BPM, or business process management, is both a technology and methodology. It's also a very mature discipline — and one that has become increasingly relevant as more and more companies embark on digital transformation and customer experience projects.

The methodology, at its most basic, consists of documenting a process and then bringing together stakeholders to validate that process and identify gaps for process improvement, said Ben Alexander, VP of Product at PMG, “In the software environment, the creating and modeling of a process visually starts the activities around improvement, and then software is used to measure and look for improvement areas,” he said. “Leveraging automation and integration drives more value around the process.”

The Components Of A Typical Suite

Miguel Valdes Faura, CEO and co-founder of Bonitasoft said that a typical BPM suite will include the following features.

  • A means to create user interfaces (web and device-responsive forms, user portals, dashboards to track KPIs and system/technical status, etc) that allow users to interact with the process
  • A design studio to graphically design the back-end of the process with a type of flow diagram
  • An engine to control the process step-by-step, and which uses APIs to connect to other information systems and external technology
  • Tools and frameworks for DevOps, including continuous integration, unit testing and provisioning

These elements can be more or less sophisticated, Faura said — and the more sophisticated the BPM suite, the more it can be customized and adapted to specific business needs. “Simpler suites might offer generic templates for common processes,” he offered as an example.

Related Article: Enterprise Content Management & Business Process Management in the Cloud

BPM Gets Smarter

Traditionally BPM — both the methodology and the software — has been about automating manual processes, said Phil Simpson, JBoss Product Marketing Manager at Red Hat. “It initially gained a foothold as a way to make organizations more efficient, to replace paper-based processes with electronic processes that automatically routed work among all the workers that are engaged in a process.” That was BPM’s role in the tech ecosystem for decades.

Learning Opportunities

More recently, Simpson said, BPM has gotten a little more intelligent, a bit more capable of making decisions on behalf of the organization via sophisticated rules engines. Its use has also shifted away from a focus on efficiency and cost control and towards digital transformation projects, he continued. “It is now very much about creating an experience for the customer — that is, exposing back office functions directly to the customer to facilitate a transaction, for example.”

Its Compliments Newer Digital Transformation Technologies

BPM is also highly complementary to emerging technologies such as robotic process automation (RPA), Simpson said. “BPM is typically involved in automating end to end processes, while RPA is automating individual workflows within a larger process. So they go extremely well together.”

Related Article: Answers to Your Robotic Process Automation vs. Traditional Automation Questions

Why Are Companies Implementing BPM Today? 

New technologies, such as RPA and projects such as digitalization are clearly huge drivers behind BPM project implementations these days, said Holly Lyke-Ho-Gland, principal research lead for Process and Performance Management at APQC. But there are more fundamental factors at play as well, she said. Companies still want efficiencies (the original reason for BPM’s arrival on the tech scene). 

Today that means intelligent automation that helps workers execute a process that is more sustainable, she said. Another important reason is the desire for better data management, Lyke-Ho-Gland said. “BPM outlines our work processes and to create that framework an organization needs to understand how all these pieces go together. You can’t automate something you don’t understand.”