One of the great things about BPM is its ability to connect the 500-pound gorillas of the IT software portfolio, such ERP, HRIS, and CRM, to the mundane processes that form the heart of a typical employee's workday. Take travel expense reports, for example. A typical trip report might leverage data from within each of the above-mentioned systems. The HRIS can tell us who has to approve the report, the ERP system will have an entry for the budget against which the trip is to be charged, and the CRM database will contain information about the customer that was visited during the trip.
Without BPM, organizations may go about solving this challenge by writing their own scripts, creating database views that mirror the information available in the suites, and setting up web interfaces giving users access to those elements. Unfortunately, these efforts often produce an unstable platform on which to support vital business processes. The scripts begin their march towards obsolescence the moment they are released. The database views make a mockery of data governance. And perhaps worst of all, the web pages join the dozens of other such sites on the corporate intranet, each with its own distinctive look and feel, creating a training and auditing nightmare.
Pulling multiple data from multiple sources into a single process, often onto a single form, is therefore a key raison d'être for BPM. While many large software suites provide some workflow-like functionality, the real nitty-gritty of everyday business processes demand much more than those packages alone can offer. As we've seen, business processes have to pull together data from a variety of sources in order to be useful. But most big-ticket suites act as though they contain all the data a business will ever need: easy integration with other data sources is simply beyond their scope.
"Hey," I hear the CIOs among you asking, "are you telling us that we need yet another expensive software suite to overcome the shortcomings in the big packages we already own?" I'll answer that question next time.