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Business Process Management

Business Process Management (BPM) is a field of management focused on aligning organizations with the wants and needs of clients. It is a holistic management approach that promotes business effectiveness and efficiency while striving for innovation, flexibility and integration with technology. Business process management attempts to continuously improve processes. It could therefore be described as a "process optimization process".

Overview

A business process is "a collection of related, structured activities that produce a service or product that meet the needs of a client." These processes are critical to any organization as they generate revenue and often represent a significant proportion of costs. As a managerial approach, BPM considers processes to be strategic assets of an organisation that must be understood, managed and improved to deliver value added products and services to clients. This foundation is very similar to other Total Quality Management or Continuous Improvement Process methodologies or approaches. BPM goes a step further by stating that this approach can be supported, or enabled, through technology to ensure the viability of the managerial approach in times of stress and change. In fact, BPM is an approach to integrate a "change capability" to an organisation - both human and technological. As such, many BPM articles and pundits often discuss BPM from one of two viewpoints: people and/or technology.

Roughly speaking, the idea of (business) process is as traditional as concepts of tasks, department, production, outputs. The current management and improvement approach, with formal definitions and technical modeling, has been around since the early 1990s (see business process modeling). However there has been a common confusion in the IT community, as the term 'business process' is often used as synonymous of management of middleware processes; or integrating application software tasks. This viewpoint may be overly restrictive. This should be kept in mind when reading software engineering papers which refer to 'business processes' or 'business process modeling.'

Although the initial focus of BPM was on the automation of mechanistic business processes, it has since been extended to integrate human-driven processes in which human interaction takes place in series or parallel with the mechanistic processes. A common form is where individual steps in the business process which require human intuition or judgment to be performed are assigned to the appropriate members of an organization (as with workflow systems).

More advanced forms such as human interaction management are in the complex interaction between human workers in performing a workgroup task. In this case many people and systems interact in structured, ad-hoc, and sometimes completely dynamic ways to complete one to many transactions.

BPM can be used to understand organizations through expanded views that would not otherwise be available to organize and present. These views include the relationships of processes to each other which, when included in the process model, provide for advanced reporting and analysis that would not otherwise be available. BPM is regarded by some as the backbone of enterprise content management.

Because BPM allows organizations to abstract business process from technology infrastructure, it goes far beyond automating business processes (software) or solving business problems (suite) – it enables business to respond to changing consumer, market, and regulatory demands faster than competitors, thereby creating competitive advantage.

BPM Technology

Some define the BPM System or Suite (BPMS) as "the whole of BPM." Other will relate the important concept of information moving between enterprise software packages and immediately think of Service Oriented Architecture (SOA). Others limit the definition to "modeling... to create the ‘perfect’ process," (see Business modeling).

These are partial answers and the technological offerings continue to evolve. The BPMS term may not survive. Today it encompases the concept of supporting the managerial approach through enabling technology. The BPMS should enable all stakeholders to have a firm understanding of an organization and its performance. The BPMS should facilitate business process change throughout the lifecycle stated above. This will assist in the automation of activities, collaboration, integration with other systems, integrating partners through the value chain, etc. For instance, the size and complexity of daily tasks often requires the use of technology to model efficiently. These models facilitate automation and solutions to business problems. These models can also become executable to assist in monitoring and controling business processes. As such, some people view BPM as "the bridge between Information Technology (IT) and Business.". In fact, an argument can be made that this "holistic approach" bridges organisational and technological silos.

There are four critical components of a BPM Suite:

1) Process Engine – a robust platform for modeling and executing process-based applications, including business rules
2) Business Analytics — enable managers to identify business issues, trends, and opportunities with reports and dashboards and react accordingly
3) Content Management — provides a system for storing and securing electronic documents, images, and other files
4) Collaboration Tools — remove intra- and interdepartmental communication barriers through discussion forums, dynamic workspaces, and message boards
BPM also addresses many of the critical IT issues underpinning these business drivers, including:
- Managing end-to-end, customer-facing processes
- Consolidating data and increasing visibility into and access to associated data and information
- Increasing the flexibility and functionality of current infrastructure and data
- Integrating with existing systems and leveraging emerging service oriented architecture (SOAs)
- Establishing a common language for business-IT alignment


Example of Business Process Management (BPM) Service Pattern : This pattern shows how business process management (BPM) tools can be used to implement business processes through the orchestration of activities between people and systems.[4]BPMS can be industry-specific, and might be driven by a specific software package such as Agilent OpenLAB BPM. Other products may focus on Enterprise Resource Planning and warehouse management.

Validation of BPMS is another technical issue which vendors and users need to be aware of, if regulatory compliance is mandatory.[5] The validation task could be performed either by an authenticated third party or by the users themselves. Either way, validation documentation will need to be generated. The validation document usually can either be published officially or retained by users[6]

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