What is Business Process Management?

Our complete guide to BPM. 

Business Process Management (BPM) is an invaluable discipline to organizations of different sizes, industries, and missions; business processes play a vital role in the functionality and success of operations at every level. Those same processes can result in bottlenecks if not carefully maintained, evaluated, and optimized.

The importance of BPM has come clearly into focus over the last few years due to the necessity of digital transformation, which has caused organizations to reevaluate their workflows and shift toward end-to-end process orchestration. But, while organizations are dependent on business processes, not all are aware of how a systemic BPM strategy can create distinct competitive advantages.

  • Implementing BPM boosts the success rate of projects by 70%.
  • 46% of employers saw an increase in productivity when they automated manual processes.
  • 36% of organizations are already implementing BPM software to automate workflows.
  • 80% of the respondents felt an increase in competitive advantage and claimed that BPM’s value was higher than ERP, CRM, and SCM.

This guide is intended to serve as a resource for all things BPM, and will include: definitions of terms, information on BPM systems and software, and the variety of tools required for the implementation of a comprehensive BPM strategy.

What is Business Process Management?

Business Process Management is a systemic approach for capturing, designing, executing, documenting, measuring, monitoring, and controlling both automated and non-automated processes to meet the objectives and business strategies of a company. BPM embraces the conscious, comprehensive, and increasingly technology-enabled definition, improvement, innovation, and maintenance of end-to-end processes.

Through BPM, processes can be aligned with business strategy, and so help to improve company performance as a whole thanks to the optimization of processes within business divisions.

Business Process Management (BPM), process automation, and business process automation

Business Process Management (BPM) and Business Process Automation (BPA) are related but separate terms. While BPM has already been defined in this guide, it is helpful to also provide a definition for BPA.

Process automation is the automatic orchestration of business processes via a workflow engine. It is a key component of digital transformation. Process automation reduces cost and resource requirements, thereby improving productivity and efficiency and ultimately customer experience. Crucially, process automation platforms can coordinate a variety of endpoints such as people, services or devices to support repeatable business processes. Additional benefits include standardization of processes and the creation of an audit trail, therefore increasing security and compliance. Best-in-breed platforms use cutting-edge technology to ensure the high availability, security, and fast throughput that modern businesses need to compete in this digital-first world.

Business Process Automation can be defined as the technology-enabled automation of activities or services that accomplish a specific function or workflow. However, BPA should not be used as a name for a specific discipline, let alone a specific technology. It is simply the practice of running and improving a company: looking at a business as it’s executed every day – in processes – and trying to automate it.

So, while BPA can generally be described as an organization’s efforts to replace manual processes with automation, BPM is an organizational discipline in which a company evaluates and analyzes its business processes to introduce automation that aligns with business strategies. In most cases, BPA is vital to a successful BPM strategy.

How do organizations benefit from Business Process Management?

Some of the most common ways BPM benefits organizations are as follows:

Operating efficiency

An essential part of a comprehensive BPM strategy is documenting and measuring the effectiveness and efficiency of processes. In identifying bottlenecks or inefficiencies within processes, it becomes clear how resources could be better utilized. By automating processes that once required manual input or supervision, for example, processes can be streamlined and made more efficient.

Compliance and error reduction

Ensuring processes are completed as they are intended is invaluable to accuracy. BPM ensures that processes meet established parameters before completing. For organizations working in regulated environments, BPM’s value may be mission critical.

Increased productivity

Increased productivity is at the heart of BPM. Finding ways to improve productivity is key to an organization’s ability to grow sustainably and maximize efficiency. Three main ways that BPM leads to increased productivity are:

  • Optimizing the use of resources
  • Extending process transparency
  • Enabling better collaboration between systems, humans, and process

Move toward digital transformation

Digital transformation is essential to business survival. Organizations are moving to modern architectures, incorporating the cloud, microservices, and mobile applications while fixing short-term bottlenecks using robotic process automation (RPA) or automating human tasks. BPM and process automation have emerged as vital components for any digital transformation, powering innovation across a company.

Agile organization

BPM can help an organization operate in a more agile way by making it faster and easier to update business processes in response to changes in the competitive landscape or new regulatory requirements. BPM facilitates collaboration between IT and the business, making the whole organization more adaptable and ultimately leading to better customer experiences. Dysfunctional relationships between IT and organizations can lead to inferior customer experience and an inability to adapt; BPM addresses those issues.

