Mergers and acquisitions can lead to chaos at the best of times, with inconsistent processes and un-integrated teams. Can business process management (BPM) or general workflow automation help in M&A related organizational integrations, or is it just money being thrown into an inferno of change?
BPM marketing often uses words like 'agility' when describing how your processes can be adapted to respond to change. Agility implies an ability to dodge new requirements and keep ahead of the chasing threats, all requiring constant attention from Management to work. I prefer a process improvement solution that is 'flexible' and can absorb the impact of unexpected actions and requirements, automatically taking on the new shape required by a rapidly changing organization.
In a chaotic organization, there is the temptation to avoid process improvement, since it is too much to handle and things are changing too fast. Despite this, bringing structure to the processes that enable a company to operate is essential, whether there is chaos surrounding them or not. With a strong starting point, a department can not only run its own operations better, it can start to influence the organizations with which it interacts. In an M&A scenario, having a solid base of process can make it more appealing to retain that backbone of operations in the new organization, rather than defaulting to the typical political decisions for what stays and what goes.
The problem is that traditional BPM takes a significant time and investment to implement, which is rarely a possibility when approaching M&A. A better approach may be instead to consider a 'quick and dirty' fix to the key processes that will be interacting with the new organization, in the knowledge that everything will change anyway. To be successful, the 'quick and dirty' approach needs to also be flexible (that word again), to adapt to the constant change around it, rather than just collapsing by being too brittle.
Picking the right technical products to build your solution is one part of it. Collaborative technologies, like wikis are great for sharing information in a loose team with minimal effort, but they don't help reinforce processes that require repeatable operations and decisions. Business rules management may be better for processes that rely on complex decisions that must evolve over time, where the end-to-end process is limited in length. BPM is fine where there is rigidity and constant repeatability required and you have time to put it together. Software as a Service (SaaS) or prebuilt solutions running in the cloud can help to get things up and running faster.
I think that companies need a combination of all of these, even when they are not in the chaos of M&A. And rapidly built solutions using flexible blended applications may not be a bad approach to follow.