If you look at the huge number of tools and suites that are offered across the marketplace to support the BPM activities of a company, it is really difficult to keep an overview. To reduce complexity you might have the idea to start reading all these booklets, whitepapers, websites and flyers about BPM products. But according to my experience this doesn’t help you to make things more transparent. I know many cases where thinking in products and product oriented search was not crowned with success.
Therefore I don’t want to market our products here – even if there are good reasons to do that – or give you an overview or evaluation of all these BPM products offered by my own company, our partners or other vendors. No, first of all I want to invite you to lean back and relax. Please don’t close your eyes…
Let’s go back to the roots. What is really essencial to support the BPM activities in your company effectively? For me a good starting point is always the BPM Lifecycle and its phases and steps. The approach we use at SAP is the Process Management Lifecycle (PML). This general BPM framework is just an example and it might not be too difficult to translate my ideas into other BPM methodologies. To get more background information about SAP’s PML, you can have a look at our blogs Process Management Lifecycle and Details on New Process Management Lifecycle (PML).
If you agree with me, then BPM tools first of all should support the phases and steps that are executed within a BPM Lifecycle. This is how I want to derive a number of different types of BPM tools. In reality the products and suites we want to sell you are often a mix of these. The below illustration gives an overview about the types of BPM tools I would see as core tools to support a BPM Lifecycle:
To give you some more information, let me try to point out some of the main qualities these types of BPM tools should meet in my ideal world?
Strategic Planning and Cascading Tool
- Enable transparency on strategic goals and business goals
- Derive concrete and weighted process goals as input for the process design
- Adjust the process to changes of the strategy or the business goals
Process Modeling Tool
- Visual representation of the process landscape
- Visual representation of the business process on different levels of granularity
- Process model as “Single-Source-Information-Base” for Business & IT
- Reuse of the objects that are used in process models (preconfigured content)
- Enable different views of a process model (conversion into different model types)
Process Publishing Tool
- Easy to read and role based presentation of the process activities and flow (high user acceptance)
- Dynamic generation of process models and related content (always up-to-date)
- Integration of process performance metrics and other additional information
BPM Collaboration Tool
- Enable and promote the intense collaboration of process executors, the process owner and other stakeholders
- Platform to discuss pain points, optimization ideas, best practices etc.
- Support continuous improvement of the process
Process Calculation Tool
- Calculation of the (average) probability for all process activities: In what percentage of all cases is a specific process step executed on average?
- Calculation of absolute and weighted (based on the probabilities) time and cost values for the process and its flow variants
- Furthermore, combining the processing times with the assigned roles makes it possible to calculate the required personnel capacity for each role
Process Simulation Tool
- Examine the dynamic response of the process to differing input quantities (especially for processes with a high repetition rate)
- Identify bottlenecks/jams in the process flow at an early stage
- Optimize workforce planning to reduce capacitance bottlenecks and jams
- Gather important information for workflow arrangement
Process Monitoring Tool
- Active monitoring of the metrics and measure points in a process (compare with target values)
- Gather and analyze the measured process performance data
- Possibility to generate action items in case of alerts (if the measured process performance is below your targets)
Process Reporting Tool
- Review of process relevant numbers and performance metrics
- Present data on different levels granularity (aggregated, drill-down)
- Sharie the data to other tools (e.g. Process Publishing)
- Easy customizing of the reports you need
Process Management Cockpit
- Transparent and self-explaining presentation of process data
- Live monitoring of the process execution and performance
Process Implementation Tool (e.g. SAP Solution Manager)
- Support of the process implementation project
- Support E2E testing of the process
- Support the roll-out of the process
Besides these BPM Tools which for me are the “core” tools, you may have additional need for tool support. For example, if you have complex business rules that are used in your processes, it might be important for you to describe and administrate them in a separate “Business Rules Engine”. This can help you to reduce the complexity of your business process models. Often it is also important to have tools, that allow you to implement workflow managment and to automate the execution of your processes. And in the context of service oriented architectures (SOA) you might also need tools to compose and orchestrate your processes under (re-)use of web services.
If you examine the BPM tools that are offered at the market, they often are a mix out of these described types of tools. For this reason, it is pretty difficult to find the most suitable ones. And the task gets even more complex if you regard the need to interconnect these single tools and to build a integrated BPM tool landscape. This is a real herculean task! You then have to add an integration platform and often you have to develop additional or enhance existing interfaces to improve the communication abilities of these BPM products.
I hope the described structure helps you a little bit to prioritize what you really need. It might help you to find the best BPM tools and the best way to integrate them into your BPM tool landscape.