Business Process Management tools: Software, models, engines and beyond

23 July 2018 | 4496 Shares

Comb the internet, and you will find different definitions of business process management.

However, possibly one of the more accurate (albeit one of the most long-winded) explanations of the term is: “a discipline involving any combination of modeling, automation, execution, control, measurement and optimization of business activity flows, in support of enterprise goals, spanning systems, employees, customers, and partners within and beyond the enterprise boundaries.” (bpm.com)

In short, BPM is a unified systematic approach that can improve a company’s business processes, to increase success rates. And that’s just about what every organization seeks.

BPM is such an integral part of enterprises’ ongoing momentum that most see fit to have at least a small in-house team of developers and experts working to keep it at the forefront of the company’s strategy.

The three goals of any customer-driven business change management process are:

  • Achieve clarity in strategy.
  • Accurate use of the enterprise’s resources.
  • Increased discipline in operations.

A company that has an efficient BPM strategy in place will be able to stand the acid test of the entire management team able to walk away one morning, be replaced by suitably qualified strangers, and for the company to continue to be as well-run as before.

Like the adage of a person not knowing a subject until they can teach it to others, a company’s processes are not solid until they can be successfully passed on without bearing from the path originally designed. If you could franchise your business out, you have a winning formula.

Note that BPM does not involve razing organizations’ processes to the ground and starting again. Rather, it means an examination of all processes starting with an audit, but continuing for the life of the company: BPM is not a single event, but rather a practice.

Business process life-cycle management models, when shown pictorially, often show a series of steps, typically: design, model, execute, observe, optimize. However, once BPM is properly adopted, not only are all these steps continuous, but they flow into each other in a process of improvement, tweaking, and optimizing.

This article is not the space to map out all the different business process modeling techniques, all available notation methods, and where each should be applied to different verticals. Rather, we at TechHQ are more concerned with the available technological tools that enterprises can use to support their ongoing BPMN and DMN processes.

Like in every area of the enterprise – and which area is not undergoing a so-called “digital transformation” these days? – technology is the underpinning foundation. Just in the same way that utilization of software solutions can improve processes within a discreet department, HR for instance, so can the correct choice of BPMN engine, front end, and development process.

Source: Shutterstock

When choosing BPM software for your organization, look for the following:

  • The flexibility of the process engine. As well as allowing true reflections of the organization’s strategic changes over time, the engine also needs to be able to accept a variety of inputs and, ideally, to be able to be platform-agnostic as to its APIs and underlying database schema.
  • Scalability. The BPM solution should be able to cope as the organization grows. Will it still perform at its optimum at enterprise level?
  • Intelligence. Will the software come equipped with the power to implement complex business rules?
  • ROI. Can the overall BPM suite and the cost of its personnel and maintenance justify the investment?

Here at TechHQ, we have selected the following suppliers of BPMs and DMN solutions which we feel may be suitable for your organization.

CAMUNDA

The Berlin-headquartered company operates on an open source plus paid-for platform.

Modeling tools for the business analyst or developer as well as administrative functions are available in open source, with the BPMN and DMN engines available via a restful API or as a JAR.

Business process owners may need to pay for optimization tools to create meaningful results although the Camunda stack’s focus on workflow and decision automation will persuade many to opt-into the pre-made elements.

The BPMN and DMN engines are lightweight and  highly modular. They are BPMN 2 .0 and DMN 1.1 compliant, highly scalable and suitable for massive throughputs.

The company’s solutions are designed to replace aging organically-developed workflow technologies as well as more heavyweight BPMS products from bigger vendors, add workflow features to software products, and be used as the pivot to automate manual or repetitive work.

The stack is also suitable for introducing microservice-based architectures for the first time. Note the Camunda BPM solution does require programming expertise, so does not fall in the same section of the Venn diagram as solutions that rely on drag-and-drop interfaces – those designed for “citizen developers.”

You can read more about Camunda’s offering here.

PEGA

Unlike Camunda and some of the other offerings featured here, Pega’s BPM technology is available as software as a service (SaaS) in Pega Cloud as well as on-premise.

A recent Forrester Wave Report found that Pega ranked highly in mobile engagement and contextual guidance and either led or shared the lead in 13 additional categories.

Its BPM technology allows the speedy build of business applications via internal development functions. Gartner has recognized the company as a leader in the 2016 Magic Quadrant for Intelligent Business Process Management Suites.

Pega software captures business objectives using terminology from business process methodology as opposed to a technological standpoint and creates applications from there. Case LifeCycle Management(tm) attempts to replicate the way that business users think — a software abstraction layer between the business process owner and the application code.

Adaptive Decision Management allows users to utilize big data while Pega Live Data removes the need for complex process definitions which are an anathema to business-oriented management.

Source: Shutterstock

APPIAN

Appian wears its low-code development colors with pride, claiming to be able to combine its process management expertise with an interface that allows the rapid development of enterprise-grade powerful applications quickly.

Unified views of business information from right across the enterprise are pulled together into one view (or rather a series of unified views) before the information is analyzed. Optimised processes can then be defined, and the app then deployed.

While there is a certain amount of marketing hype surrounding the seeming ease of this process, true low-code development platforms certainly obviate the need for low-level coding skills, preferring instead, drag-and-drop and a visual development interface. This extends as far as user interface design for the end product, process design, and representation of business records.

The Appian platform comes with multiple templates in the form of pre-built case management models, with help for service requests, incident management, investigations and plenty more.

Apps are deployable in native mobile form, typically with off-line capabilities, all from the same code base. Integration with enterprise systems is simplified via Appian’s Integration Designer.

The application as a service (aPaaS) of Appian Cloud boasts high levels of security and is compliant with regulations in multiple geographies.

HYLAND

Hyland is perhaps best known by its OnBase platform, recently updated to version 18. The enterprise information platform allows the build of multiple applications all from a single place.

Uses of OnBase include allowing customers and clients to complete forms and make requests online, instead of on paper, and provides the organization with real-time visibility into the status of requests, transactions, and orders.

OnBase includes full digital document management and archiving facilities, so can be used to reduce time spent searching for documents and information.

Repetitive tasks and predictable decisions can be placed in the hands of software, increasing productivity by providing access to content and processes from anywhere, including mobile devices.

The low-code platform is highly configurable using point-and-click and is scalable from a single task right up to being able to run a complete department.

As OnBase is upgraded, all solutions derived from it can also upgraded; this eliminates the problems associated with multiple custom-coded solutions. Furthermore, OnBase can be run in parallel in various versions, minimizing downtime and ensuring that upgrades bed-in properly before being taken into production.

* Some of the companies featured on this editorial are commercial partners of TechHQ