Introduction

Ultimate guide to business process management

Business Process Management, or BPM, is a term that often conjures up images of tremendous complexity and exhaustive effort with months of planning, committees, and meetings.

In this guide, we aim to simplify BPM and offer practical advice on how to successfully implement it as part of your organisation's digital transformation.

What is BPM?

There is no universally agreed definition of BPM. According to BPM.com, an online resource for the BPM industry, BPM is:

a discipline involving any combination of modelling, automation, execution, control, measurement and optimisation of business activity flows, in support of enterprise goals, spanning systems, employees, customers and partners within and beyond the enterprise boundaries.

Put simply, BPM is a methodology for maintaining and improving processes within a business to increase efficiency and profitability.

Passing a routine piece of paper to a co-worker is a business process. It’s when you establish rules and a method, either manual or technological, to govern how and when that piece of paper is distributed that you enter the realm of BPM. Mapping out the process steps, rules and users will involve a discussion of the following areas:

  • processes you wish to automate
  • roles that the different users or groups of users perform
  • hierarchy of users and their relationships to your organisational units
  • flow of data within your organisation and the actions required upon it
  • data validation rules required
  • integration with existing databases for lookups and data validation
  • export integration for storing the data
  • application integration
  • hosting preferences
  • reporting requirements

Once you have identified the processes, business process management software (BPMS) can be used to implement your methodology and deployed for users to perform their roles.

What is the BPM lifecycle?

Step 1

Identify

The first phase of the BPM lifecycle involves identifying the process you wish to automate and writing down the current steps, actions, people and decisions that need to occur for both the "happy path" and all "what if" scenarios.
Step 2

Build

Business process modelling can be used to map out the current (or “as-is”) process and design the future (or “to-be”) state before creating the roles, steps, business rules and forms within a BPM suite.
Step 3

Execute

Deploy your form and workflow for the process participants. This will be web-accessible and often cloud-hosted with integration to existing systems and eMail for lookups, validaton, export and communication.
Step 4

Monitor

Provide user and management dashboards and reports to identify process bottlenecks and continuously track and evaluate how your business processes are performing over time.
Step 5

Optimise

Make small but targeted improvements to the forms and workflows, fix bottlenecks based on insights from continuous monitoring to make your process more efficient and easier to use.
Step 6

Re-engineer

When the process becomes too complex or inefficient, and optimisation is not seeing the desired output, it may be time to re-engineer a new version of the entire process cycle.

Why do organisations adopt BPMS?

We talk with companies of all sizes and shapes and, even though their industries vary, their challenges are often quite similar.

Common BPM challenges and pain points include:

  • manual, paper-based processes are difficult to trace
  • time spent re-keying data, searching for paper copies and filing
  • limited or no visibility of the approval process – or the actions taken by participants
  • lengthy approval process due to inaccurate or missing information
  • misrouted or lost paperwork and skipped approvers
  • the prohibitive cost of handling, managing and storing paper files
  • the threat of potential breaches in compliance
  • no real-time reporting or ability to access/interrogate data
  • a lack of discipline in the approval process
  • a need to audit procedures for regulatory compliance

BPMS features

BPMS provides the BPM tools required to automate all your business processes and improve your results. Typically, a BPMS platform should include the following tools or components:

Drag-and-drop form designer

to design responsive digital forms to gather and display information

Point-and-click workflow modeler

to graphically model complex business processes

Business rules

to build re-usable business rules and embed them into forms and workflows

Management dashboards

to provide visibility into how your business processes are running

Reporting

to provide scheduled or off-line data analysis for form and process data

Case management

to route and monitor case-orientated operations that may include disparate forms and sub-processes

User groups and role-based permissions

to support both users (internal and external) and groups of users as well as control who has access to documents, forms and folders via Access Control Lists (ACLs)

Security

to offer data security and stability with HTTPS (SSL/TLS) connection, audits logs, user permissions and form data encryption

Application integration

to connect to - and exchange information with - existing databases and legacy systems

Web based and mobile friendly

to provide access from any browser, operating system or mobile device with all major platforms (including iOS and Android) supported

Low-code / no-code

to rapidly create digital applications without programming

Software Development Kit (SDK)

the ability to create re-usable bespoke code for advanced integration and functionality

BPM benefits

Increase productivity

Automation can help to eliminate redundant steps and accelerate approval cycles, leveraging parallel steps where possible, to improve productivity and staff morale

Eliminate paper

A BPMS will greatly reduce the amount of paperwork circulating in an organisation which can lead to cost savings in storage, printing and labour

