What is business process management, and why do I need BPM software?
- What is business process management?
- How does process management help my business?
- Human-centric BPM
- Why is collaboration so essential to delivering value?
- What is business process management software?
- How can BPM software help support collaborative process improvement?
- What are the types of business process management software?
- Simplified workflow
- Full business process management
- Custom application software
- 5 ways BPM software delivers value for your business
- Next steps
What is business process management?
Business process management (BPM) is a way of breaking down business processes into their most basic elements: the tasks and activities a business carries out. BPM shows, clearly and transparently, how a product or service transforms as it moves through an organization's process sequence, often in near real-time.
Once a business clearly understands how it produces its value/products, it can strategically optimize its process framework. By enhancing the framework, it becomes easier to identify opportunities for improvement and automation to generate higher value and sustainable growth continuously. Boosting transparency, communication, and engagement across any organization is at the core of BPM. The ultimate result is to optimize performance as well as profits, as key business goals and indicators of success are built into the discipline.
Business process management can be implemented across any industry or process, from back-office business processes like order-to-cash and procure-to-pay, to customer-centric business processes like customer journey mapping. Whatever the context or vertical, the purpose of business process management remains the same: taking inputs and effectively creating higher-value outputs.
How does process management help my business?
To expand on this point, we can examine the general principle behind business processes in whatever context or industry, both manual and automated. At the most basic level, inputs enter a process, move through a series of activities, and exit the process as an output. The higher the value of the output, the more successfully an organization can differentiate itself and compete in the market. This holds true whether it is a good or service, or something more qualitative like customer experience.
In other words, processes are a means of transformation. The faster and more efficiently these transformations occur, the quicker and more efficient the business is overall. In turn, this means the company can move faster and more efficiently to creating value. Showing how a business creates this value, monitoring the quality of that value, and actively seeking out opportunities to increase it while reducing waste/costs/risk is, after all, the goal of any business. Business process management empowers organizations to manage business processes better, and undertake these value-adding transformations more effectively.
As a discipline, business process management is now undeniably a well-established aspect of any modern, successful company’s operational strategy for the digital age. For example, process management played a major role in supporting businesses worldwide to understand the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was also fundamental to how organizations adapted and reoriented vital business functions (and related business processes) in response.
Yet, although the end-to-end benefits of process management are clear, getting there can sometimes prove challenging. To reflect the new ways of working in an increasingly geographically-distributed, digital-first world, we need to improve classic BPM initiatives by harnessing as much value as possible from the people who use business processes every day - the workers in an organization.
In many cases, classical process improvement approaches can lead to change-averse attitudes among employees. This is where modern technology enablers, such as cloud-based computing, SaaS, social software, and data analysis, can come into play. (According to McKinsey, the shift from on-premise to cloud-based data platforms is "probably the most disruptive driver of a radically new data-architecture approach, as it offers companies a way to rapidly scale AI tools and capabilities for competitive advantage."
Demonstrating how no-code or low-code business process management tools can simplify workflow management, speed up process automation, and streamline repetitive or duplicated sub-processes is a very effective way to bring reluctant colleagues on board. Experiencing role-based solutions to the specific problems they face day-to-day, works as a method to shift individuals' thinking towards a more experimental attitude on how to automate and improve business processes.
Why is collaboration so essential to delivering value?
In short, any BPM solution needs to be collaborative and inclusive. The value of collaborative BPM is undoubtedly not a new concept. However, many BPM initiatives start with the best of intentions, but rapidly begin to stagnate when the project becomes the exclusive domain of highly-trained process experts working in isolation. For BPM to reflect the world as we find it, particularly with the rise of remote work, process initiatives need to expand their focus away from process design and into a more human-centric approach.
In this formulation, adopting process thinking across departments and throughout your team is more important than attaining perfection in your business processes and workflow design. Tapping into the wealth of knowledge and experience already available to you within your workforce is the real key to achieving success. The best way to win people over to a new, targeted, and compliant approach is to involve them in creating the solution.
What is business process management software?
Business process management software, also called a BPM software, BPM platform or BPM tools, is any piece of software that supports an organization to manage its business processes.
As an example, it is possible to use basic Microsoft-based business applications like Excel and PowerPoint for process management and modeling. However, there are significant drawbacks to this approach. These are roughly the same as mapping your business processes using pen and paper: it is time-consuming, labor-intensive, and not especially feature-rich.
Modeling business processes without the benefit of specific BPM tools lacks consistency across functional units or business areas within an organization. It is also difficult to automate business processes using such basic tools. For these reasons, it is impossible to scale up this 'low-tech' version of business process management to meet the needs of large businesses, or even mid-sized organizations.
Of course, business process management software is not simply about drawing workflow diagrams and process maps. BPM software supports the whole process of business process management and continuous improvement, to boost an organization's responsiveness and flexibility in uncertain times. It allows organizations to optimize and streamline the way they manage their processes and improvement initiatives, while also determining opportunities for current and future process automation. In short, BPM software works by providing the tools and insights necessary for companies to 'do what they do, just better'.
How can BPM software help support collaborative process improvement?
The right business process management software provides leadership teams, process owners, process modelers, and business users with a non-technical but process-based way of amplifying the benefits of process optimization and digital transformation. This applies not only across process groups, functional units, and business areas, but also entire organizations. BPM software significantly lowers the barriers to increasing process performance, compliance, and seizing opportunities for automation, not to mention innovation.
Process stakeholders are the most capable of recognizing bottlenecks and issues in the processes they carry out daily, including which elements would be most useful to automate. Unfortunately, a lack of communication and engagement is often cited as a major reason that business process management, process automation, and digital transformation initiatives fail.
