What is BPM?
Business Process Management (BPM) includes three equally important pieces:
- Management philosophy – A top down vision and approach emphasizing process innovation and optimization through greater visibility into and control over policies and procedures.
- Methodology – A set of business practices or disciplines defining and supporting organizational change to improve operational efficiency, effectiveness, and innovation.
- Technology Platform – A suite of tools enabling and instituting change through process discovery (i.e., business process improvement, business process reengineering), automation, and optimization.
As a result, applying BPM is not simple. Intertwining philosophy, methodology and tool sets to achieve organizational change requires collaboration, rigor, precision, and creativity. It is why the talent and skills of team members becomes incredibly important to the success of any BPM project.
It also requires accepting that business processes vary widely. Some processes are fixed, structured, or well defined. Others are ad-hoc, nondeterministic, or completely dynamic. As a result, one management approach or toolset may not work to meet all process management objectives. Enabling process automation and optimization requires the right balance between tools and disciplines (the science of BPM) and usability (the art of BPM).
Traditional BPM (aka Structured BPM)
Traditional BPM focuses on explicit, repeatable (mature) processes with the objective of standardization, automation, and accountability. Such processes include: Accounts Payable, On-boarding, Underwriting, and Procurement. Applying a BPM-based methodology has proven to deliver cost reductions, productivity improvements, and compliance (penalty avoidance).
Characteristics of traditional, structured processes include:
- Explicit (follow Standard Operating Procedures, SOP’s)
- No (or limited) exceptions
- Potentially outsourced as COTS app (expectations of standardization, no innovation)
- Measured in productivity improvement, cost savings, and penalty avoidance
Dynamic BPM (aka Social BPM)
Dynamic BPM focuses on tasks, projects, cases and events. Unlike well defined processes, these processes change often based on who and what are involved. Users are invited to participate based on their unique roles or subject matter expertise. Managers and Line Workers give way to Knowledge Workers. Connecting to anyone at anytime is necessary to capture information and produce innovative results (vs. expected results in the traditional BPM area). The value of such BPM automation is measured in success or failure.
Characteristics of dynamic, case-based processes include:
- Nondeterministic (start and end points known, but steps in between dynamically created)
- Often handled by free communication such as emails, online/offline meetings, free format documents, project management tools including excel
- Undocumented or retained by intrinsic process knowledge maintained in Knowledge Worker
- Measured in success or failure of such event (how to achieve a result)
As organizations’ working environments swing between traditional command-and-control workflows to dynamically shifting working relationships, process rigidity must give way to innovation and collaboration. Management philosophies and disciplines must consider the Knowledge Worker as a major player in process automation. BPM tools must support the dynamic inclusion of Knowledge Workers as processes require increasing flexibility and collaboration for completion.
BPM Evolves to Enable All Types of Process Innovation
Over the course of the last few years we have seen major advancements in BPM capabilities to support all types of organizational workflows can changing working conditions.
Market drivers and corresponding BPM functionality include:
- Dynamic vs Structured Process Execution – Every process is collaborative. No matter how structured or well known the requirements, at some activity there will be a need to collaborate to find answers or get approvals. The market realized this when in 2003 it pushed BPM vendors to support ad-hoc routing. At first, ad-hoc routing was accomplished through a serial approach. By 2008 some BPM suites supported parallel and dynamic (i.e., nondeterministic or unstructured) routing scenarios. In 2013, BPM Suites can support completely dynamic tasks much like email. Moving into the future, organizations will use BPM Suites for dynamically collaborating with others while inside formal business applications. They will have the option of creating and initiating processes or projects dynamically. Everything associated with BPM modeling, design, and execution will be done online by a business analyst or the user herself.
- Business Analytics – Process-driven applications can create enormous amounts of data. As data becomes more plentiful, organizations use it for reporting and analysis. Integration between BPM and BI tools, however, can be cost prohibitive as matching user groups, hierarchies and security levels requires significant resources. As a result, organizations have depended heavily on high-priced report designers which cannot turn around reports fast enough for constantly changing business user needs. Today, BPM Suites have incorporated robust reporting any analytical engines. Organizations can now use BPM software itself to create reports, ad-hoc reports, and powerful executive dashboards.
- Web 2.0 – As BPM got started in 1999, the prevailing products only offered basic workflow. As products matured, they combined process mapping along with forms development and business rules management. Together these “Suites” helped organizations replicate document-centric workflows into an electronic medium. Fast forward to 2013, the market now wants to replicate the desktop experience into a Web environment. Replacing client-server applications and making core applications location and device independent have fueled the adoption of Rich Internet Applications (RIA) and Mobile solutions at the enterprise level. Web-based applications, therefore, by nature require three key capabilities: the same click-and-drag functionality as common form development tools, robust SOA features enabling speedy integration with many different internal and external applications, and embedded workflow. Today BPM Suites provide this functionality helping organizations to build web-based, process-driven, highly robust solutions to replace legacy systems or create brand new applications for end users.
- Social Computing – Desktop, laptop, mobile, and tablet computers enable people to collaborate at any time. As a result, professionals expect their business applications to support on-the-run, self-service capabilities. Process participation cannot be limited by time and space. Initiation, response and reporting must also be instantaneously available. Today, BPM Suites can provide these features and functionality.
- Purpose-Driven – Organizations don’t want to use a round peg in a square hole. They want products out-of-the-box (i.e., COTS) designed to meet their expressed needs (see excellent report “Lean Software is Agile, Fit-to-Purpose, and Efficient” by John Rymer and Mike Gilpin of Forrester Research). They want applications that are fit-to-purpose but can quickly adapt to evolving process scenarios. Today, BPM Suites supports these scenarios with flexibility, agility, and precision.
As you approach BPM, think about which best practices – philosophy, methodology, tool sets – you should adopt, learn and refine. Work with BPM experts to create standards and centers of excellence. Use the full capabilities of your BPM Suites to create dynamic solutions with rich data sets to enable complete organization change and optimization.