Increase visibility

Alter in-flight processes in real-time and receive notifications if a workflow is predicted to be late. Easily discover bottlenecks in a process and intervene to keep things running smoothly

Minimise errors

BPM minimises errors and problems due to lost, inaccurate or mishandled requests; reducing the prospect of the form being rejected or being passed back to the originator for clarification

Shorten project timelines

BPM accelerates the approval of internal projects. All members of a group or team can simultaneously perform process tasks with automatic eMail alerts to notify people when a task is assigned

Run processes consistently

BPM ensures process consistency. Whether you run a process once or a thousand times, you can be assured the correct and auditable process was followed

Governance, risk and compliance

BPM can track and record every meaningful transaction in a way that can be retraced later by managers, auditors and regulators

Improve agility

BPM provides insight into your critical tasks, allowing management to review process metrics and statuses to intercede if necessary. This allows nimble organisations to make timely decisions to satisfy customer needs

Continuous improvement

BPM proactively identifies process bottlenecks, as metrics can be reviewed and analysed to identify opportunities for business process improvement

What processes can be improved with a BPMS?

Many companies use BPMS for internal forms, e.g. new employee onboarding, benefit applications, purchase orders or timesheets. The form submission starts a process where multiple people review, update, and approve the information submitted. Common examples include:
Capital expenditure requests

Read more

Employee on-boarding
Contract control
Mergers and acquisitions
Time reporting
Exam marking

Read more

Review and approval
Purchase requisition
Claims processing

BPM vendor comparison

The following table compares six of the top BPM software vendors on the market, including BP Logix Process Director which ePC resell in Europe.

Form design Drag-and-drop. Appian offer a library of pre-built templates WYSIWYG drag & drop form designer featuring Ribbon (similar to Microsoft Word) Forms are created in the UI Designer - a graphical development environment for creating pages and forms

The UI Designer is used to create and update pages for business applications, forms to start process instances or execute human tasks
Process Director includes three options for building forms: (1) Online form builder (2) Microsoft Word form builder (via plugin) and (3) Visual Studio form builder K2 use reusable smart forms which are easy to build, share and modify The Pega Case Designer is used to build user forms and define the visual presentation of a form. The tool helps you to visually model stages, steps, and processes for all case types in an application
Workflow BPMN 1.0. BPMN 2.0 compliant processes can be imported into Appian via Crystal Systems BPMN 2.0 Importer 100% BPMN 2.0 standard notation.

Free BPMN process modeler (over 3 million downloads) plus free full Bizagi platform (for up to 20 non-prod users). When ready to develop for production, customers have the option of a named-user license for on-premises deployment or usage-based pricing in the cloud

The Bizagi USP is that you can build the solution with zero investment and only pay when (and crucially, if) you are ready for a live deployment
BPMN 2.0 (since v. 7.1.5)

Bonita exists in several editions: Enterprise, Performance, Efficiency, Teamwork, and Community

Bonita Community Edition is free, open source and no license is needed
BP Logix Process Director includes two web-based designers for building and executing workflows:

(1) Traditional flowchart model for linear workflows

(2) Patented Process Timeline. A BPMN alternative for unpredictable processes
Visual no-code drag-and-drop designer in an elegant UI.

It can be challenging for users to make changes to workflows while the platform does not offer comprehensive process intelligence such as predictive behaviour
The Pega process modeler includes many aspects and semantics of BPML, BPEL and BPMN though it is not strictly adhered to in favour of more business-friendly modelling notation and features

Case Designer, Process Modeler, and Flow form

The BPM modeller is mainly focussed on creating linear workflows
Business rules Yes Yes Yes Yes - reuseable Yes Yes - Java-based
Business activity monitoring Real-time management tools monitor in-flight processes, re-assign tasks, and view performance Bizagi offers a comprehensive set of performance indicators for historical and real time analysis to help you understand the process and identify opportunities for improvement. BAM tools include:

Process BAM, to analyse the current state of all ongoing processes

Task BAM, to analyse the current state of ongoing tasks

Resources Monitor, to analyse the current workload and performance of end users and work teams

Dashboard/console is not as user friendly as other vendors in this comparison
Reports on the status of process cases are configured and displayed in the Reporting Dashboard in the Administration View of Bonita User Experience Rich set of BAM tools for process owners, business users and business managers

Administrative panels for process instances provide visibility into past, current and future behaviours, based on Process Timeline's built-in predictive analytics
K2 offers reports to view workflow statistics on both active (running) and completed workflows. Easy to access metrics and data about: processes / usage / users / outcomes / problems The Pega platform provides powerful reporting features for developers, business analysts, and managers so that you can create simple or complex reports to satisfy your business needs.

