BPM for dummies: New book demystifies business process management

Business process management (BPM) is a popular topic at manufacturing and supply chain conferences. But it appears that industry executives still have more questions than answers when it comes to understanding BPM. That particular fact inspired an addition to the widely known “for Dummies” book series.
By Sidney Hill Jr., executive editor June 1, 2008

Business process management (BPM) is a popular topic at manufacturing and supply chain conferences. But it appears that industry executives still have more questions than answers when it comes to understanding BPM. That particular fact inspired an addition to the widely known “for Dummies” book series.

Three executives from Software AG , which offers solutions for integrating and optimizing business processes, collaborated on a 72-page tome titled BPM Basics for Dummies , released this spring. Bruce Williams, VP and general manager of Software AG’s BPM Solutions Group, is one of the authors.

“Everyone understands something about BPM,” says Williams, “but it’s such a broad topic—and has been applied across so many industries—that everyone seems to have their own definition. We think it’s important to get everyone on the same page, with a common basis for referring to this very large, growing global movement.”

The biggest misconception about BPM, according to Williams, is that it’s a technology. Williams says this mistaken belief stems from the term BPM having been coined by technology analysts, and that most BPM initiatives are spearheaded by IT groups.

“First and foremost,” Williams stresses, “BPM is about people and what they do every day to collaborate and improve business performance. Secondarily, it’s about processes. Only at the third level do you get to the technology. Essentially, BPM is an umbrella term that refers to the methodologies and processes—as well as the technology—that businesses employ to move both people and systems in ways that optimize business performance.”

While it may be the tertiary element in BPM, Williams says technology is essential to the proper practice. In fact, he argues that recent advances in technology—specifically platforms that enable building service-oriented architecture (SOA) and modeling business processes—are what made BPM possible.

“There used to be a lot of programming going on in IT shops,” Williams relates.”BPM is a movement away from that and toward getting IT people to speak in more business terms. The idea is to do less programming of applications and more assembling and orchestrating of business processes.”

This movement started when companies like Software AG began building application integration platforms that evolved to accommodate things like process modeling, and the actual integration of business processes.

When used properly, Williams says, BPM technology can blend with methodologies like Lean and Six Sigma. The result is those methodologies become much more effective.

Williams also says adding BPM technology to Lean and Six Sigma will enable these programs—which often start as small projects within departments or business units—to more easiliy grow into enterprisewide initiatives.

For a better grasp on BPM, visit www.softwareag.com/bpm to download a free copy of BPM Basics for Dummies .