Communication is vital to ensure staff understand 'what’s in it for me?' and support any business process management initiative. It's also crucial to build an environment where staff feel comfortable providing feedback and suggestions on how to improve a particular workflow, or an organization's processes more generally.
When it comes to BPM software, any BPM tools must be able to facilitate this two-way communication. User satisfaction in this context comes from a combination of stakeholders being able to contribute their valuable organizational knowledge, and have their feedback listened to and acted on. BPM software allows you to capitalize on your greatest resource (your people) and facilitate communication and buy-in throughout your business.
What are the types of business process management software?
It is rarely the case that one size fits all when it comes to digital transformation, process automation, and management software in general. Some organizations want a product they can implement out-of-the-box. Some are happy with a BPM solution that prioritizes project management. Still, others are more interested in the possibilities of process mining or other features intended to support decision-making. As such, there are three broad categories into which most business process management software falls.
This is a lightweight workflow platform that executes a simple process model with a standard user interface and basic integration capabilities. A workflow tool lets you specify a repeatable process, then execute multiple ongoing cases of that process. Instead of using a spreadsheet to enter information, you define forms in a web-based interface. Instead of entering status information manually, automation means a completed task updates the workflow status without additional human effort, and even records dates in a timeline.
Workflows often require integration with other systems, typically to fetch information. This might include automatically finding the serial number of a product based on a product catalog, or sending notifications to an external system, as when updating an inventory management system when a product is shipped. Some of these functions can even be replicated using open-source management software.
The benefit of a simple workflow tool is primarily increased automation. Specifying your processes means that the workflow software can do more work for you by structuring information, presenting it more clearly in the context of individual cases, and handling details like notifications, access permissions, and integration. The simplification that makes workflow software easy-to-use means, however, that process model diagrams only support the most commonly-used features of the standard Business Process Model & Notation (BPMN) language, which can be a limitation for some businesses.
Full business process management
A heavy-duty business process management system (BPMS) avoids the limitations of simpler software. For example, it may support all of BPMN, and provide more options to customize, automate, and integrate systems in real-time. A BPMS usually has more workflow management and reporting functionality, to support the ‘management’ part of BPM. Similarly, an ‘intelligent BPMS’ (iBPMS) adds data analytics support, most likely including some form of process mining as well.
The benefit of a heavy-duty BPMS is that this software category aims to support all of the features that you require, and gives you far more flexibility in how you automate processes. The clear disadvantage of these additional capabilities is far higher costs in several areas:
- Software licenses are often very expensive;
- Extensive consultancy for customization and integration;
- Software maintenance and support;
- Infrastructure to run the software in-house;
- Training to ensure that people can actually use the software.
Custom application software
Finally, custom software development makes everything possible, provided that you have access to a good software development team. A software team can either build business process software from scratch, by hard-coding the process in its application logic, or use an embedded process engine as part of a developer-centric BPM platform. Compared to simplified workflow, custom software has similar benefits and disadvantages as a BPMS, namely high flexibility and high costs. The choice between the two is often a philosophical or cultural consideration as much as anything else.
No matter which option you ultimately choose for your business, BPM tools to manage tasks like workflow and process automation must be built-in. A 'BPM suite' approach means you can go beyond modeling to embrace business process management, not merely as a task to carry out, but the way you work. Driving operational processes in a target-driven and measurable way, as well as remaining alert to opportunities to automate tasks, then becomes a matter of course.
5 ways BPM software delivers value for your business
The demands placed on business process management software can be high. Software should enable decentralized process documentation, be compatible with unique IT infrastructure, and be user-friendly enough for inexpert end-users. For most businesses, it needs to be code-free, while also interacting seamlessly with third-party systems. It has to offer drag-and-drop functionality with pre-built process models, while also being powerful and adaptable enough to create custom solutions. All this, plus it has to support higher and higher levels of business process automation!
You would think these demands would be too much! Not so. The right business process management software, implemented in the right way, can meet and exceed the demands of any business. That's because BPM software is specifically designed to support a continuous improvement process, creating an enterprise-wide positive feedback loop. This loop, made up of analysis, design, transformation/action, and monitoring/measurement, drives the ongoing efficiency and evolution of your business.
Breaking it down even further, BPM software delivers value for your business in five ways. An effective 'BPM suite' software solution will:
- Amplify the impact of your BPM efforts, resulting in more effective implementation, and a larger share of benefits;
- Centralize process creation, analysis, and sharing in one center of knowledge;
- Support collaboration and interaction on process management and optimization, meaning a quicker time-to-value for improvements;
- Take over repetitive and mundane tasks, allowing your staff to focus on value-adding efforts like customer and service-oriented activities, or how to optimize particular processes;
- Help identify opportunities to automate workflow elements, saving you time and money.
BPM software solutions work best when they offer multiple BPM tools -- like the SAP Signavio Process Transformation Suite.
The Suite offers you an integrated cloud-based solution to mine, model, analyze, optimize, and execute your processes... all at the accelerated speed of insights.
Combining efficient workflow management (Signavio Process Governance), powerful process mining (SAP Signavio Process Intelligence), and robust process modeling (SAP Signavio Process Manager), the SAP Signavio Process Transformation Suite is a powerful all-in-one platform. At the same time, the SAP Signavio Collaboration Hub supports real-time collaboration across business areas and teams, helping develop a model-driven and process-aware mindset within your organization. As a web-based rather than an on-premise solution, the Suite has the flexibility and capacity to drive sustainable, intelligent business transformation for your business.
For an agile, industry-leading approach to process management, with team collaboration and communication at its core, look no further than the SAP Signavio Process Transformation Suite.
If you're looking to move beyond project management software, you're keen to have exceptional collaboration tools at your fingertips, and you know automation is part of your company's future -- the SAP Signavio Process Transformation Suite could be the solution you need. To find out, sign up for a 30-day free trial.