As industry analysts and vendors gather around the acronym “BPM,” for Business Process Management, an understanding is emerging that using of BPM software leads to more productivity and lower operating costs. Sound familiar? It ought to – these are the same benefits that have been touted by vendors of enterprise application integration (EAI), enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), and virtually every other enterprise software system. Of course, these enterprise applications have not always lived up to expectations, so how can end-users be sure that BPM will truly deliver higher productivity and lower costs?
For starters, BPM technology is partly comprised of existing, proven concepts and technologies, such as workflow and integration. In addition, BPM is delivering tangible benefits today, whereas it often took a long sales cycle and implementation period before companies began seeing benefits from other enterprise technologies in their early stages.
Once the layers of the BPM onion are peeled back, end-users can have a difficult time assessing which offering is most suitable for their needs. Besides customer and analyst recommendations, one suggestion is to determine which vendor’s technology is advanced enough to make process automation simple.
Business Rules – The Brains of BPM
Almost by definition, organizational processes require rules to determine what, when, where and why the processes will be developed, implemented, modified, measured and, of course, who will determine them. The people involved in a process may change, but their roles are consistent, thanks to the rules that dictate the path the process should take (the ‘how’). For instance, rules associated with a purchase order (PO) process can be created so that POs can be generated at all organizational levels. Approvals, however, are contingent upon varying conditions, such as a requirement for a signature from a senior staff member if the dollar amount is above a certain threshold. Applying these rules, the ability to specialize them, and the ease and agility involved in changing them – by business users, not just by the IT department – are key differentiating factors in the BPM solutions on the market today.
True BPM solutions need to go beyond the generic rules associated with departmental, document-centric processing; such traditional workflow solutions merely receive and route work around the organization, and perhaps report on it. Real BPM is more inclusive than EAI’s system-to-system rules associated with movement of data. For BPM solutions to be effective, they must have rules superimposed over the applications so that as processes begin, advance and conclude, any associated process is carried out, too. That includes anything from receiving, routing and reporting, to research, respond and resolve.