What Is Business Process Management (BPM)?

By Fan Bi

As companies age, workflows can develop inefficiencies, and processes may suffer from stagnation and isolation. These workflows can be anything from the way mail is sorted to how interactions between salespeople and customers are managed. Even small issues can have ramifications on operations throughout the company.

Business process management (BPM) is a way of improving these processes with high-level enterprise goals in mind. It melds observation, mapping, strategy, technology, and analysis into a cohesive solution that helps the company operate more effectively across multiple levels.

What Are the Basic Principles of Business Process Management?

BPM is a dedicated strategy for improving workflows and processes throughout an organization. It isn’t haphazard, with one business unit improving a process in isolation over here, while a completely separate one works on its own operations over there. BPM specifically aims to unify the optimization of company workflows, because every function affects most, if not all, of the others.

Because business environments and realities change so quickly, every unit in the organization must be prepared to adapt and respond, even in the face of uncertainty. By practicing BPM, you can empower your teams to work more efficiently in support of each other and for the benefit of the organization as a whole.

Breaking BPM Down into Component Parts

In order to understand business process management in depth, we need to explore the origins of the term itself. It isn’t an arbitrary collection of words; each word means something important, and they come together to form the crux of what BPM involves for organizations.

We may think we inherently understand what “business,” “process,” and “management” mean, but these terms are used so often that their definitions are often adapted to fit a variety of different uses. But BPM really is about the specific functions of those three terms working in harmony toward a specific purpose.

It’s tempting to say you are engaging in BPM simply by reviewing or improving one aspect of a process, but that doesn’t go far enough. BPM is an active undertaking, and it is always performed by agents of the company who are aware that they are participating.

Optimizing the Experience for Customers, Employees, and Shareholders

It makes sense to start at the beginning, so let’s examine the word “business.” Obviously, BPM exists to optimize the functions of a business, but what are those, exactly? A business doesn’t exist to make people money, employ people, or develop specific production methods. All of those things may be necessary in order for a business to function, but they aren’t its core purpose.

A business exists to provide something of value to a customer in return for another type of value. Therefore, business process management as a concept must relate to this overarching transfer of value between customer and company. Activities such as slashing costs, automating functions, or improving workforce productivity aren’t necessarily examples of BPM. They may improve certain aspects of your operations, but it’s important to understand that BPM is much more holistic in its framework.

At a very basic level, all companies hinge on the relationships between customers, employees, and shareholders. They all have distinct but important roles to play in the operation of a business, which means each group has its own processes it must adhere to in order to keep the relationships functioning. Business process management is a way of optimizing workflows and processes for each of these groups in order to improve the experience for everyone involved with the organization.

In fact, customer-focused activities are receiving new interest from companies as part of their overall BPM strategies. A report from Forrester shows that 64% of all companies practicing BPM are placing emphasis on re-engineering customer-servicing functions.

Maintaining a Focus on Holistic Improvement

Next, it’s important to consider how the term “process” is interpreted in BPM. It’s true that one of the purposes of BPM is to improve processes, but BPM specifically refers to process improvements of a larger scope. When business processes are improved in isolation, these efforts generally don’t result in the optimization of the organizational functions as a whole. That’s why the goal of business process management is not to optimize business processes individually, but to improve the communication between systems and optimize workflows throughout the entire network.

In this sense, we can say that “process” refers to the overall collection of business activities that affect all of the stakeholders involved. Business process management tools are specifically designed to measure and optimize these activities in relation to the business as a whole, and practitioners of BPM model solutions specifically with these results in mind. Employees who only work on an aspect of one specific process, even if they are focused on improving that process, are not really practicing BPM.

