William Gurley writes:
The Deming revolution–built around concepts like continuous improvement and just-in-time (JIT) inventory–had a universal impact on global manufacturing. Today, there is a new form of enterprise software that has the ability to do for white-collar business processes what Deming did for manufacturing. Delphi Group believes that business process management (BPM) is “quickly emerging as the moniker for the next killer app in enterprise software.” Believe it or not, this may actually undersell the potential impact of BPM. BPM will not just change the software industry–it will change industry in general. Just like Deming.
What type of enterprise software could possibly have such an impact? BPM is a new programming paradigm for the enterprise that leverages browser-based applications, e-mail, global connectivity and enterprise application integration (EAI) infrastructure to deliver a powerful, business-focused programming solution. A mix between workflow, EAI and application development, BPM makes it easy for companies to codify their current processes, automate their execution, monitor their current performance and make on-the-fly changes to improve the current processes.
Here is how it works. Business analysts work alongside IT staff and create a graphical flow chart of targeted processes within the organization. These graphical designs are typically done in an integrated design environment (IDE) and represent the different events, decisions and actions that are performed by employees as well as the flows of data that are necessary to perform each task. Once defined, people begin to interact with the new application. New “processes” are started by an individual (for example, entering a new customer issue) or as the result of an event (for example, a customer account goes past due). Actions are then passed from person to person through the concept of a task inbox, and typically the passing of a URL.
Gurley describes the six components of a BPM solution: IDE, Process Engine, User Directory, Workflow, Reporting/Process Monitoring and Integration.
I was just having an internal discussion yesterday about the need of the equivalent of a “Sim City” for an enterprise – a framework for a manager to create a virtual model of an enterprise, and then inject a series of events into it. This will let the manager check the software that is about to be deployed and get a feel for the information flow and the reports that are likely to be available, prior to deployment.
The BPM article captures the essence of what I’d like to see as part of our eBusiness suite targeted at SMEs that we are developing.