It’s All in the Process

DQI Bureau
New Update

Organizations have been tradi-tionally embedding business processes into

enterprise applications, starting with the ERP and from there moving on to

specific applications like supply chain management, customer relationship

management, and the like.


Business processes themselves have been hitherto resident in the form of

process diagrams, decision flow diagrams, and other relevant process

documentation. These have been traditionally automated using document management

systems, typically developed by imaging and document management vendors.

Business processes translate into workflows. Workflows, in the most

elementary form, have been managed using workflow management solutions, coming

in from collaborative or groupware solution vendors.

The confluence of areas like–document management, workflow management,

enterprise applications, and enterprise application integration has given birth

to a new category called business process management (BPM), with vendors from

all the four areas and also pure-play BPM vendors staking claim to the new



So how does BPM really help? Needless to say, it helps by giving all the

benefits of being able to manage the business process. Essentially, BPM creates

a single management console from which business processes spread across many

different IT applications can be monitored and redesigned according to business



Process Management
BPM is

about the reality that business processes are complex, dynamic and

intertwined throughout an organization–and, beyond the firewall, to its

partners and customers. To effectively automate and manage

cross-functional processes requires a new approach and supporting tools

that reflect this reality–BPM is that approach. BPM allows processes to

be modelled and then dynamically maintained as business requirements are

refined or modified, in the light of new information on how users work or

changing business needs. Business process management is a change

management and system implementation methodology to aid the continuous

comprehension and management of business processes that interact with

people and systems, both within and across organizations.

It is a methodology based on the following assumptions:
Business processes are

ever-changing and developing
Processes cross-cut each other
Processes must flow between

multiple organizations and interested parties

Source: Aberdeen Group

And gains have been made by early adoption. For example, Allianz, the global

insurance giant recognized the need to build efficient business processes for

the claims function. Allianz has reportedly been able to improve its

productivity in the claims function by 80% and has achieved RoI in six months.

Aberdeen Group expects worldwide spending on BM to increase from $ 2.26 bn in

2001 to $6.32 bn in 2005.


These reports only serve to intensify vendor optimism and faster adoption by

organizations. There are currently close to 40 vendors who claim to offer BPM

solutions worldwide. Of these, the ones present in India include FileNet,

Staffware, Savvion, and IBM, apart from companies like Vitria, and Metaserver

which specialize in business process integration.

Is BPM all hype ? No. There is something solid underneath the hype and battle

for standards. For one, the talk about business processes started with

re-engineering and ERP. Somewhere in the line, the software took over the reins

of the business and the talk about business processes got subdued in the noise

created by enterprise applications that claimed to embed the best practices for

the business. Now is the time to take a relook and go back to the issue of

business processes. The business process after all is the language of the

business. Logically, if you develop something on a business process framework,

the chances that the business and IT align are high. Proverbially, with BPM, the

business manager gets a chance to say what he wants and gets IT to do it. For

all the talk about the need for alignment between business and IT, this is

perhaps an opportunity to make it happen.

BPM: The Starting Questions


How is BPM different from workflow management?

BPM has its origin out of workflow management. But there are differences: First,
workflow focused mainly on document-based processes where people performed the

process steps; BPM manages processes that encompass steps performed by both

people and systems.

Second, it manages workflow automated processes that existed with an

individual department. BPM addresses processes that can span the enterprise. BPM

technology must therefore provide far higher degrees of scalability than



Do I need BPM? How do I get started?

BPM applies to any type of business process in any industry. Find out if you
have a business problem that can be traced back to the business process. Or, if

your gut feel says that things would be better if you could recast some of your

business processes but have been scared to do it lest it may topple the delicate

balance of your current applications that use these processes. Before you get

ambitious, pick up one or two such problem areas and try using a BPM solution

and seek a short-term RoI.

But how do I spot a business problem linked to business

processes? What are the telltale signs?

As a CIO, it may not be your job to spot a business problem. But listen to

the business managers when they talk and investigate if this can be linked to

the business processes involved.

Some of the ripe candidates are : a) processes that have too

many handovers and no one with a clear responsibility and accountability. b)

processes that are largely manual c) processes that are deficient in purpose d)

processes that require more manpower Consider that this is an occasion for you

to take a process-centric view of the organization. The last you might have done

this holistically would be before you embarked on the ERP project.


What happens to my existing applications? To what extent

do I need to change them? Or do I need to junk them?

Most often, you can go about your existing applications unhindered. Most BPM

vendors create or carve out a separate layer to store business processes and

they operate at that layer. Users often report instantaneous result of a changed

business process.

Even if you have invested in an enterprise application

integration (EAI) project, the integration would have happened at the data

level. In that sense, a BPM project is a good complement to an EAI project.

Understand that most EAI vendors now also offer BPM functionality.

What are the parts that make up a BPM solution suite?

A typical BPM solution has the following components:

  • Modeling tools allowing businesses to create or recast

    business processes

  • Workflow management tools that control the sequence of

    actions in a process

  • Monitoring tools that monitor the progress of the process

    and inform the owner of the process

  • Integration tools that help exchange data and information

    between different applications, ensuring that the processes are completed

  • Development tools that help processes get the

    intelligence to derive the outcome of every business event, planned or


  • Industry-specific process frameworks that handle

    processes belonging to specific industries like insurance, telecom or