Streamlining e-Government Through a BPM System

Filed under: by: Art Style and Design

Written by Amy Wyron

Why include BPM in an e-Government strategy?

In today’s fast paced world, e-government is widely considered the key to modernizing government operations, increasing efficiency, and eliminating waste. E-government refers to the use of information and communication technology (ICT) in government operations, involving both internal operations and external relationships with citizen constituents. Due to the growing demands of a globalized world, government services must be delivered ever more rapidly yet with increased capacity. The demands on government have never been greater, and the need for modernization has never been so necessary.

The idea behind e-government projects is that well-applied technological interventions can enable a government to do its job faster, better, and with more accuracy. And this in turn results in better outcomes for the citizen constituents that rely on the government, both directly and indirectly, for quality services.

It is too often taken for granted that technology is the best solution to the modernization and globalization issues facing government. It is important to note, however, that ICT is not a modernization solution in and of itself; the solution lies in the way that technology is applied. Just as in the private sector, any new technology adoption implies resources and expenses; thus, costs and benefits must be weighed, and concrete goals must be established and met in order to demonstrate success.

Additionally, an e-government solution should address concrete pain points in a measurable way in order to justify its existence. Much like clients, citizens pay for government through taxes and express their preferences through democratic elections. However unlike a private customer, citizens of a nation cannot easily choose another provider, or quit consuming government services. Furthermore, government also serves constituents who are unable to express preferences, such as children. Thus the responsibility of a government to its clients is even greater than that of a private entity, and the benefit to the citizen clients must always be at the forefront when implementing an e-government project.

A thoughtful e-government strategy must be about more than just adding technology to government. Efficiency, automation, and technology are all important components of a modernization strategy, but only when considering the intended benefit to the consumer. A BPM system is a powerful tool that can be used to help an e-government address specific pain points, modernizing the services that people count on while also streamlining the government’s ability to provide those services.

Business Process Management – An Integral Part of E-Government Strategy

Business process management (BPM) refers to the automation and optimization of workflow. A BPM system can help an organization to streamline processes, reducing waste and virtually eliminating the need for physical paperwork. Through the automation of paper-based processes, a BPM system closes the gaps among people, systems, and information throughout a department or agency. BPM makes it easier for people across offices and in distinct locations to share information with each other, and with systems and databases.

Transparency, efficiency, and enhanced coordination offered by a BPM fall right in line with the broader goals of e-government; thus, a BPM system is a natural choice for a government pursuing an integrated e-government strategy. A BPM system, especially an open source system, can help move a government towards open standards and provide increased accountability to citizens, thus providing a great advantage to an integrated e-government project.

A BPM system can also save a government the hassle of creating an expensive custom system by essentially creating customized applications through workflow designs. Rather than the government adapting to a rigid system, the BPM system itself can adapt to reflect the unique reality of the governmental processes. Each workflow then functions as a distinct custom-built IT application, robust enough to support critical processes yet flexible enough to respond to ever-changing demands.

Business process management and e-government are a natural match. Both aim to reduce waste, maximize efficiency, increase transparency, and simplify operations through the intelligent application of technology. Through well-designed BPM implementations, a government can enjoy efficiency gains and respond with agility to constituent demands.

Suggested Best Practices for Implementing BPM in E-Government

In considering implementing a BPM system in local or national government, it is useful to reflect and consider the lessons that can be drawn and offered to others considering an e-government BPM project. As the UN reminds, “For a public administration, there is no single established way, no ‘best practice’ that would lead to successful e-government”.Nor do the following recommendations seek to establish firm rules for a government BPM implementation.

While these guidelines are by no means binding, they do reflect best practices identified in BPM implementations in governmental projects:

  • Do a pilot project. Pilot projects can provide a valuable experience for organizations, and a chance to work out issues early and on a smaller scale before they are introduced to the entire organization. A pilot phase will also help achieve success that will propel the project forward. The UN Sector Report, citing the OECD, maintains that when it comes to e-government, “the risk of failure is proportional to the size of the project” and “expensive, long-term, and complex initiatives often fail”.(1) Thus, a pilot project is a concrete and less complicated trial phase that can demonstrate the feasibility of an e-government initiative.
  • Start with mature, well-documented processes. Though tedious, Process Discovery is a vital phase, and should be given considerable time and attention at the beginning of a BPM project. The organization must have standardized processes; otherwise it can be a very long road to standardize them in tandem with a BPM implementation. In the case of an institution where processes are immature or poorly defined, it is important to choose a BPM tool that is flexible enough to adapt to a changing environment. A flexible workflow tool makes it easier to process documents according to the needs that may arise and, little by little, incorporate the necessary routing rules for the common cases and exceptions.
  • Create a BPM implementation team. In addition to the presence of external consultants, there must be an internal project manager and designated BPM implementation team. Capacitate the team so they are prepared to fulfill this important role, and create regular meetings to facilitate communication within the team and between the team and management. It is wise to work with experienced external consultants, but to also foster those capacities and abilities internally.
  • Set measurable and concrete benchmark indicators. Benchmarks will help to measure and demonstrate the success of a BPM implementation, or of any e-government initiative. Be sure to take a baseline indicator before the start of the project, for example average completion time, average number of errors per month, average number of official complaints, average number of cases processed per day, etc. Retake these measurements at periodic intervals. Measurable indicators will not only help demonstrate the BPM system’s impact, but will also help justify the e-government initiative.
  • Leave time for optimization. When designing a BPM system implementation schedule, it is critical to leave time for revision and improvement (hence, the optimization and not just automation of workflow.)
  • Choose a BPM system wisely. When selecting a BPM system, the committee should investigate the advantages that each tool can offer. In some cases the most sophisticated system may not be the best or most practical for addressing the specific pain points felt by the organization. Additionally, select a system that will grow with the government in the long-term. Will the system facilitate integrations with other systems? Or will the system present challenges and become itself an obstacle down the road, with vendor lock-in and expensive user licenses? BPM systems offer different features and functions, and it is important to research both proprietary and open source tools to determine which best meets the needs and resources of the particular institution.

When implementing BPM as part of an e-government strategy, these best practices can help ensure the success of the implementation. Through the introduction of a BPM system, governments can steadily move towards more openness, efficiency, and responsiveness in government operations. In order to respond to the ever-growing demand for faster and more effective services, e-government capacities must be developed in order to streamline internal processes and provide enhanced services that will directly benefit the citizen constituents.

(1) quotes taken from “E-Government at the Crossroads: World Public Sector Report” United Nations, New York, 2003. p.7, p.59


Amy Wyron is Marketing Manager for Colosa, Inc., the developer of ProcessMaker Open Source Business Process Management Software. She holds a B.A. in Public Policy from Duke University, and her research interests include the improvement of public management and policy through technology and innovation.

ProcessMaker is an Open Source Business Process Management (BPM) software that enables organizations, SMEs, and government agencies to automate document intensive, approval-based processes across systems including finance, HR and operations. ProcessMaker is an AJAX-enabled, SOA, web-based application that allows users across single and multiple sites to create and share workflows, customize forms, manage processes, and enhance reporting. ProcessMaker is developed by Colosa, Inc., and has offices in Brooklyn, NY, La Paz, Bolivia, and Lima, Peru. For more information, visit