Is it time for Business Process Management software to join the enterprise platform big league?

By Neil Thurston, Chief Technologist, Logicalis UK&I

Business Process Management (BPM) has had something of a chequered history in the enterprise space. While Lean, Six Sigma and other quality methodologies have led some organisations to embrace formal process management as part of their DNA, others have not achieved the same level of traction.

This is reflected in the level of investment in BPM software versus other enterprise platforms. The global BPM software market was worth 8.8 billion US dollars in 2020, which is significant, but minor compared with around 50 billion for ERP software in 2021.

This blog examines the reasons why BPM has never been part of the enterprise platform software family along with ERP, CRM, SCM and the others, and considers how the drive to automation is driving the case for it to join that list.   

What is holding BPM back?

Process-led approaches to improving organisational effectiveness have a strong track record of success, yet many organisations still find them challenging to implement, so penetration remains patchy.

Lack of effective ownership, perceived poor ROI, and over-reliance on enterprise IT solutions are three key blockers to successful BPM implementation.

Lack of effective ownership – The most effective BPM implementations are owned and driven from the business. For example, one of the successes of the Lean methodology has been in empowering those who carry out the process to improve it.

Without sufficient business ownership and drive, BPM can remain detached from the business itself, often struggling to find a place in the organisation that gives it the required traction. Tiny teams of process specialists, loosely aligned to, say, the IT function, face strong headwinds in making change.            

Perceived poor ROI – Discovering, mapping and formalising processes, and sustaining an effective continuous improvement mechanism, have traditionally required a major investment in time and effort from business owners, and expensive external expertise. Without effective business ownership, this investment can fail to deliver sufficient return for businesses to see it as worthwhile.  

Over-reliance on enterprise IT – Businesses and technologists can invest too much confidence in IT systems’ ability to fix business processes, often with disappointing results. As Bill Gates pointed out, “The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.”

How automation changes the BPM landscape    

The growth in automation and intelligent IT are game-changers for BPM and BPM software.  

The risk Bill Gates identified, of magnifying inefficiency by automating inefficient processes, increases as organisations rely more and more on automated systems. Maximising value from automation depends on processes being clearly understood, mapped and managed.

Applying intelligence and automation to BPM itself, and making BPM a strategic, shared business priority, can overcome the blockers that have historically held back effective BPM, and ensure maximum ROI on business process automation.

There has long been an overlap between BPM and enterprise software platform capabilities, from case management in enterprise content management, to workflows in collaboration platforms. Effective BPM, supported by intelligent software tools, enables these capabilities to deliver their full value.      

Tools such as IBM Blueworks Live deliver critical enablers for effective BPM, such as process mapping at the speed of conversation.  Along with strategic commitment to BPM, they foster an environment in which citizen developers, supported by no-code and low-code application capabilities, can deliver rapid, controlled business improvement rather than the anarchy that can result in an environment where processes are not under control.            

What next?

Logicalis UK&I have helped many clients deliver success in their business process management journeys.

Download our Automation eBook to find out more about the critical role of BPM in automation, or visit www.ie.logicalis.com to find out more.