Their capabilities focus more on monitoring and insights into performance.

Limited predictive capabilities
Low-code/no-code Yes – easy for IT and citizen developers to create process-centric and case-centric applications Yes – considered easy to use for non-technical users Yes Yes Yes Yes – very easy to drag/drop to create workflows/apps
Case management Yes Yes (since v.11.1) Yes Yes (since v.3.8) Yes Yes
Integration You can extend Appian beyond standard features through custom plugins which can be downloaded from the AppMarket. Other integrations include: web services (REST/SOAP) and web APIs Integration framework offers easy to build connectors. The user identifies the app they need to connect to via the Xchange market. Alternatively, users create their own using third party APIs Java and REST API REST/Web services, SharePoint, social media, POP or IMAP eMail K2’s patented business integration technology (called SmartObjects) makes connecting to virtually any line-of-business system quick and reusable. K2 offers strong integration with Microsoft products such as SharePoint, Office 365, Dynamics and Dynamics 365 Pega REST services
Technology Java Microsoft .Net or Java Platform Enterprise Edition (JEE) Java Microsoft .Net Microsoft Java
Training Online training is free. Additional fees may apply for in-person training Self-paced eLearning courses is free. Paid for options include: instructor-led workshops, on-premise classroom and certification Paid for training and certification are available. Courses are aimed at business users, developers and system admin/IT. The courses can be delivered online or in-person and you get a certification upon successful completion Paid for instructor-led workshops Training is available for K2 Core and K2 for SharePoint. Training is available in-person or on-demand/virtual classroom. On-demand/virtual classroom training is paid for with K2 Service Credits. These credits can be purchased at $200/credit. Pricing for in-person training is available on request Training and certification are available. Training is paid for by purchasing Pega Academy Credits ($15 / per credit). The Pega Academy™ offer certifications depending on your role e.g. business user or system analyst
Support Free standard support is available to all customers and includes phone support. Paid for Premier support offers expedited response times with SLA Bizagi offer standard maintenance e.g. product updates and basic product support. This is mandatory for the first year and does not include an SLA. It allows you to open tickets in the Bizagi portal for simple consultations. You can also report bugs, make suggestions etc. Paid for Premium support is available with an SLA. Support is also via forums, portal, documentation, and instructional video Bonitasoft offers two levels of support - Gold Elite and Platinum. Gold Elite support is via a customer portal. Platinum support offers telephone support and quicker response times Paid for support via telephone and eMail with an SLA. Free access to videos and online documentation Standard support offers 24/7 access to online training, product documentation and K2’s technical user community. It also offers direct access to a technical support engineer over the phone or online during standard business hours. Premium support offers 24/7 support for emergencies or high priority issues Technical support via Global Customer Support team, ranging from 24x7 enterprise requirements to smaller scale support
Trial version Yes - free for up to 30 days Yes - free Yes No - contact us for a demo Yes Yes - free
Pricing Standard licence is £90 per user/month (for 100 users). Discounts available for more users. Application licencing available on request Their licencing model includes a user-based ‘Perpetual License’ which is paid for once and the software can be used for an unlimited period of time. They also offer a ‘Usage Based License’, which is a pay-for-what-you-use model Subscription based.

For the subscription editions (Enterprise, Performance, Efficiency, and Teamwork), you need to install a license during the installation procedure. This license depends on the edition, the deployment environment, the number of cases purchased or the number of cores.

For the Bonita Community edition, no license is needed
Quote based The K2 Cloud starter package costs $12 per user/per month for up to 5 workflows and 25 forms. They also offer the following packages for K2 cloud and K2 five:

Builder: $18 per user/per month for up to 25 workflows and 125 forms

Premier: $24 per user/per month for up to 125 workflows and 600 forms

Request a quote for up to 1,000 workflows and up to 5,000 forms
Quote based
Deployment The 'Appian Guarantee' promises to launch projects in 8 weeks for new customers deploying via the Appian Cloud. Public Cloud (Amazon, Azure, Google) and on-premise available. > 2 months (available on-premise / Cloud / SaaS / mobile) > 9 months. On-premise / Cloud (hosting only available via partners) Between 3 - 6 months for on-premise and cloud Between 2-3 months > 3 months (for on-premise / Cloud / Mobile)

Free eBook

The journey towards BPM: Recognising inefficiency in your business

One of the first steps towards business efficiency is recognition. That recognition might be as simple as “Something has to change!” or just the awareness that you can do things better.

In this eBook, we review ten indicators that may suggest your business processes would benefit from automation. How many will you recognise in your organisation?

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