by Jose Herrera,
December 16th, 2015.
Business Process Management (BPM) can be described as a discipline that implements capabilities to manage complex process workflows, where coordination of the different elements that constitute a business process is required: human resources, documents, databases and internal / external information systems. It generally has high durability, from minutes to months; and high state management requirements, while implementing persistence of the state of each one of its activities.
- BPM can be implemented leveraging open standards such as Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN), with tools that provide capabilities to design and automate business processes defined in such standards. In addition, modern BPM tools offer capabilities such as user portals, business process optimization and prototyping, and a subset of capabilities from the Business Intelligence (BI) and Business Activity Monitoring (BAM) disciplines.
The different stages of the BPM lifecycle are different depending on client needs, and also differ depending on the team implementing the technology; but the lifecycle is outlined usually as follows:
- Business Process Identification: in this stage, the focus is to identify business process that are high priority to the business, and at the same time identify processes that can be candidate for automation. This stage also focuses on analyzing the spectrum of selected processes, and identification of any duplication of effort in the process activities, or duplication of processes themselves.
- Definition of the As-Is Business Process Models: once the candidate processes have been selected, this stage focuses primarily in outlining the different activities that constitute each one of the processes, for end users to get a grasp of the complexities and identify areas for improvement.
- Business Process Re-engineering: once the areas of improvement of the process have been identified, this stage focuses on the analysis of different areas of the organization that the process has influences in; in order to redesign how the work is accomplished, with the intention of better meet the organization’s vision and reduce costs.
- Design of the To-Be Business Process Models: after the redesign of the business processes is completed, the design of to-be business model is intended for it to be documented in BPMN, with automation in mind. It is important to note that although not all activities within a process can be automated in a cost effective manner; the to-be business process may include checklists or notification activities in order to ensure that human tasks continue to take place and are tracked accordingly.
- Business Process Management Tool Selection: the organization must make a decision at some point as to what BPM technology vendor to select for implementation. Obviously, different vendors offer different basic BPM capabilities, and some other capabilities that will enhance the final experience, such as a customizable user portal, scorecards, dashboards, business process inspection and drill-down, activities status, mobile capabilities, live user interaction, single sign-on, among others.
- Business Process Prototyping: this stage focuses on the implementation of a prototype business process, in order to demonstrate the capabilities of the selected BPM toolset. Usually, the business process at this stage does not include an end-to-end process; however, it might include a few activities that take place across different functional areas of the process. Prototyping also helps identify the different roles that will be involved in the process, alongside specific milestones and most importantly, any sub-processes that may be candidate for re-usability in other related processes.
- Business Process Development and Automation: once prototyping ends and the capabilities of the BPM toolset are understood, development of the end-to-end automated process will commence; alongside any other capabilities that may be required for visibility and automation, such as Single-Sign-On (SSO), scorecards, dashboards, and user portal customization; in order to enhance the user experience.
- Business Process Integration: during the development and automation stage, one key aspect that enhances the user experience and proper management of complex processes, is integration with existing databases, applications or systems, such as Data Warehouses, Data Marts, Enterprise Resource Planning systems, Customer Relationship Management software, and even Cloud-based systems.
- Business Process Quality Assurance: this stage focuses on ensuring end users get familiar with the nature of the BPM solution, and this is normally accomplished by leveraging an iterative approach in the form of ‘play-backs’, which are intended to showcase how the automation and development of the process is evolving. Normally, and in most Software Development projects, quality assurance takes place right after development is completed; however, it is important to engage the Quality Assurance (QA) teams early in order to refine any issues that end users may encounter, and to test all the capabilities that the BPM solution will eventually implement.
- Business Process Execution: once the quality assurance stage has been delivered to customer satisfaction, and development has been signed-off and completed; the deployment of the business process to the Production environment would take place, and the execution stage will commence; and users will be able to complete their work leveraging the new BPM solution. Because of the nature of the quality assurance stage; and the iterative nature of the play-backs; end users will already be familiar with the behavior of the BPM solution.
- Business Process Monitoring: this stage focuses on monitoring the behavior of the automated business process, in order to identify areas where activities bottlenecks are taking place, and to delineate a remediation of performance issues, bug fixes, alongside the identification of future enhancements to the BPM solution.
- Business Process Optimization: this stage refers to ensuring that remediation of issues identified during the monitoring stage, are addressed; and that any areas of improvement in the process are modified in order to meet business needs.
It is possible to leverage Software Development Lifecycle methodologies in order to develop BPM solutions, and by evaluating specific client needs in order to deliver projects in either an iterative or sequential manner. Groundswell is proud of implement BPM solutions in a variety of toolsets, while following an implementation approach that is mostly technology-independent; until the time that the Development stage of the project commences, allowing clients to determine the best BPM technology stack for their very specific needs.