Definition

business process management (BPM)

Business process management (BPM) is the discipline of improving a business process from end to end by analyzing it, modelling how it works in different scenarios, executing improvements, monitoring the improved process and continually optimizing it.

A business process is an activity or set of activities that will accomplish a specific organizational goal.

BPM is not a one-time task, but rather an ongoing activity that involves persistent process re-engineering.

BPM often involves automating tasks within any given business process, although BPM is not a technology, and process improvements can happen outside of automation and without technology.

Organizations engaged in BPM can choose to follow one of the various BPM methodologies, which include Six Sigma and Lean.

What BPM is used for

BPM is used on an ongoing basis for business process improvement.

It is meant to improve order, insight and efficiency of the collective workflows that make up any given business process. BPM is meant to reduce any chaos within those collective workflows that make up a process and eliminate ad hoc workflow management.

The goal for organizations engaged in BPM is to take control of their myriad processes and constantly strive to optimize them to create a more efficient organization better capable of delivering its end products and/or services.

Thus, BPM is intended to support organizational leaders as they seek to achieve not just operational efficiencies, but as they work to realize their overarching goals for the organization as a whole.

BPM activities

BPM consists of multiple steps. Some BPM experts list five steps (designing, modeling, executing, monitoring, optimization), while other experts list six or more steps and/or use different names for these steps (i.e., analyze, model, implement, monitor, manage, automate).

Despite the variances in the number and names of the steps, the components of the BPM lifecycle generally include:

  • Design the business process as it should ideally exist and analyze the process as it currently exists and what is needed to improve it;
  • Model -- or consider -- how the business process operates in different scenarios;
  • Implement -- or execute -- improvement solutions, including standardization and process automation;
  • Monitor improvements; and
  • Continue to optimize the business process.

Why business process management is important

BPM allows organizational leaders to understand the various processes that happen within their organizations, analyze them from end to end and improve them on an ongoing basis. This activity allows organizational leaders to optimize end-to-end business processes and not simply improve individual tasks, thereby, giving organizational leaders the ability to have a greater impact on outcomes.

Well-executed BPM can reduce waste, cut down on errors, save time and generate better services and products.

Moreover, well-executed BPM continually delivers improvements.

Because BPM is not a one-time task, organizational leaders manage the end-to-end business processes on a continuing basis and are, thus, focused on finding new ways to optimize end-to-end business processes as industry and market trends introduce new pressures and new opportunities, and as emerging technologies better support or automate tasks within the overall process.

BPM tools and vendors

A BPM suite (BPMS) helps organizations in their BPM activities by offering a suite of tools and functions for mapping, modelling, automating, managing and optimizing.

BPMS generally supports activities ranging from business rule management to user communication to analytics. Intelligent BPMS, or iBPMS, offers next-generation capabilities such as adaptive analytics and advanced collaboration tools.

There are dozens of BPM software options on the market. Vendors include Appian, BP Logix, IBM, Kofax, Oracle, Pegasystems, Red Hat and Tibco Software.

This was last updated in September 2020

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