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Which Types of Tools you really need for Business Process Management (BPM)

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.

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  • Interesting stuff Thilo.  Many of our customers were fascinated when Mark Scavillo shared exactly where we (SAP) were as a company in the Process Maturity Model.   He did this at Sapphire and will repeat this on June 30th at 11:00am EST on a webinar for BPX and ASUG.   It was also quite candid and remarkable that Mark didn’t position SAP as a vendor in this context, but rather as a company, just like any other large software industry player, analyzing where it stands in the process lifecycle.  Hope there will be a good showing for his presentation and perhaps others will follow suit and share their own experiences.     Sharing the challenges and the bad and ugly as well as the good, is instructive.
    • Jes Marilyn, we want to share our experience with others here to get opportunities to discuss or collaborate with other companies that work on the same BPM Vision. From the meetings we already had we know that these very open discussions are beneficial for both sides. Sometimes it takes some time to convince other companies that we just want to share experiences with them.
  • Hi Thilo,
    I#m a member of the DSAG workgruop BPM. There we constructed the BPM lifecycle which you used. We discused a lot, which tools can help in the sigle phases. I think you made it more concret. Based on these discussions I built a BPM vision for my client and we evaluated tools for the measurement, management and knowledge. In your BPM lifecycle I miss the knowledge solution. A knowledgs warehouse can provide the materials (manuals, training materials, e-learnings etc) belong the business process structure which we find in the measurement tool and in the management tool also as a basic component for a PML (Process management lifecycle?). The knowledge solution is strongly necessary in the phase implementation, because if the users cannot handle the processes, you cannot reach a benefit.
    I hope we can find an integrated BPM Landscape solution at SAP in the future. This isn’t still realized. So we are waiting and we began to document our processes with BPMN in a single tool.
    Best regards
    • Micheal,would it seem naive to suggest that the BPX wiki area is a place to consolidate the knowledge managment that you refer to in the public space as a simulation for what you are looking for.  It would be great to have you expand your ideas around what such knowledge management should look like, what training contents available, what elearning or rich media would be useful.
      I warmly invite you to create a small sample project for others to collaborate on in the  BPX wiki.
      Any chance of working with you with an eye on TechEd Berlin?  Having such collaboration (perhaps with folks from ASUG as well) could bring some of the BPM landscape solution that you call future, into the present.
    • Hi Michael,

      the idea of an additional knowledge solution as a seperate type of tool is really good. We did also think about that but decided to see the process landscape and the process flows as single source of information. Therefore in our approach  the “Process Publishing Tool” would be the place where employees can access all process related information in an easy to read and easy to understand way: the process landscape and models as single source information base. This kind of models and information can be published in a role based manner and should include everything from process related documents, Q&A pairs, process goals to reporting about process performance indicators (PPI’s).

      This could be an alternative to a separate KM Solution for processes.

      Best regards,

  • Hi Marylin, Hi Thilo,
    thank you for your feedback.
    Thilo, to publish knowledge content in a business process management system to have a single point of all process informations is a clearly requirement and necessary. But before you can publish user manuals, training material and e-learnings, you have to create them. With my recommondation for a knowledge solution I mean a system to create all these materials in an easier way than MS-Office. My understanding is, that it is very good to use a system based on the same process structure, which you can find in the BPM system. It is easier to find knowledge materials and to publish them in the BPM System, too (not only there). To use a common process strucutre, it should be possible to have an bi-directional interface to get always the last version of the process landscape in the knowledge tool, also.

    I heard the proesentation from Mr. Scavilio from SAP on the ARIS process world and in our DSAG AK Meeting. Before I read the blog from him. Waht I learned is, that SAP has a lot of tools to implement services in a SOA landscape. But these tools still cannot work together e.g. the ESR has no interface to the BPR in the SolMan.The netweaver compositions environment has no interface to the BPR and so on. IDS Scheer announced, that their ARIS tools are the interfaces between the different SAP tools. Why?
    SAP gave the knowledge warehouse to realtek, the knowledge management as the publishing tool is now integrated in the portal. The SolMan has learning maps. No one can explain me why. What a trouble for knowledge.
    I haven’t planned to visit the Teched in Berlin. Should I? I planned to visit the DSAG annual congress in Leipzig in September. But I’m not sure to realize it, beause there is no presentation for BPM. Our AK has no slot during the congress. In the time of the teched I have no time to go.
    Marylin, what did you mean with a little project?
    Best regards

    • Hallo Michael,

      thank you for this very instructive and intelligent comment! And you are right, in this overview I didn’t think about a “Knowledge Creation Tool” that helps to create process related information and in parallel to distribute it along processes. This is a very new idea for me. Thank you for this input!

      To give a first but surely incomplete answer to the secound part of your comment: The existing SAP Tools for BPM all are more or less located at the technical side of BPM. ESR, BPR, Visual Composer, Solution Manager… – all these tools are more software related than business related “BPM” tools. The IDS Tools want to acomplish some whitespaces they see ftrom their point of view. But you are right, there is not always an universal design idea behind all these offerings. This might be one main reason for SAP to work on a new kind of BPM Suite, called “Galaxy”. As far as I know, IDS Products will play a role in this new tool family too.

      If you look at the market of existing BPM Tools, Suites and so on, I don’t see a really mature BPM landscape that has filled all the whitespaces yet. Therefore I think it is a great opportunity for SAP to work on this with a clear design idea in mind. Let’s see what we’ll achieve.

      Best regards,