Processes that can be improved by BPM

Virtually any business process may be improved by effective Business Process Management practices. So many of the processes that workers repeatedly employ to accomplish their tasks may be either informally documented or not documented at all. Those processes that are critical to either an organization’s efficient operation or its goals and desired outcomes are the processes that should be prioritized.

BPM works across disciplines, helping organizations in every sector reach new milestones in their digital transformation initiatives. BPM helps solve the common challenges that are frequently experienced in certain industries, including:

  • Financial services, which faces an ever changing regulatory landscape.
  • Insurance, where the competitive landscape demands frictionless customer experiences.
  • Telecommunications, where established companies face intense pressure from new, disruptive providers.
  • Media and entertainment, where revenue and content delivery models are constantly evolving, and
  • Public sector, which strives to meet citizen expectations for digitization and modernization.

The components of a successful Business Process Management strategy

The systemic approach that is BPM relies on tools and technology. Camunda process orchestration software, for example, enables some of the most competitive organizations around the world to orchestrate and automate complex processes in a new way. A way that allows them to overcome boundaries and lay the foundation for a new digital enterprise.

A complete, end-to-end business process often requires manual work to be combined with automated steps in a unified workflow.

Here, we will explore approaches that support successful BPM, including Business Process Modeling and Notation (BPMN) and Decision Modeling Notation (DMN).

Business Process Modeling and Notation (BPMN)

Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) is the global standard for process modeling and one of the most important components of successful business-IT alignment. BPMN is a graphical process notation and representation standard, a visual language, that is used to model and automate processes. Since its introduction in 2004, it has become a widely adopted standard in the business process modeling community. BPMN is designed to combine ease of use with support for complex processes and process logic and also facilitates collaboration between business users and IT teams.

BPMN supports the technical implementation of processes. As organizations lean into digital transformation, BPMN is a powerful asset. Learn more about BPMN and see examples.

example BPMN workflow

Decision Modeling Notation (DMN)

DMN is a standard language to describe and model repeatable business decisions. DMN is designed to be easily applied and read by both business users and IT teams, facilitating collaboration around decision management and business rules. While DMN can be used by itself, it is often used to complement BPMN to fully automate a business process, including decisions that have to be calculated according to business rules.

In DMN, decisions can be modeled and executed using the same language. Business analysts can model the rules that lead to a decision in easy-to-read tables (see example below), and those tables can be executed directly by a decision engine (like Camunda).

A decision in the DMN sense means deriving a result (output) from given facts (inputs) on the basis of defined logic (decision logic). Unlike BPMN, DMN is not about activities or processes.

The value of DMN peaks when modeled decisions are executed by a compatible decision engine. Camunda allows you to both model and execute models in BPMN as well as DMN.

Explore DMN tutorials.

example DMN decision table

Microservices orchestration

Microservices are a type of application architecture in which an application is composed of small, independent services that communicate over well-defined APIs. Each service is owned by a development team that is responsible for the service’s design and implementation.

Using a microservices architecture allows teams to be more innovative and agile, developing and releasing new features more quickly.

For example, imagine that you have a fulfillment process for online orders of digital goods. It requires microservices such as payment, inventory, shipping, and so on. The team that owns each microservice is responsible for the technical implementation of the business logic.

Although each microservice operates independently, the order fulfillment process requires a logical chain of events. This is typical of end-to-end business processes; they stretch across multiple individual microservices that must communicate and collaborate to achieve a business outcome. A BPM workflow engine can manage the flow of a business process across microservices by visualizing, operating, and reporting on the process.

Best practices for implementing BPM

It is always recommended to introduce BPM in steps. Each step should yield a practical measurable benefit that justifies the time and effort that it took to accomplish. Once the justification of the first step is established, take the next step. You may think that this approach produces solutions that are isolated from one another, but what we mean to emphasize here is the controlled nature of the approach. Each step contributes to the big picture: the company’s process orientation.

Start by establishing the team that will lead the effort. Process automation is part of a larger IT modernization effort. Depending on the size of the company, the migration process may either be handled by an Automation Center of Excellence or a team of IT stakeholders, such as an enterprise architect and a small team of developers. Either way, it’s critical for a focused team to drive the migration process, ideally by starting small with a proof of concept (PoC). From there, this team’s role is to equip the larger development team to use BPM, help collaborate with line-of-business leaders, and enable relevant teams with training, documentation, and support.

A PoC is often a good step to check if the process automation methodology, the standards of BPMN and DMN, as well as the Camunda technology suit your needs. It is vital for a proof of concept to make up your mind about your goals, to select a suitable process, and to prepare it and carry it out properly.

Learn more about Camunda.

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