The Relationship Between BPM, Infrastructure Management, and Resource Management

The final term in the phrase, “management,” is a tricky one when it comes to BPM. When many people hear the word, they immediately think of concepts such as resource management and infrastructure management. In many ways these concepts are connected; part of infrastructure management involves using technology to optimize the use of specialized equipment, and improvements in this area can be a factor in business process management. But, once again, it’s important to remember that you can undertake resource management and infrastructure management initiatives on a smaller scale, which would be unrelated to the holistic nature of BPM.
For example, the shipping department of your company can optimize the use of materials, employees, and equipment through its own system without any of these activities being related to BPM. In this case, you are improving on aspects of infrastructure and resource management without a greater connection to enterprise goals, and that connection is required for BPM. In terms of BPM, “management” really refers to the entire collection of steps necessary to improve processes in pursuit of enterprise goals: modeling solutions, controlling variables, executing solutions, and measuring results. This is how BPM practitioners manage the quest to optimize the transfer of value between customer and company.

Reimagining BPM Through the Use of Innovative Technology

It’s difficult to separate the concept of business process management from the need for business process management software. BPM is an inherently tech-focused initiative; it is essentially a partnership between the IT division and the various line-of-business units in the company to improve processes as they relate to enterprise goals. Since you have to approach BPM holistically, instead of as a series of processes in isolation, it makes sense that you need connective technology that can bridge the distinctions between various functions in order to pursue it.

Business process management software vendors offer a range of solutions that can help organizations optimize activities for the betterment of their companies. These can include some aspects of user interfaces that are driven by artificial intelligence, such as chat bots or voice recognition software. They can also incorporate dynamic modeling elements that track the enterprise’s ever-changing goals and capabilities and use them to reflect real-time solutions.

Differentiating Between BPM and BPM Software

Overall, it’s crucial to differentiate between BPM as an activity, and business process management software. Software solutions are a vital part of the task, and modern business process management is impossible without technology. To illustrate this fact, the worldwide BPM software industry has grown to nearly $3 billion. But BPM is more than just a software platform. You can’t just choose a BPM software vendor and then assume the program will take care of all BPM-related functions for you. You must develop an overarching strategy for BPM on a holistic level, and then choose business process management software that works to support and enhance this strategy.

What Is Business Process Management Software?

Understanding the definition of business process management is a prerequisite to implementation. Business process management software — also known as BPMS, BPM software, or even BPM suite — is a solution designed to help businesses understand, monitor, and automate their business processes and execute on their robust BPM strategy. Whether it’s understanding workflows, seeing the customer acquisition cycle, automating mundane processes, or incorporating artificial intelligence or chatbots business process management software can provide holistic support.

Understand, though, that in the wild, the definition of business process management tools can be rather broad. That’s why it’s important to find a solution customizable to your specific BPM strategy. ThisIt starts by surveying the landscape, but with a deep understanding of the pain points you need to solve.

The Benefits of BPM Software

What are the benefits of BPM software? It’s a long list. The easy answer and main benefit is that BPM software helps your business run more smoothly. That said, here are a few specifics to give you a general idea how BPM software can help you execute your holistic BPM strategy.

1. BPM Software Enables You to Make Quick Strategic Decisions

If you don’t know how your processes are running, it’s pretty difficult to make informed decisions. Getting strategic starts by seeing all of your processes in one place. A BPMS solution will enable you to manage and track the effectiveness of your processes. With a baseline and understanding, you can make educated moves to improve.

2. BPM Software Makes It Easy to Implement Uniform Workflows and Processes

Getting processes right is a key step to scaling and sustainability. This is so much the case that 59% of midsize businesses say establishing and maintaining processes is crucial to their ability to grow. Get the right processes in place and you’ll have the uniformity and streamlined productivity you need to effectively expand your business even further. Many BPM software solutions also help organize workflows, making projects run more smoothly.

3. BPM Software Frees Up Managers to Focus on Larger Issues

Business process management software can take care of many of the mundane management tasks that eat up many executives’ time. It breaks down bottlenecks and keeps everything organized and flowing. With a software solution helping execute your BPM strategy, management can focus on more pressing matters. Instead of taking time to oversee how things are running, they can instead focus on other higher-level strategies and new business initiatives.

What Makes a Good Business Process Management Solution?

