Software that manages work flow is called Business Process Management (BPM). BPM is as much a philosophy as it is a suite of tools to affect, control, and optimize positive change. BPM serves as a platform through which management can instill change while moving towards full process automation through iterative, insightful revisions. BPM serves as a management philosophy emphasizing processes and process performance. In addition, BPM defines and supports a strategic approach to organizing company change. In order to be a successful BPM software must provide a suite of methodologies, tools, and templates for defining, modeling, automating, monitoring, and ultimately optimizing business processes.
The underlying BPM Suite of tools combines eight core functional elements:
- Modeling – Processes follow paths. To optimize a process you have to know who and what is involved. BPM enables analysts to capture a process using modeling tools.
- Business Rules – With the model in hand you know where the process starts and ends. Now you need to add rules on who starts it, what they must add/input, what systems share the work, how data is routed, approved, and stored. That’s where business rules come into play.
- Forms – Normally what is being passed is a document. The goal of any process-driven exercise is to reduce paper and create visibility. Using BPM one can create an electronic form, say a contract for example, they everyone can use through serial or parallel steps to automate work.
- User Interfaces – Next we must allow participants to access the form and workflow. BPM provides a way to create a user interface, which in turn can be plugged into a portal for anytime access.
- Integration – Most companies have multiple data repositories. As data is passed, the application process must be able to tap the appropriate data sources for changes, updates, and versioning. So the integration of disparate data sources (e.g., databases, EDMS, ERP, CRM applications) is essential to process automation.
- Monitoring & Reports – All participants should be able to monitor and audit their work. BPM grants management, visibility into process flows. At any given moment they can know who is doing what, how long it has taken, and whether bottlenecks exist. With this knowledge in hand, they can be more proactive in solving issues and getting work done.
- Security – BPM tools must secure the overall process. Security consists of software license, authority groups, folder permissions, and data protection and validation. Different groups may have their own territories and assign appropriate permission and user access.
- Administration – Ultimately, BPM provides a studio to plan and deploy projects. Administration handles roles, access rights, definitions, permissions, and process execution.
Within these functional elements organizations find additional capabilities that define, simulate, deploy, execute, and optimize their business processes.