What is BPM? Understanding designing, documenting, communicating, improving, and automating business processes are just the beginning of a way of thinking known as Business Process Management, or BPM for short.
What is Business Process Management (BPM)?
Firstly, let’s define BPM. It’s a way of thinking, first and foremost. It’s where you think of your business in terms of the things it does, how it does them, and what the effects of doing so are. Your processes are your digital DNA, and BPM invites you to think of them as assets to be curated.
What is business process management for software applications built using BPM platforms? In this case, BPM means thinking about what happens first, then what data and services might be involved, and only then what the application will look like. Content follows function, and form follows both.
BPM vs Project Management Platforms
Business process management is not the same thing as project management, so the technology solutions supporting those two fields are entirely different tools as well. As we already managed to define BPM, it’s time to shed some light on project management.
Project management is all about organizing tasks in an orderly format – and managing them. It’s the process of managing the team’s work to achieve all pre-set goals. Project management platforms help with that – they are used for project planning, scheduling and change management. But they do not help companies in digitizing or automating their business processes.
BPM vs Workflow Automation
There’s no need to define BPM again at this point, but let’s take a closer look at workflows. Workflow automation software helps in making the flow of tasks, documents and information in any organization. It helps to manage the sequence of tasks owned by different people. The goal here is to get a single item completely processed as quickly as it’s possible.
BPM system, on the other hand, helps to manage multiple workflows, and has a ton of additional functions such as reporting, data collecting, creating forms and notifications and more. BPM system focuses on the overall improvement of processes, and its goal is to achieve the best possible level of efficiency in managing all processes in any organization.
What is BPM Software and What Kinds of BPM are There?
As there are an emerging number of IT solutions nowadays, you may have already started asking yourself “What is BPM software in the first place?” Business process management software is a solution to a multitude of problems and challenges today’s enterprises are facing. BPMS help firms in managing business processes, giving them an opportunity to automate everyday tasks and handle process logic. Thanks to business process management systems organizations can design, model, execute, automate and improve their everyday tasks.
The Main Categories of Business Process Management Systems
There’s a pretty good consensus across the majority of practitioners and software vendors that breaks the question of “What is Business Process Management” down into three major categories:
- Integration-centric, which focuses on the flow of data from place to place, including where it comes from, how it changes, where it goes, and what activity it triggers.
- Human-centric, which focuses on collaborative activities. It includes the assignment of tasks to people, groups, and roles. It also involves things like forms and deadlines.
- Document-centric, which can focus on harvesting documents (paper, email, PDF, images — it all counts) and their contents. It can also focus on producing custom documents based on rules, decisions, and context. It often involves both.
Quite a number of BPM efforts cover two or more of above categories at the same time, and that’s perfectly fine.
How Does BPM Help My Business?
Well, whether it’s about ensuring that the right things happen or that the right things are measured so you can figure out what happened, BPM is all about getting a handle on how things happen.
Every organization has processes. All too often, though, those processes are implicit, which makes it hard for new people to learn them — but it also makes it hard for people to understand them well enough to improve them. Often, processes are made up on the spot over and over again, which can mean great ideas get lost and mistakes of omission or misjudgment are easy to make.
So, when somebody asks us “what is BPM?”, we like to answer “it’s what you need to help your business to grow”! There’s quite a bit of agreement on how BPM helps, at least in broad strokes:
- Reduced costs and higher revenues - if processes can be automated and managed, they take less time. Another way of looking at that is that more can get done in the same amount of time. Either way, you win.
- Higher efficiency - if it’s done right, a BPM effort does away with extra unnecessary steps and improves the steps that remain part of a process. That means less wasted time, money, and effort.
- Better visibility - a managed process is an understood process. An understood process is easier to document and communicate to others.
- Improved agility - an explicit, well-understood process offers a more direct path to being improved, enhanced, and evolved.
- Compliance, safety, and security - sometimes managing a process is a defensive measure to ensure the organization avoids any of several problems.
When Should BPM be Used?
Managing Business Processes is not an easy task. Not every process can be automated, let alone easily managed. There are any of a number of short-term, idiosyncratic processes that truly need to be conceived and executed on the fly — and may never be repeated. In situations like this, the outcome rests squarely in the hands of your people’s best judgement. But there are plenty, perhaps a clear majority, of processes that beg for business process management system. You can spot them in several ways:
- Dynamic processes that require compliance changes - think about financial regulations and privacy laws; they change somewhat regularly, and the consequences of not keeping current can be severe. Only by fully understanding how your company does what it does can you be sure you’re in compliance.
