you never end up starting.
Document your first process in as rough a draft as you can bear, and then take it from there. After all, when you start at the bottom, the only way is up.
What do you think to BPM? Does the rest of your team realize (or acknowledge) how important these things are? Either way, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!