Before diving too deep, it’s helpful to understand what to look for in a business process management software offering. Check for the following in a BPM software:

  1. Deep functionality
  2. Low-code capabilities and ease of implementation
  3. Scalability
  4. Security
  5. Ease of use

1. Deep Functionality

You need a solution that is as robust and intricate as your BPM strategy. Basic, bare-bones solutions simply don’t cut it in the long term for growing corporations. Be sure that the solution you find will be able to do the heavy lifting even as you add processes.

2. Low-Code Capabilities and Ease of Implementation

While it should be powerful enough to handle a number of situations and processes, your BPM solution should also be easy to implement. It should be usable by executives even if they don’t have a coding background. This makes it easier on the executives and also on the IT department. It’s no surprise that 76% of IT leaders believe that low-code tools will have a transformational or substantial impact on their partnerships with the business. If you’re building on a platform, find low-code opportunities that will enable you to tailor a solution around your needs.

3. Scalability

Getting processes implemented and running smoothly consistently means growth. And 56% of midsize businesses say scaling technology for growth is critical to their ability to grow. So if you’re beginning to scale your business, you need a solution that can grow with you.

4. Security

The processes that run your business should be kept private, particularly where sensitive data and information are involved. Find a BPM solution that’s trusted by large enterprises. Talk to your peers and do your due diligence to find the right cloud solution, especially when security is at stake.

5. Ease of Use

If a software has robust functionality but is completely illogical and difficult to use, it won’t be that effective. With that in mind, there is at least a small learning curve with almost any solution. Find software that’s easy on the user. The best BPM solutions will even offer expert support to help you become familiar with a solution.

How Do You Find the Right Business Process Management System for Your Business?

With a deeper understanding of what business process management software is, what its main benefits are, and a knowledge of what to look for in a BPM solution, it’s time to determine the right BPM software solution for your organization. Here’s how to get it right:

  1. Keep your BPM pain points top of mind
  2. Find BPM software that aligns with your needs

1. Keep Your BPM Pain Points Top of Mind

It’s pretty hard to find the right BPM software solution for your organization if you don’t know what you need it to do. What processes do you need to take better control of or understand more deeply? Do you need automation capabilities? What about analytics? There are a number of considerations and each of them should be part of your holistic BPM strategy. Time taken to nail down a BPM strategy should come before selecting a BPM software solution. If you do your due diligence, it’ll be easier to find BPM software tailored to your specific strategy and needs.

2. Find BPM Software That Aligns With Your Needs

You know what you need. What’s left is to find a solution that fits your BPM objectives. That’s easier said than done. Perhaps you’ll find an existing solution that already has the built-in functionality you need. Or maybe you’ll find it’s better to build on a platform where you can craft a solution that fits more closely with your unique business needs.

Salesforce for Business Process Management and Automation

Salesforce is an enterprise cloud solution that is much more than just a powerful CRM. On the Salesforce Platform, you can build a number of apps that fit the specific needs of your organization. When it comes to business process management, you’ll find a number of useful prebuilt applications in AppExchange tailored to different industries, use cases, and disciplines.

If, on the other hand, you do want a more customized solution, there are a number of ways to achieve this on the Salesforce Platform. Process Builder enables you to automate business processes quickly. If you’re concerned about workflow automationFlow Builder is helpful. And if bottlenecks are giving you headaches, cleaning up approvals might help. In short, there’s almost no limit to what you can build on the Salesforce Platform. If you want a powerful BPM solution that builds on and integrates with detailed customer insights, the Salesforce Platform is a great place to start.

Business Process Management Software: Foundational to Sustained Growth

The best businesses understand that as times change, they need to adapt. Technology is advancing, and business processes are becoming more multifaceted and intricate. As such, having a holistic BPM strategy and keeping processes automated, uniform, and running smoothly as you scale is a must. A key to growth is having the right framework in place — business processes that set you up for success. Get it right with your business process management tools, and your business will run like a well-oiled machine.

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