- Orchestration across multiple units - the more people, and especially the more parts of an organization, are involved, the more it needs to be clear how everything works together and how each participant plays a role in it.
- Critical performance metrics exist - if you know how to measure success, it becomes more clear as to what is important and how various steps fit together to meet those targets.
- Moving beyond (but still accommodating) legacy systems — there was a time when a single database application was the only automation an organization had, and all technical activity revolved around it. Nowadays, there are ERP systems, HR systems, customer relationship management systems, marketing automation, sales campaign management, operations management, and countless other systems. In truth, what a company does often involves using several tools together, and when that’s done manually, it’s neither easy nor efficient. Managed, automated processes that handle the interactions between data and software and people can help — a lot.
Is Business Process Management System the Same as any Automation Tool?
Not exactly. It’s a fair question, as automation has gotten a lot of attention over the past few years. But automation is more about eliminating manual steps and performing tasks as quickly as possible.
It would be fair to say that a process is often made up of a lot of activity, and a lot of that activity can/should be automated. But even manual activity should be managed. Moreover, there’s little to gain by aggressively automating counterproductive activity that contributes to a bad process.
As for platforms and tools helping is managing business processes, almost all of them also do automation, so the lines tend to blur.
What Does a BPM Project Look Like?
It depends on how you approach it. The all-too-common approach followed by many vendors and consultants looks like this:
- Design — in which a lot of thought goes into determining what the process is and how it works.
- Model — this usually takes the form of building an application.
- Execution — in which the model is tested by trying it out and applying it to real-world conditions.
- Monitor — looking at how well the model did and what the outcomes are.
- Optimize — looking for ways to fine-tune the model/solution for the final release.
The WEBCON Way of managing business process is a little different. The above five steps are good ones, but the emphasis and the sequencing could — and should — be a bit different. Here’s how:
- Design shouldn’t take too long. What people think a process is and what it actually are often two different things. Getting a good initial idea of what must be done is essential, but when it comes to how to do it, just enough design to create an initial model is enough.
- Modelling should happen quickly so it can be tested in execution as soon as possible. It’s fine, because we’ll return to modelling over and over again in cycles. The goal is to give users and stakeholders something to critique so it can be improved. Modelling goes together with Optimizing.
- Execution and Monitoring happen together, with the goal of providing feedback to cycles of Execution and Optimization.
If this sounds like continuous improvement, that’s because it is. If it sounds like agile development, it should. See our Business Process Management System in action.
Managing Business Process: Why Choose WEBCON for BPM?
The WEBCON Way of doing BPM is a lot less formal and a lot more responsive than what many other platforms and tools do. A few of the more salient differentiators include:
- Change is easy and costs almost zero in terms of technical debt. You can have thousands of processes in progress, realize you need to modify something, publish that change, and all of those in-progress activities will instantly adapt to the new model. We call it InstantChange™️, and it’s an uncommonly great feature.
- It works the same way in a public cloud, private cloud, or on-premises deployment. And you can migrate from one to the other at any time, without skipping a beat or losing data.
- It’s integrated. Forms, workflows, data, reports, histories, statuses, security — they all work together and they’re aware of each other. You do less work keeping everything in sync.
- Most tools and platforms focus on developing an application. BPM is more than application development. In fact, development is probably only 10% of the picture. Requirements gathering, security, auditing, documentation, user assistance, metrics, staged deployments, change management, and other less-than-sexy-but-very-necessary things are handled by our low-code platform so you don’t need to handle them manually. It matters.
- It encourages consistency, a common design language for how to approach problems, how to arrange user interfaces, how to handle security, and a lot more. It’s optimized for building many applications at scale, not just one at a time. It’s less of an artist’s studio and more of an application factory.
So – what is BPM?
Well, Business Process Management isn’t a new concept. In fact, some of the BPM crowd have tried to rebrand part of it as Digital Process Automation (DPA). Whether you think of it as tried-and-true or brand-new, it’s a better way to approach business problems at both the strategic and tactical levels. There’s no need to ask the same theoretical questions and withhold progress – it’s time for you to check out BPM software run by WEBCON and see how it can help you get ahead of the curve!