What is Business Process Management (BPM)?

September 21, 2023

Whether you are a small start-up or a large corporation, chances are you are in contact with business processes on a daily basis. In its fundamental form, a business process is a series of steps performed by a group of stakeholders to achieve a business goal or objective. From human resources and accounting to manufacturing, across an organisation, every department enforces a flow of events engaging multiple team members to produce an outcome. These steps are often repeated many times by multiple users in a standardised and optimised way. It is the backbone of an organisation.

From business processes to BPM

Each business process can be represented as a workflow of logical steps. Business Process Management (BPM) is the discipline of improving a business process from end to end by analysing it, modelling how it works in different scenarios, executing improvements, monitoring the improved process and continually optimising it. BPM is not a static mechanism, it is an evolving technical organism that requires continuous re-engineering to meet the demands for higher efficiency and lower operational costs.

Clearly, this is a broad definition encompassing a multitude of business activities hence why there is often confusion about how the term applies to specific industries. The simple answer is that BPM applies to all industries and activities.

Ford as an example of BPM

Let’s take for instance the automobile industry. Prior to 1913, cars were a luxury commodity exclusively custom produced for the top-tier of the population. This was due to the inefficiency in the production of cars leading to their high costs and the (for most people) unattainable price tags. In 1913 Henry Ford introduced moving assembly belts into plants producing “Model T” cars in order to increase efficiency. By 1916, the car cost less than half of what its price had been in 1908.

The modern consumer-driven society has forced businesses across all sectors to improve the quality of their products and services, increasing how fast a service or product can be delivered while reducing costs. This has led to the majority of Fortune 500 companies implementing BPM tools by the late 1990s.

The emergence of the BPM tool

Moving past the history lesson and fast-forwarding to today's hyper-digital business environment, automation is the new buzzword. A large array of applications have been developed to organise and automate business processes, thus relieving employees from mundane and highly repetitive tasks.

So how do BPM tools work and what do they achieve?

BPM software tools help companies map out their everyday processes to:

  • Identify and eliminate bottlenecks.
  • Control the company’s costs.
  • Make day-to-day processes as efficient as possible.
  • Adapt to organisational changes.
  • Ensure the effectiveness of the people involved in the processes.

In order to improve business processes, it is essential to be able to track and manage them. BPM software allows companies to do just that. As a result, BPM manages the entire life cycle of business processes. It allows teams to model, automate, manage, and optimise their business processes in order to track and report on key business functions, as well as to continuously evaluate and improve the processes.

This is certainly an attractive promise that is sold to companies wanting to stay afloat in today's demanding business environment by digitising their workflows. These same companies then end up in a vicious cycle of unanswered questions and decision fatigue when choosing the right tool, only to revert back their old and inefficient manual processes.

Our aim here is to break the cycle by answering some fundamental questions about BPM.

How does a BPM actually work at the core?

The optimal BMP tool is a low-code or no-code software which is made available to the company as an out-of-the-box solution.

A good BPM tool does not require programming to create even the most complex business process models. It should incorporate a graphical notation for describing business processes and be easy to understand for business analysts and at the executive level.

These business process models show how your processes and activities associate with one another. By simply dragging and dropping elements into a model and connecting them according to the business process logic anyone can create a digital workflow. Once the process model is created, it is then necessary to specify the data used inside the business process and set process activities.

Business process modelling ends with process publication. At that moment, a BPM tool turns a business process diagram into an executable BPM app which can be run in a web application.

Does a company require a whole new department to manage a BPM tool?

Absolutely not! One of the core aims of an effective BPM tool is to make it as user-friendly for an HR associate as it is for an IT specialist. Some familiarisation with the tool user guide and a half-day of training should be sufficient enough to equip any user with the capacity to model processes.

How easy is it to implement process improvements?

An effective BPM tool will have integrated ‘heat’ maps, showing which tasks are stalling the workflow. As a user working with the processes, you may find ways of making a process more efficient. For instance, an HR team finds that the leave approval process slows down at the final approval phase of the workflow, due to the key personnel responsible being on maternity leave. The HR team then chooses to reroute the final approval task to another member of the personnel.

With a BPM tool, you can change processes in the running system with no programming or server stoppage required, and apply changes instantly. You can evaluate how effective the applied changes are, as soon as the process is complete.

Are there any questions that we haven’t answered? Let us know!

Let’s work towards a WYZER and more digitised working world together.

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