The Many Angles to Dive into the BPM Water

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These days, the concepts of business process management (BPM) have become more unified, and BPM functionality from different vendors seems to be more converged. However, organizations may have their own reasons for adopting BPM—different business features and requirements will lead to different matching points between adopting organizations and BPM solutions. In the mean time, BPM vendors are using various selling points to differentiate their product offerings and to touch target customers’ nerves in various ways. Based on my recent interactions with the BPM vendor community, I’d like to discuss a few different angles (other than the generally-recognized core benefits of BPM such as transparency, efficiency, and optimization of business processes) that a user can take to dive into the BPM water.

Aligning Business Goals with Processes

I had a product briefing for Whitestein Technologies’ Living Systems Process Suite [evaluate the product] in July. The most interesting aspect I learned from the vendor is the solution’s goal-oriented approach for managing processes. Living Systems Process Suite allows users to hierarchically define business goals prior to modeling a process. The association between goals and process models can then be used to govern and monitor process performance at execution and optimization stages (see this white paper). I found this interesting because the top-down approach to define a goal and the bottom-up approach to achieve the goal through process execution are available in one system.

Automating Decision Making within Process Execution

A recent webcast from Progress Software set the theme on the importance of decision making in the context of process management. As one of the six major components in Progress’ BPM suite—Savvion BusinessManager [evaluate the product]—Savvion Business Rules Management Server provides the capability to define, maintain, and deploy business rules in order to build rules-based process applications. It is true that today’s complicated business environment requires well-rounded and timely decisions to execute processes and that rules engines help maximize the automation of the decision making.

Acquiring Process Know-how When Adopting BPM

A Chinese saying states “to teach fishing is better than to give fish”. Typically, a BPM solution focuses more on building an environment where processes can be easily modified and continuously improved (the fishing part) rather than providing pre-defined process sets to customers (the fish part). However, there are some BPM vendors striving to do both. I had a briefing with AuraPortal a while ago and learned that other than providing process modeling, execution, and monitoring tools packaged as AuraPortal BPMS [evaluate the product], the vendor also provides customer relationship management (CRM) and supply chain management (SCM) functionality built on process patterns and sharing the same environment with its BPM system. I think combining process know-how with BPM is an interesting direction worth exploring.

Facilitating Informal Collaboration in a BPM Environment

I also had a briefing with Oracle BPM Suite 11g shortly after its launch. Among the new BPM release’s highlights that Oracle presented, social BPM is the one I enjoyed the most. By integrating BPM with Enterprise 2.0, a BPM system will be able to conduct rigid and structured processes, facilitate informal collaboration during process execution, and capture tacit knowledge for better decision making and process improvement. This feature should be beneficial to BPM users, especially to knowledge-oriented organizations.

Above are just a few examples of how differently BPM vendors promote their products with the association of their product functionality and value propositions. I think, to a certain degree, these different approaches represent different angles that a user can seek benefits from BPM and different priorities that can be linked to a BPM initiative. So, how can you dive into the BPM water? Basically, it’s a matter of studying your own business requirements.
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