What is Business Process Management?

BPM is a way of looking at and then controlling the processes that are present in an organization. It is an effective methodology to use in times of crisis to make certain that the processes are efficient and effective, as this will result in a better and more cost efficient organization.

What is Business Process Management (BPM)?

The term business process management covers how we study, identify, change, and monitor business processes to ensure they run smoothly and can be improved over time. Often framed in terms of the daily flow of work – and yes, “workflow” generally does fit under the process improvement umbrella – it is an important piece of the access and use puzzle since no or poor process really degrades your ability to get at and leverage information.

BPM is best thought of as a business practice, encompassing techniques and structured methods. It is not a technology, though there are technologies on the market that carry the descriptor because of what they enable: namely, identifying and modifying existing processes so they align with a desired, presumably improved, future state of affairs. It is about formalizing and institutionalizing better ways for work to get done.

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Successfully employing BPM usually involves the following:

  • Organizing around outcomes not tasks to ensure the proper focus is maintained
  • Correcting and improving processes before (potentially) automating them; otherwise all you’ve done is make the mess run faster
  • Establishing processes and assigning ownership lest the work and improvements simply drift away – and they will, as human nature takes over and the momentum peters out
  • Standardizing processes across the enterprise so they can be more readily understood and managed, errors reduced, and risks mitigated
  • Enabling continuous change so the improvements can be extended and propagated over time
  • Improving existing processes, rather than building radically new or “perfect” ones, because that can take so long as to erode or negate any gains achieved

BPM should not be a one-time exercise. It should involve a continuous evaluation of the processes and include taking actions to improve the total flow of processes. This all leads to a continuous cycle of evaluating and improving the organization.

The steps that can be recognized in BPM are:

  • Analyze
  • Re-design and model
  • Implement
  • Monitor
  • Manage
  • Automate

Getting information to where it needs to go, when it needs to go there, is only part of the solution – much of the rest involves first requesting the insights you need, and then having those insights communicated to you in an immediately usable format. This is what reporting and querying software is all about.

Success depends in large measure on how well you label the data in your repositories so it can be identified and included when an appropriate query comes along. A major boost toward accomplishing this goal exists in the form of the Common Warehouse Metamodel (CWM), a complete specification of syntax and semantics that data warehousing and business intelligence tools can leverage to successfully interchange shared metadata.

Released and owned by the Object Management Group (OMG), the CWM specifies interfaces that can be used to enable the interchange of warehouse and business intelligence metadata between warehouse tools, warehouse platforms, and warehouse metadata repositories in distributed heterogeneous environments. It is based on three standards:

  • UML - Unified Modeling Language, an Object Management Group (OMG) modeling standard
  • MOF - Meta Object Facility, an OMG metamodeling and metadata repository standard
  • XMI - XML Metadata Interchange, an OMG metadata interchange standard

CWM models further enable users to trace the lineage of data by providing objects that describe where the data came from and when and how it was created. Instances of the metamodel are exchanged via XML Metadata Interchange (XMI) documents.

The simplest of these is cleverly known as routing or simple workflow. It moves content – very often in the form of conventional documents – from one place or person to another, and when task A is complete, it allows for task B to begin. Routing tends to be ad-hoc, without any automated rules processing, and with little or no integration between the process management and the affected applications. Instead, it is pretty much person-to-person.

Workflow is more than just simply moving things from A to B to C to D because it allows tasks to be carried out in parallel, saving time and increasing productivity. Able to manage multiple processes taking place at the same time, it accommodates exceptions and conditions by applying user-defined rules.

BPM itself is perhaps the "ultra" process improvement technique because it explicitly addresses the complexity of inter-application and cross-repository processes, and incorporates data-driven, as well as, content-driven processes – all on an ongoing basis.

Usually driven by business rules, it involves a lot of operational analysis and flow charting, and the more sophisticated offerings in the space include not only process designers, but also simulation tools so processes can be run virtually to identify bottlenecks or other issues related to either people or underlying infrastructure.

We must bear in mind that business processes should include the mobile workforce and how mobile device factor into the accomplishment of the overall organizational goals.

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