Business processes are the DNA of every company: a business process coordinates the behaviour of people, systems, and information to produce business outcomes in support of a business strategy. Processes are really everywhere. A successful digital transformation requires digital process automation. Companies start this journey for many reasons: existing processes might be too inefficient, too slow or very often simply not flexible enough to support new business models.
BPM (Business Process Management) is a discipline that uses various methods to discover, model, analyse, measure, improve and optimize business processes.
The collaboration of business stakeholders and IT professionals is crucial for the success of modern enterprises. Business stakeholders understand the market, the business value delivered by the company and the strategy. They can channel all of that into requirements, features and priorities. On the other hand, IT is aware of technical constraints, existing applications and organization.
From the business perspective, the Business Process Model reacts to a business events and produces a business outcome, after having followed a number of activities that involve humans and systems.
From the IT perspective, the Business Process Model will be the execution model followed at runtime and it will call different services in order to interact with IT applications. This delegation can rely on microservices, IoT components and robotic processing automation (RPA).
In order to automate business process execution, companies rely on a BPM solution which provides a core component: the BPM engine.
The BPM engine will manage the full lifecycle of all the process instances initiated from a Business Process Model. As we can have long running process instances (from hours to years), the BPM engine has to provide three main capabilities: persistence, scheduling and versioning.
the engine stores the current state of all the running process instances and keeps track on all the executed activities (who did what and when).
the Business Process Model can include event throwing mechanisms in order to implement all time and duration characteristics of the process (legal delay, notifications, …). Therefore, there must be a scheduling feature that allows the BPM engine to become active whenever something needs to be done.
each process instance has been started at a certain time but after that, updates can be deployed on the model. Then, we have to answer the following question: how to handle “old” process instances regarding newer versions of the model. Many BPM engines propose a versioning mechanism and some tooling to help in process instance migration.
In order to leverage the full potential of process automation, we consider that some others topics need to be addressed, as depicted in the following picture:
As many processes will involve end users through human tasks, it’s crucial to have a single point of reference for tasks management (what activities can be claimed, by who depending on the roles associated within each user). If most of the BPM solutions propose a standard application for tasklist management, most of the customers want to have a dedicated frontend application where other functions can be embedded (access to documents in an ECM solution for example).
In order to have a global view on all the running process instances but also to analyze globally how efficient the process automation is, you need to have a place where all the metrics related to these executions can be aggregated in dashboards and reports. This is the place where we will typically compute KPIs (Key Performance Indicators).
Operations need to have a tool to have all the relevant information in case of technical problems. After receiving an alert about a specific issue (a call to a backend service failed, for instance), the tool needs to support root cause analysis to understand the problem and then, finally, fixing the issue.
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