When Is BPM Not BPM?: Business Processes and Workflow are More than Buzzwords

Part of every day at BP Logix is spent with our customers; learning how they use Process Director, understanding their issues — and listening to their (business) realities. When we started our company, paying attention to the customer was one of our core principles. To this day, understanding what drives them — and figuring out how to help them address their needs — forms the basis of our mission.

One of the things we have gained from our customer relationships is the ability to hold a mirror up to ourselves — and to hear how we describe what we do. We have heard from many customers and prospects that they do not necessarily think of what they are doing as ‘business process management (BPM)’ but, rather, as a way to facilitate how they ‘do’ business. In other words, they are (or were) not seeking a BPM solution per se. They wanted a way to improve workflow, enhance communications and increase transactions, both internally and outside the enterprise. Some equated that to BPM. Others describe what they are doing: developing smart forms with workflows, streamlining and automating their business processes. They don’t call (or care to call) that BPM. They say they are doing workflows or electronic forms or, simply, automation.

It is fair to say that BPM, both as a concept and term, may not be sufficient to explain what enterprises are trying to accomplish. Although some people have said that BPM is dead — or even less-than-relevant —we would not say that. Rather, we might suggest that the way BPM is being talked about may be outdated. And that fault lies with the vendors.

In reviewing today’s BPM software and product offerings, we know that most vendors are focused on selling a packaged solution that addresses a set of either vertical processes— or focuses on things that BPM case management software can deliver, perhaps workflows around SharePoint or another narrowly-defined target. What is needed is a new way of thinking about, talking about and using BPM.

BPM as a term implies that data, activities and participants need active management. At one time, that was very true— but with the onset of embedded social capabilities, cloud access, and data available through mobile devices and through the Internet of Things (IoT), the action of “process management” is now shared among any stakeholders who are involved in a business outcome.

Because of its expanding use and availability, the concept of BPM needs to be turned on its head —so that everything that happens in pursuit of a desired goal is included. The creation, governance, analysis and adaptation of business processes is not relegated to a piece of software alone. Far from it! Business processes are those things that support what the business is trying to achieve — and rely on the tools available to accomplish that goal.

No business can operate without a foundation of sound, yet flexible, business processes. Part of that flexibility comes from being able to do more things with processes that might have been previously intended for more narrow purposes. Take, for example, an experience from the world of retail. Imagine a marketing process intended to deliver email notifications to customers about upcoming sales. While that may appear to be relatively simple, underneath that activity are a series of connected processes that include pulling data from a user database, engaging writers, involving the graphics department, and scheduling the mailing on a calendar. The end result is more contact with customers— contact that is the result of connecting processes and workflows that ultimately involve partnering with stakeholders.

Increasingly users are accessing their ‘environment’ through mobile devices and social channels. BPM can deliver that access where and how they work and live. What separates BPM from many other enterprise apps is that it is supported and improved as a result of bringing the business process and workflow to wherever the user can best make use of it. This level of access enables people to be more responsive. For people and companies driving results, the ability to adapt and modify, review and approve in real-time, improves decision-making and keeps things moving forward. That is what it’s all about.

Is BPM dead? Is it outdated? At BP Logix, we prefer to look at a different question: how can businesses be improved as a result of better processes and workflows? If you want to call that BPM, or process management, or workflow-enabled processes, that’s fine with us. Our purpose will not change. We intend to help customers achieve their outcomes using our tools and insights to help them create the next chapters of their business stories.

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