BPM software (BPMS) is a process automation tool that revolutionized the way business process management is done. By replacing outdated, manual, paper-based procedures with automation, it promises to increase productivity while reducing costs.

As companies move to become smarter, faster, and more agile in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, it's no surprise that the demand for BPM tools is expected to increase in the upcoming years, with the BPM providers quickly recovering from the current market shrink. In fact, according to Gartner’s “Forecast: Enterprise Infrastructure Software, Worldwide, 2018-2024, 3Q20 Update", published on September 30, 2020, the BPMS market will reach a value of USD 2.9 billion by 2024 at a CAGR of 3.8% over 2020-2024.

But choosing the best process automation tool for your organization is not an easy process. Besides various vendors, there’s a myriad of automation solutions to choose from. Robotic process automation tools, for example, are a market in expansion. According to the same report mentioned above, this market has been absorbing pieces of the BPMs one and it’s even expected to surpass the later, by reaching a value of USD 3.5 billion in 2024 with a CAGR of 16% (2020-2024)!

So, if you’re not sure what is the right automation solution for your business goals, this blog post is for you. Here’s what I’ll cover:

  1. What Is Business Process Management Software?
  2. Benefits of BPM Tools
  3. Choosing the Right BPM Solution
  4. Finding the Middle Ground: The Future of BPM Software

Let’s get started!

What Is Business Process Management Software?

BPM software is an automation tool that allows you to digitalize business processes. With BPM tools, companies can map the various steps in a process and set workflows in motion. These workflows route a specific sequence of action items to the right people. This way, every member involved in a process knows what to do and when.

In other words, business process management software runs or manages business processes to improve an organization's operations and reduce the risk of bottlenecks and inefficiencies.

Take a look at the process of submitting and approving an expense, for example.

Workflow explaining the process of submitting and approving an expense

The process is fairly simple: an employee submits an expense. If it is under 50 dollars, it goes directly to the HR department, and the process ends. If it’s above 50 dollars, the manager receives a notification, approves it, or not, and depending on the answer, it moves to the HR department or terminates the action. 

BPMS is the tool that allows line-of-business users to create and manage this digital and automatic workflow automatically, replacing the complex paper-based and bureaucratic process employees would have to follow before getting their money back.

Benefits of BPM Tools

Simply put, BPM software allows you to greatly improve efficiency by automating and standardizing business processes while ensuring that  everyone is moving in the same direction to  accomplish your organization’s goals faster . But there are a few more benefits that come from this digitalization: 

  • Cost efficiency: By streamlining operations and collaboration, and automating repetitive tasks, companies can reduce costs while improving productivity.
  • Improved agility: A good BPMS has the flexibility to change processes or add new steps, adapting to the unique demands of your business.   
  • Increased productivity: BPMS facilitates the automation of repetitive tasks, removing bottlenecks and unnecessary steps.
  • Better employee and customer satisfaction: Instead of spending time doing boring and repetitive tasks, employees can spend more time in activities that bring more value to the business and the customer.
  • Optimize decisioning and promote continuous improvement: Most BPMS provide reporting and analytical tools to quantify the results of workflows, and support executive decisions.

Choosing the Right BPM Solution

Nowadays, there are several process automation software solutions a company can choose from. You have traditional BPMS, of course,  as well as RPA, no-code, low-code, and workflow management tools. So, how do you know which one is the best for your business?

Like any other software tool, there are a few things you need to have in mind, like the budget, the type of deployment you want (Cloud or on-premises), the timeline for implementation, and the human resources available to implement it. But even before all that, you need to think about the problem you’re trying to solve.

Different tools address different levels of complexity. A good way to start is by identifying which type of workflow apps you need on a scale from simple to complex, being:

  • Simple: Mostly internal productivity apps that collect data from a form and run through a simple workflow where there are tasks to be done. It may include simple automated logic, human interactions, notifications and alerts, and maybe some access control to involve the right people at the right time. Examples are expense approvals, employee on-boarding, or vacation approval apps.
  • Medium: This includes department and operation apps that need to interact with other devices and access their native capabilities. These types of apps also audited transactions and include some sort of monitoring and real-time analytics. Examples are support ticketing systems and field services apps.
  • Complex: Here, we’re talking about line-of-business and industry apps. These apps include long and complex processes that go through several business rules and that need to integrate with core systems and different technology. They usually also have high regulatory requirements. Examples are claims handling, policy underwriting, and loan originations apps.

