Optimized process make for an optimized business. Makes sense, right? But Optimization’s powerful foe is the Status Quo, which relies on inertia and a “well, we’ve always done it this way” attitude” to halt change and stifle innovation. In today’s competitive and fast-moving environment, however, businesses can’t afford to hesitate or lag behind in adapting to the marketplace.
Business Process Management (BPM) is a discipline that involves the design, analysis, monitoring, and control of these processes. With BPM, processes can become more transparent and therefore easier to monitor, which in turn helps to identify and correct any bottlenecks or problems. With BPM, the time and effort required to make necessary process modifications can be minimized. In addition, optimized business processes can help efficient and effective utilization of resources resulting in improved performance.
Implementing a Business Process Management Suite
The easiest way to improve process performance is to leverage best-in-class technology and automate it as much as you can. Typically, CRM and ERP applications have workflows to manage some processes or portions of process. However, these often operate within the bounds of the application and are confined to business functions such as sales, manufacturing, finance, etc. They do not span multiple applications or departmental boundaries, and can therefore disrupt the business as a whole through fragmented data or disparate operations. Traditional methods to bridge these gaps often result in a clumsy mix of manual steps, isolated tools, or applications that can be cumbersome to manage and control. However, a new breed of software has evolved in order to correct precisely these problems and allow companies to integrate their processes quicker and more efficiently, known (most uncreatively) as a Business Process Management Suite.
Essentially, a BPM Suite is a toolbox that helps business to:
- Design: provides graphical modeling tools to visually layout steps and flow of a business process.
- Execute: provides a process orchestration engine to execute modeled processes. Short as well as long running processes are supported, ranging from a few minutes to days or more.
- Monitor: captures and screens processed data points. This enables oversight of process health, metrics, audit trail, etc.
- Analyze: measures the efficiency of the process, areas for improvement, and any potential bottle-necks. It is also possible to run simulations on a business process using mock data, which allows you to test and analyze changes to or variations of a business process without actually implementing them.
- Integrate: provides connectivity to databases using standard mechanisms such as JDBC and to other applications through integration technologies such as SOAP or REST. Out-of-the-box integration with popular commercial off-the-shelf software may also be available.
The primary benefit of BPM is that it facilitates collaboration between business and IT teams. The two can work together to design, implement, and improve business processes. This ensures better alignment between what business needs and IT delivery. Additionally, For organizations that have implemented Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), BPM is like the icing on the cake. BPM can leverage services to quickly build out business processes and ensure that benefits of SOA can be fully realized. And for organizations thinking about implementing SOA, BPM is a great enabler, as business users are more likely to understand and approve the business case for BPM than SOA.
Choosing the BPM Suite That’s Right for You
There are number of vendors with BPM products, including large enterprise software companies such as IBM, Oracle, Tibco, and Software AG. There are also pure-play companies like Pegasystems, Appian, and Aurea who have a BPM Suite as their flagship product. Each of these products has its strengths and weaknesses and so, as with any other software, it’s extremely important to choose the one that fits your needs best. Among other factors, it’s crucial to:
- Identify a few key processes that you would like to automate. Some products are better suited for certain types of processes than others.
- Identify other systems that may be involved in these processes.
- Analyze integration capabilities. Even though these products often provide drag-and-drop tools to build processes, you will need customizations and extensions in the long run.
- Select the proper technology stack. For instance, if your company largely runs on Java, you will likely be better off with a product allows customizations using Java, rather than a product that requires using .Net.
We recommend engaging a seasoned, trusted vendor to go through a system discovery and analysis process to get all of the information necessary to choose a BPM product. Once the product has been selected, start with a small, well-defined process- ideally, it should be one that can alleviate some pain-point and can clearly demonstrate measurable ROI. You’ll be amazed at the difference achieving a few quick wins with BPM can do for your business, your resources, and your bottom line.