How BPM Paid Off for Wells Fargo

By Rick Swanborg, CIO |  BPM, Wells Fargo

For many companies, traditional "command and control" methods fail to establish business process management [(BPM). Yet there is a huge need for what BPM promises: replication of good business practices and significant cost reductions. In 2007, Wells Fargo's Enterprise Technology Architecture and Planning (ETAP) group took a novel approach to establish BPM and reap its benefits by creating a community of practice to champion it. The working group includes more than 40 lines of business and 200 stakeholders who are defining a BPM road map. Strategies such as BPM, which focus on improving cost and time-to-market efficiencies, are one of many enablers helping Wells Fargo to navigate today's economic challenges and maintain its competitive edge as a provider of financial services.

The Situation: Wells Fargo maintains a decentralized structure to its 80-plus lines of business. When an internal study revealed 10 business lines with independent BPM initiatives, ETAP launched a single working group that could save time and improve the results through collaboration.

What They Did: Today, the participating lines of business collectively own and drive this working group, defining the approaches, processes and tools that constitute best practice.

Serving as facilitator, ETAP creates and maintains frameworks through which the group reaches consensus. "We also make sure all content is compelling, which entices our business leaders to want to be involved and make it successful," says Enterprise Architect Paul Tazbaz, leader of the working group, in describing the BPM templates, messages and market analysis that ETAP oversees and creates. The working group also publishes its most powerful successes as case studies, which business leaders use to sell colleagues on BPM-generated, cost-saving improvements and customer service enhancements.

Why It Was Unique: While ETAP provides the forum and guidance, the businesses own BPM and its success. In fact, one of the working group's own findings is that the most successful BPM projects consistently come from groups led by a business steering committee, rather than IT or enterprise architecture.

The Takeaway: Using a bottom-up approach, BPM can take hold and produce results. Wells Fargo has documented significant improvements in time-to-market, risk mitigation, portfolio management and cost-the most dramatic of which resulted in a US$30 million savings by automating a lending process.

Rick Swanborg is president of ICEX and a professor at Boston University.

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