Interest in Business Process Management (BPM) tools in South Africa’s public sector is gaining traction as awareness grows of BPM’s potential to enable a “single view of government” and address the unique process challenges faced by governmental organisations.
“Just like companies in the private sector, governmental organisations need to work efficiently; manage risks; comply with legislation; enforce organisational policies; and streamline tasks and processes. However, they also face a number of unique challenges.
“An increasing number of departments are beginning to recognise BPM’s potential for addressing these challenges and we are certainly seeing an increase in activity in the public sector,” says Jacques Wessels, CEO FlowCentric Technologies, a South Africa-based developer of BPM systems which has developed tools for a number of the country’s governmental departments including the Gauteng Provincial Legislature and the Gauteng Department of Roads and Transport amongst others.
He believes that the trend toward BPM in the public sector is largely driven by the concept of “a single view of government”, which would enable cross-communication, information sharing, and the automation of workflow and processes between governmental departments. BPM, a tool for tightening control, delivering visibility, integrating disparate systems and automating processes to ensure compliance with policy and legislation, supports this vision. But, Wessels says there are other reasons why public sector organisations are showing interest in BPM.
“With capabilities to automate processes, segregate duties and increase visibility of an organisation, BPM can be part of the solution to stamping out corruption and increasing accountability and compliance in the public sector. Tidying up tender and procurement processes is another reason why parastatals are eyeing BPM tools.”
Though BPM adoption is growing in the public sector space, he says it is at a much slower pace than what’s been experienced in the private sector in recent years. This is in part due to the low awareness of BPM and what it does.
“At the 2010 GovTech conference, BPM was highlighted as one of the most relevant technologies for tackling challenges in the public sector. At the time, while some parastatals such as KZN Treasury were starting reach BPM maturity, the majority didn’t have a comprehensive understanding of BPM and were confusing it with workflow.
“In order to accelerate the pace of adoption of BPM in the public sector, it’s important that better knowledge and awareness of BPM is inculcated. With growing awareness of the differences between workflow and BPM, and with fantastic success stories coming out of those early adopters, more organisations are certain to follow suit.
“Government is historically slow when it comes to adopting new technologies. But one of the advantages of this is that methodology and best practices learned in the private sector can be applied in the public sector,” he says.
The applications for BPM in the public sector are vast. In a lot of organisations approval cycles are complex and not well managed, so this is an area where improvements and operational efficiencies can be achieved with BPM. Other processes over which Wessels says FlowCentric’s public sector clients want to gain control and drive efficiency include:
- Tender management processes, including time based process triggers, tender administration with scoring rules, weighting, tender schedules, receiving of bids, ranking to rules, adjudication and linking successful suppliers to products and contract pricing in the ERP.
- Processes linked to requisitioning and procurement processes.
- Contract management processes that include tender registration, tender management, contract administration, contract pricing, contract documentation, and performance management.
- Safety, Health, Environment and Quality processes to better manage aspects such as concessions and reporting.
- Process Controls for risk management and compliance.
- HR and administrative processes, such as leave administration with full requisition validation and approval processes; recruitment and selection; performance management and disciplinary management.
- Project management processes that include task updates, risk and issue management, change, and authorisation of project expenses.
- Payment authorisation based on segregated duties.
- Financial account management processes.
- Customer contact centre and help desk management, including processes for call or complaint logging and routing processes.
“The big advantage of BPM is that it is so easily customised to fit the specific business processes of individual organisations. It also integrates the various IT systems and sections of the organisation easily and cost-effectively, delivering a single view of the organisation and enabling investment in other technologies to be maximised,” says Wessels.
He cites the Gauteng Provincial Legislature as an example of this. The Legislature fully automated all of its processes with processware from FlowCentric a number of years ago. FlowCentric integrates with GPL’s document management solution, Sybrin, to store the documents, and through state of the art indexing methods, provides for easy access to and tracking of all documents.
FlowCentric also developed an ePetitions tool for the legislature’s website. The feature provides a direct, easy-to-use and reliable channel for people to engage with the GPL and submit petitions. The solution manages the whole process from initiation to resolution of requests.
“Successes such as this clearly show how BPM can assist public sector and government agencies in meeting their organisational missions and improving service delivery,” Wessels concludes.