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Microservices Expo: Article

Effective Business Process Management (BPM) Software Puts Business People in Control

Placing process design, execution, and management into the hands of the people who use it

Finally, executives on the business side of management teams are asking for technology that can be delivered, modified, and executed by business people. The promises of many enterprise application investments were never realized in large part due to the fact that the business side was disengaged from their IT investments, leading to large disconnects between expected capabilities and actual capabilities.

Conventional wisdom holds that you can't implement business processes involving human worker interaction and integrations with enterprise applications without a heavy reliance on IT resources. Throwing requirements "over the wall" to IT is where the breakdown occurs. How many CRM implementations have jury-rigged "workarounds" because necessary components proved to be "out of scope" (an issue too often discovered post roll out)? How many ERP solutions promise a Workflow capability that will solve all of your process needs only to find out that there are more employees "touching" processes that impact ERP performance than there are employees who will ever have that application on their desktop? Having said that, you will not be able to prevent all technology shortcomings with the business side fully engaged during the implementation. Businesses are fluid. Processes change. Policies and procedures are revised. People and departments are restructured. Imagine if the people handing BPM requirements to IT could instead deploy their own requirements and manage their own updates.

An effective BPM technology empowers business people to design and execute a process that is flexible enough to allow the same business user to make changes to that process routinely. Many process management technologies allow business people to design a process, but few actually allow the business user to own the process by giving them the keys to the car. Business people possess the knowledge about how processes should flow and what business rules should be applied. They also know what changes need to be made over time. Shouldn't BPM technology, therefore, be designed to match the typical skills business people possess rather than depending on skills sets inherent to IT? Traditional process management technologies require business people to communicate their process needs to IT for them to manage, which leads to delays and "lost in translation" problems. Effective BPM tools put the power of design and implementation into the hands of business people.

Fundamental to a BPM technology is coming "out of the box" with a capability to manage human activities, such as approval management, document collaboration, and a variety of other manual tasks. Also fundamental to an effective BPM tool is giving business people the ability to task and manage human worker activity. Application integration and middleware technologies were created to automate 100% of a process and cut all manual activity out of the mix. BPM technologies were borne because you can't automate everything, and the human worker will always have a place even in the most optimized process. This has left application integration and middleware technologies scrambling to claim a human worker capability, lest they be marked as incomplete or outdated technology. Today's EAI technologies can task the human worker, but they fall well short of being effective because they have an IT dependency when developing and modifying each instance of manual activity.

An "out of the box" human worker interaction capability means granting business people the ability to task manual execution (by person, by role, by geography, by worker availability, etc.) and the ability to interact with employees through common desktop tools (Word, Excel, Outlook, Acrobat, etc.). Most process management technologies require significant development efforts from IT to incorporate human worker interaction capabilities (new or updates). Effective BPM tools come pre-built to allow business people to design processes with the human worker in mind.

Effective BPM technologies must allow business people to create processes that go outside of enterprise applications and integrate with disparate systems. CRM, ERP, SFA, Help Desk, and other point applications advertise a BPM or Workflow capability built within their software. These modules offer a very light Workflow capability and are, most notably, limited to providing value within the embedded application only. Enterprise applications typically trigger processes that span across multiple departments and legacy environments. Just as in the ERP example cited above, effective CRM processes are also heavily dependent on back office support from people without CRM on their desktop. Effective BPM tools enable business people to design processes with organization-wide breadth and are not limited to driving value within a single application.

Last, effective BPM technologies are process-centric. Workflow technologies are document-centric and take the approach that you begin with a document and determine where you need the document to flow throughout the organization. This methodology is limited because while some processes contain documents, others include system-to-system data transfers or a human worker to perform a manual activity. Many process management technologies focus on the document and where it should go. Effective BPM tools allow business people to focus on the process itself and give the business user flexibility to define business rules to determine whether a document, a data transfer, or a human worker is appropriate for each step of a process.

True BPM provides enterprises with a process design and management capability that is put into the hands of the business people. It comes pre-built to allow business people to design, manage, execute, and change enterprise processes that include a combination of automation, document management, and human work.

Key Takeaways

  • Effective BPM technologies eliminate the handoff of requirements to IT by allowing process owners (business people) to design and execute business processes.
  • Enabling business people to design and execute their processes means faster deployments, faster responses to inevitable process changes, fewer process management resource requirements, and logically, greater ROI.
  • Effective BPM technologies come "out of the box" with the business and application integration functionality required to support an end-to-end enterprise process, including business rules management, e-mail task notifications, ODBC database read/write capability, and offering a read/write capability from common desktop tools (i.e., Excel, Word, etc.).
  • Putting the power of process design, execution, and management into the hands of business people means delivering BPM functionality through configuration, not code lessening the burden on IT resources.

More Stories By Jeffrey Mills

Jeffrey D. Mills is the vice president of Marketing & Channel Development at Bluespring Software. He began his career with 3M Corporation building eBusiness infrastructure. After 3M, Jeff joined Net Perceptions where he built analytics-based solutions for the industrial marketplace. Jeff is a graduate of Miami University in Ohio and is president of the Cincinnati chapter of the International Association of Microsoft Certified Partners (IAMCP). Jeff can be reached at [email protected] or at www.bluespringsoftware.com.

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