A Business Process Management System (BPMS) is a truly, unique piece of business software. What makes a BPMS different from other business software is that it is designed not to be fit into a particular role or silo. Take an ERP for instance, this fits into the support role and resource planning, but a BPMS is fluid and malleable.
They are conceived to allow business processes to be designed, and deployed in a way that does not mean the business operation itself has to change to suit the BPMS.
More than this, a BPMS also needs to be agile and capable of change and managing continuous change. This agility is required as the business environment continuously throws up opportunities and threats, which can either be taken advantage of, or need to be neutralized. This cannot happen if the business operation is rigid, or incapable of changing fast enough to handle change being thrown at the business.
A BPMS achieves agility by being designed to have preset business rules, which instead of being hard and fast, are flexible and readily adaptive to new business rules as required. This contrasts with out-of-the-box solutions which have a more rigid structure, and cannot be changed without heavy development and integration work.
Another big advantage of a BPMS is that they are designed with the capacity to interface with multiple business systems and applications. This means they can accept and pass data on no matter where it is stored or created within the business. A practical advantage which emanates from this ability is that you can keep legacy systems in situ for longer, and then “wrap” the BPMS around them as an integration layer.
This solves the thorny problems of expensive swap-outs of legacy systems, and at the same time gives you all the functionality of those systems without the pain of retooling.
A BPMS has been referred to as “Process Glue”, in that they help bind business processes and operations together. This includes manual processes, and another issue confronting organizations is the disparate nature of where data is created or is needed. It is in this arena that we see most slip ups occurring – the shadow process area.
Tasks slip through the net, information is not forwarded to where it needs to be, and customer requests are lost or forgotten. But this is exactly the type of issues a BPMS is designed to solve – by gluing everything together. This means you work more effectively, collaboratively and without making silly mistakes or errors.
A BPMS provides visibility into business operations, and this allows you to establish metrics and KPIs. By measuring operations, you are then able to take steps to improve business processes – Business Process Optimization (BPO). Even better, you can start aligning your business processes to better suit your customers and the BPMS will generate relevant, meaningful data to support your recommendations and action.
It is this flexibility to mold and fit how you run business operations, combined with its ability to be agile and transparent to other systems, that really makes a BPMS unique amongst business software.
Jane Write writes extensively on business and technology issues, and she is currently focusing on Lean BPM solution provider, JobTraQ.