The benefits claimed by BPM (business process management) software sound almost too good to be true. Proponents crow about lower app dev costs, shorter time to market, improved compliance enforcement, and new points of leverage for optimizing business performance.
BPM software can't improve anything by itself, of course -- but it can be a powerful weapon when combined with business-oriented documentation and analysis. Within its own controlled, high-level app dev environment, BPM wraps IT solution development within business-driven modeling and performance measurement.
At the least, BPM provides an effective new medium through which the business side can communicate its requirements to IT. At best, it can distill functionality from existing applications and free business logic from the bonds of existing infrastructure to enable unprecedented agility.
One persistent problem for potential adopters, however, has been abject confusion. BPM solutions come in so many varieties that only a handful of consultants seem to know which solution is best for the task at hand.
Today, clarity is emerging in the form of the BPM suite, an integrated set of tools and runtime components designed to create software analogs of business processes. Together, these elements allow customers to model, deploy, and monitor BPM systems without having to staple together bits and pieces of technology from different vendors.
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The basic BPM flow
BPM begins with process modeling, a business-driven exercise in which current and proposed process flows are documented in detail, linked to quantifiable performance metrics, and optimized through simulation analysis.
These optimized models automatically generate the skeleton of the IT implementation in a BPM suite's process designer, a graphical development tool that integrates human workflow, application integration, and business rules to create an executable process solution. Completed process designs are then deployed to the process engine and other components of the BPM suite runtime, where they route and track tasks, integrate with external business systems, and enforce business rules.
As process instances complete each activity, the process engine generates an event to mark the occasion. Those events are collected by the BPM suite's performance management component, which aggregates them into metrics that measure business performance.