Table defining simple, medium and complex processes

Now, if you’re looking to automate simple workflows, where “if this” happens, “then that”, RPA should do the trick (and, if that’s the case, check out this blog post about best practices to implement RPA). But if you're looking to build more complex applications, traditional BPM tools are a better solution. However, the problem with traditional BPM solutions is that they are known to be hard to use, and even the simplest change or customization requires the effort of specialized engineers. As a consequence, whenever you want to change a workflow, the work ends up falling on the increasing backlog pile of your IT team.

And when you move to the enterprise, projects are even longer because of the complex business rules that are spread across multiple departments and locations. Plus, businesses are now more focused on creating and delivering continuous value to customers through engaging user experiences, improved integration between different systems and different repositories of data. Yet, BPM tools are ready to meet these needs with agility.

Finding the Middle Ground: The Future of BPM Software

On the quest for business agility, over the last few years, many BPMS vendors started to integrate modern and visual development capabilities into their stack.

Based on the rapid application development principles and minimal hand-coding, this new breed of  BPM software removes the complexity of development through configurable tools, resources, and reusable components. This way, your team can quickly create or change simple to complex BPM apps with minimal effort through a built-in workflow engine without worrying about the different steps for modeling and implementing business processes.

OutSystems capabilities for BPM, for example, include: 

  • Audit trails: full process audit trails are recorded and viewable to provide transparency and accountability.
  • Automatic inboxes: inboxes can be enabled across all or selected OutSystems applications and processes for easy training and work access.
  • Event handling: register events that are associated with business rules within each workflow or shared among workflows.
  • Extensible process analytics: out-of-the-box process analytics are available, and easily customizable for your unique business processes and data.
  • Visual language: OutSystems allows designing through the Business Process Technology Add-on visual mapping.
  • Work routing and allocation: assign work to roles, groups, or by other attributes to ensure the work gets to the right place the first time.
  • Integration: our open API layer allows for easy integration of any internal or external data and systems. Plus, set up your integrations even faster by using any of the existing public OutSystems connectors available on the OutSystems Forge.
  • Reusability: Possibility to design a process that reuses business logic from a centralized source or from other existing processes.

In addition to that, OutSystems recently launched a new tool designed specifically to handle simple to medium business processes. Catered to business users, Workflow Builder enables business experts, analysts, and process owners to create workflow apps from scratch through an easy-to-use wizard that abstracts the development process.

This way, besides being able to create a simple app in a matter of minutes, IT leaders can equip business users with the tools to develop their own solutions while decreasing the need for “shadow IT” and reducing the backlog of your IT team. While empowering cross-functional collaboration and ensuring full IT governance, Workflow Builder expands app development into the line-of-business, freeing your IT team to focus on more innovative and crucial projects.

Watch the Workflow Builder in action in this free demo.  

For medium to complex processes that are critical to business operations and require higher control and regulatory compliance, OutSystems provides the Case Management framework. This framework, available in the OutSystems Forge, provides core capabilities and pre-built process functions needed to implement custom-fit business process and case management solutions.

The Case Management framework is built on top of OutSystems Business Process Technology (BPT)—OutSystems technology for handling routine business tasks. By adding an additional level of abstraction with a set of pre-built functions that are typically a part of Case Management applications, it helps developers deliver fit-for-purpose applications and innovative solutions, with a faster time-to-market and at the speed your business demands.

Learn more about the Case Management framework in our documentation.  

Bringing It All Together

If your processes don't function at optimum levels, you can’t expect the rest of your organization to meet their goals. By applying digital perspective to operations, your business processes can be running at peak speed and efficiency in no time.

With OutSystems, you can:

  • Create and deliver digital processes to the business 10x faster than using traditional development methods. This way, you can build and use your processes within days rather than months (or years);
  • Build customer-centric processes that address their real needs, while eliminating internal silos and replacing tools that hinder your customer’s experience;
  • Test, measure, and experiment with new business processes and models, easily create minimum viable processes, and gather insights that support continual improvement.

Learn more about OutSystems for BPM in our page for Business Process Management