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While the vision of business process management or BPM is not new, existing theories and systems have not been able to cope with the reality of business processes - until now.

Analysts report that BPM may provide the greatest return on investment of any software category on the market today. BPM gives companies the ability to cut operational costs at a time when the economic downturn makes it increasingly difficult to boost revenues.

BPM is not just another form of automation, a new killer-app or a fashionable new management theory. It's all about discovering what your company does by explicitly defining and digitizing its business processes, and then managing the lifecycle of improvement and optimization in a way that translates directly to live operations.

Ovum Research defines BPM as “The identification, comprehension and management of business processes that interact with people and systems, both between and across organizations.” Ovum points out that BPM is quickly becoming one of the hottest topics in business and IT - and for good reason - for BPM is being driven by economics, not by the IT industry. BPM is for business people, enabling them to gain control of the design, implementation and optimization of their business processes.

Every day, in every company, someone is challenging the long-held assumption that business processes, and the various automation systems on which they depend, must be cast in stone - impossible to understand and modify without wholesale reengineering and replacement. Many companies are trying to break out of that restrictive situation by implementing a host of point solutions - piecemeal ways of exposing, integrating, transforming and connecting disjointed processes, information and machines. Their intentions are good, but only rarely do they achieve long-term, meaningful results - a system not just built to last, but to adapt. The truth is that there are simply not enough analysts and programmers on the planet, let alone working for any one company, to satisfy the ever-expanding demand for adaptable business processes.

Still, in the course of undertaking these individual process fixes, these companies are gradually creating an overwhelming demand for something new, something we call the third wave of BPM. At the moment, many companies are completely unaware or skeptical that anything but piecemeal solutions exist. Whatever a company believes now, however, the third wave of BPM is inevitable, for when complexity mounts and eventually becomes unmanageable, it’s time for action.


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