I usually think about applying BPM to paper intensive processes. I think I need to expand that focus to include e-mail centric processes. Not that it wasn't inclusive before, but talking about it in those terms seems to bring out new opportunities.
Just in the past two days, I have met with a Fortune 100 and Fortune 400 company where this [e-mail] is their process management tool. At the one, their documents are completed and e-mailed around the company for work. If one person in the chain is gone, the whole process is on hold. No one has any visibility to the process and where the work is.
At the other, one person told me that they get 600 e-mails a day because everything - HR, procurement, identity management - are all done by paper forms which are e-mailed around. Again, no visibility to status. No way to escalate if the person is gone.
These are low-hanging opportunities for business process management. With simple use of forms, a basic process, and automated workflow, these processes would be more efficient and controllable. Once you add BAM (business activity monitoring) to the solution, you would reduce cycle time and make staff much more efficient.