What Is Business Process Management (BPM)?

Business process management (BPM) is the practice of designing, executing, monitoring, and optimizing business processes. It is a methodology (not a product) that can turn your business into a well-oiled machine. Done correctly, it is also carried out with the intention of continual improvement.

BPM is often confused with workflow automation. In reality, true BPM should be driven by outcomes (such as process improvements or efficiency gains) and need to take into account the entire, end-to-end process. Processes can be structured and follow a predictable path from beginning to end or unstructured with a less predictable path. Automating structured and repeatable processes or workflows makes sense.

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Process Management Versus Project Management

It is important not to confuse process management with project management. Though they may sound similar, they are not the same.

Process management focuses on repeatable and predictable processes, i.e., ongoing recurring tasks that are part of business day-to-day life. As an example, a travel request follows certain business rules. Although the process may take one direction or another - as if it is approved or not - and even if it is open to change for efficiency's sake, it always leads to the same conclusion.

Project management, on the other hand, is about planning, initiating, and executing a unique, single-off project with a defined goal and established due date. Unlike processes, the projects are not repeatable. And because you don’t come across the same challenges daily, projects are also more flexible as they need to adapt along the way. Process management is usually associated with BPM tools, while project management with work management tools like Asana, Trello, or Jira.

Why Is Business Process Management Important?

Business process management is about optimizing a company's processes in order to achieve its goals in the most efficient and effective way possible with the best results possible, whether they are superior quality, service, response time, customer experience, or customer satisfaction.

This can include optimizing resource allocation, eliminating bottlenecks, reducing process duplication, and speeding up transactions. Organizations can improve operations and bottom lines by utilizing this outcome-oriented methodology. In doing so, they can become stronger and more prepared to weather any storms influenced by the market.

What are the Benefits of BPM?

  • Cost efficiency: By streamlining operations and collaboration and reducing duplicative efforts, companies can decrease costs while improving productivity.
  • Increased productivity: The practice of BPM often leads to automation of repetitive tasks, removing bottlenecks, and reducing 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.
  • Stronger corporate strategy: By aligning BPM with business outcomes, organizations can improve their overall performance and resource optimization.

Business Process Management Examples and Use Cases

The scope of use cases for business process management is incredibly broad. This methodology could be applied to almost any workflow or function for the purpose of greater efficiency and process improvement. Some use case examples include:

  • Expense approval
  • Travel request
  • Inventory management
  • Order fulfillment
  • Credit card request
  • Employee onboarding

Business Process Management Life Cycle

Business process management occurs in a continuous cycle, as described earlier in this article. Although there is some disagreement on the naming and granularity of each stage, it is safe to say that the following is an overview of the entire lifecycle:

Business Process Management Life Cycle.

Design – Identify existing processes as well as areas for improvement. Map the flow of work between people and systems and evaluate any dependencies or handovers.

Execute – Carry out processes identified and designed in the previous step. This can be done manually or using automation.

Monitor – Track processes to stay up to date on their status and performance. Flag areas that are underperforming or serving as potential bottlenecks.

Optimize – Use the information gathered in the monitoring phase to make process improvements to achieve cost savings or greater efficiencies.

Business Process Management Market

To be clear, BPM is a practice, not a market. However, some vendors provide tools to support the application of technology solutions to carry out business processes.

With Gartner identifying hyper-automation as one of the top 10 strategic technology trends, there are several process automation tools to choose from, for different levels of complexity of business processes.

For simpler to medium processes, there are simple workflow management tools, robotic process automation (RPA), and no-code and low-code tools. For medium to complex processes, there are traditional BPM tool and some more advanced low-code platforms. The latter is not strictly focused on BPM but provide sets of tools to address a wider spectrum of use cases that include process management while removing the complexity of BPM software.

Using Low-Code App Development Platforms to Solve BPM

Modern low-code app development platforms like OutSystems remove the complexity of development through configurable tools, resources, and reusable components. This way, your team can quickly create or change simple or complex BPM solutions with minimal effort through a built-in workflow engine without worrying about the different steps for modeling and implementing business processes.

What’s the advantage of using a low-code dev platform instead of a traditional BPM tool? Well, here’s what you can do with OutSystems for BPM:

  • Build customer-centric processes that address their real needs while eliminating internal silos and replacing tools that hinder your customer’s experience;

  • 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). Plus, it also gives you the ability to adapt fast and promote continuous change and improvement through process efficiency;

  • Test, measure, and experiment with new business processes and models, easily create minimum viable processes, and gather insights that support continual improvement.

  • In addition to that, OutSystems provides several products catered to automate different types of business processes, depending on their complexity. These products are built on top of BPT (Business Process Technology), OutSystems technology for handling business processes:

  • The Workflow Builder allows you to develop end-to-end business process workflow applications in minutes, on top of the OutSystems platform. With the Workflow Builder, business users are empowered and have the autonomy to build apps always governed by IT, giving cross-functional teams the means to build apps really fast.

  • The Case Management framework is catered to professional developers who want to deliver solutions faster and easier to support business requirements. This new framework recently launched provides pre-built process functionalities that are needed to implement custom-fit business processes and case management solutions. As in any other OutSystems app, developers will deliver these solutions in the OutSystems development environment, the Service Studio, taking advantage of all the other platform capabilities.

Looking to Automate Your Business Processes?

If you want to learn more about how to automate and optimize your business processes with OutSystems, check out the OutSystems for Business Process Management page.