What is business process management?

Business process management (BPM) is a discipline where businesses use various methods like software and expertise to improve, measure, optimize, and automate business process performance. It refers to the overall management of workflow processes. Business process management continuously improves processes and aligns functions that span business, IT systems, manual tasks, and information. 

It also creates value both from a business and IT perspective by removing fixed process logic from custom applications to grow business value of existing applications and solutions. It also automates and integrates mission-critical processes to increase business adaptability and cost performance. From a technical perspective, business process management reduces application size, complexity, and cost.

Process problems are inherent in today’s business environment. Defining a business process as “a structured, measured set of activities designed to produce a specific output” that can happen at all levels of an organization and may or may not be visible to customers, then think about all the different processes that a typical business has. From purchase order generation to customer acquisition to new hire onboarding to manufacturing a component to budgetary oversight, there could potentially be hundreds of processes happening in a business at any given time. And, as businesses grow, these processes only become more complex.

Even though every business is brimming with technology, that alone will not fix all of the potential issues that can arise with business processes. A human element needs to be taken into account. Often, there is no end-to-end visibility to a company’s business process that spans humans and systems. This leads to:

  • Replication of efforts and inefficient processes
  • Inefficient working environments
  • Lack of control over system and business events
  • Incomplete and inaccurate data flow between systems
  • Inconsistent prioritization

Business process management brings order to this chaos by providing control and visibility into processes to allow for quick implementation and process optimization.

Advanced case management

New market demands for achieving outcomes require new approaches like advanced case management. Up until recently, business processes were automated in a mass production way, much like a factory line. All of the processes and events that were required could be easily mapped out and were well-defined. But what about those instances that involve processes that are complex, have unpredictable outcomes, and require the participation of many different groups? That’s where advanced case management comes in.

Organizations no longer have to fit their dynamic processes into the constraints of a particular solution. Business processes are often dynamic and changing and can no longer be easily mapped out or fit into a structured process style. For instance, a customer complaint comes in and the customer unexpectedly emails several days later with more information or another request. Traditional BPM would not be able to deal with the “exception” of the additional information. However, advanced case management is designed for today’s constantly shifting environments. It brings together the people, processes, and documents to give users a full view of the situation so they can handle it appropriately. Having access to all of the information leads to better outcomes and better decision-making for businesses.

Intelligent business process management

As businesses are evolving, so is business process management. 20th-century businesses were focused on physical assets and supply chains, so methodologies such as Lean Six Sigma were born. One of the main points behind these extensive process exercises was to standardize a business’ process and avoid change and variance. Meanwhile, 21st-century businesses that are focused on information, knowledge workers, and intellectual property require processes that promote and encourage change and innovation. These are completely different processes that require completely different approaches.

In the past, the primary goal of business process management (BPM) implementations was operational efficiency, with secondary benefits of business transparency, agility, and regulatory compliance. Historically, business process platforms (BPM Platforms) focused on automation and efficiency.

Automating manual processes

The industry started 25 years ago and used workflows to automate the manual processes within an organization, eliminating paper-based work and introducing traceability, service level agreements, and consistency to an organization. Examples include account opening, mortgage origination, patient admission, and insurance underwriting.

Back office operations

Back office operations are almost purely about operational efficiency and cutting the cost and time to complete non-revenue generating work. Examples include order management, claim settlement, service provisioning, and warranty management.

Typically BPM technologies have been very successful in helping programs such as back-office optimization and industrialization. Business outcomes focus on four things:

  • Efficiency (do more with less)
  • Agility (change processes or rules without touching core business applications)
  • Compliance (avoid penalties for violations)
  • Transparency (improve traceability and justify outcomes)

As we move from the era of automation to the era of digitization, business process initiatives are now shifting away from work standardization and operational efficiency to supporting rapidly changing business goals, objectives, and nonstandard outcomes. To stay competitive in this new era of unprecedented change and data availability, organizations must innovate to reinvent their business value and offerings. This will require more than just automating their existing processes. Organizations need to access their underlying systems and processes so employees can turn data into insights and respond to customer needs in real time.

In other words, organizations must “digitalize” so they can rapidly change and provide instant awareness and accommodate instant actions in the new real-time business world. They must digitalize to take advantage of new disruptive technologies and trends like the Internet of Things, mobility, and acting on real-time business events.

Business process management use cases

Process documentation

Improve collaboration with business users, formalize processes, and operating procedures.

Process automation

Improve the effectiveness of processes. Flawless execution, Reduce costs, delays, errors, provide traceability of instances.

Work management and workforce optimization

Improve operational efficiency, distribute the workload between teams, monitor deadlines, and manage the prioritization of activities.

Digitalization and case management

Build enterprise low-code applications, customer-centric, collaborative, dynamic, less prescriptive, and mixed processes. Enable the knowledge worker and improve customer experiences.

Business Process Management Diagram