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Business Process Management Systems

By , March 29, 2016April 20th, 2024No Comments
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Organizations have been modeling business processes for years to better understand what is happening now and what should change in the future. Typically, process analysts with no IT background deal with this. And once improvements are devised, the new process models are passed on to the IT staff. They then have to realize the improvements in the software. Only then is it often clear what is and is not possible within the application. Wouldn’t it be great if these process analysts themselves could sit at the controls and monitor and adjust business processes in real time? And that adjustments could be made at the push of a button without the need for programming?

Howard Smith and Peter Fingar predicted in 2003 that this would become possible using Business Process Management Systems (BPMS). We are now thirteen years on and this prediction seems to have already come true for some companies!

Business Process Management (BPM) is a discipline that aims to continuously optimize the design of business processes within an organization. This includes improvement initiatives from methods such as Lean and Six Sigma, but also IT projects that contribute to continuous process improvement. BPM can bridge the traditional gap between business & IT by focusing on where these two perspectives come together: the processes. A BPMS is software that can help do just that.

A BPMS supports continuous process improvement in several ways. For example, a BPMS contains tools for all aspects of the process life cycle: designing and modeling, implementing and executing, monitoring and controlling, and improving and innovating. Characteristically, a BPMS functions within the application landscape as an overarching workflow system. From process models, functionalities of other applications are invoked for process execution. The advantage of this is that business processes can be monitored from beginning to end. All process data is maintained in the BPMS and the desired lead times can be controlled. In addition, it is possible in the BPMS to develop additional functionality for a process so that it can be automated even further. This can be done in a simple way, where the user only configures certain process steps and the code is automatically generated by the system.

The core idea of a BPMS is that all applications should do what they do best. Applications should be deployed as the vendor has devised and the flexible BPMS layer should be used to accommodate company-specific customization. Whereas processes in traditional applications are often difficult to modify because the process logic is housed deep in the code, a BPMS is precisely aimed at ensuring that processes change in the future. “Build for change” is the starting point here.

The need for BPMS technology is being recognized by different types of vendors. For example, you see Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) vendors that have started adding workflow functionality to their integration software and then developed it into a full-fledged BPMS. On the other hand, several ERP vendors have started extending their solution with EAI and BPMS functionality. For example, SAP, which saw the need for BPMS technology early on and launched the NetWeaver platform for this purpose in 2004. NetWeaver is an integration platform on which applications can also be built, just like a BPMS. So, all in all, we can now distinguish between so-called BPMS-ERPs and stand-alone BPMS.

Looking back at Smith and Fingar’s prediction, I think we have come a long way, but the dream has not yet fully become reality. Indeed, in practice, it still often appears that major process changes cannot be implemented in a BPMS at the push of a button. This still involves some work on behalf of the IT staff. Nevertheless, a BPMS is capable of speeding up programming work by preparing a large part of the code automatically. Quite a few companies are already using this and I expect to see a lot more of this in the future!

VVA Informatisering is an innovative and independent digitization agency. We work at the intersection of organization and ict. And speak both languages. Our project leaders and consultants are experts in the field of digital strategy, online services, software selection and implementation, smarter working and organizational design.

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