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America's Next (Business) Idol: Business Process Management!

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August 08, 2013

America's Next (Business) Idol: Business Process Management!

By TMCnet Special Guest
Romeo Elias, CEO, Interneer, Inc.

Business apps should be as easy to use as consumer apps, designed for automating business-critical processes such as those associated with cloud applications and mobile apps, and should require little or no support required from IT. Pretty obvious it seems, but not the kind of attributes that typically come to mind when we think of Business Process Management (BPM) systems!

In the early days, BPM systems employed basic task list UIs and required lots of customization. These systems were bound by the processes defined within the suite and were not able to model or monitor beyond those capabilities. Middleware mitigated those issues, somewhat, but still BPM remained a costly endeavor.

With the shift toward service-oriented architecture (SOA), app functions could be exposed as web services/integrated into process activities without significant effort, and subsequently, task lists could also be integrated into web pages, portals, and applets much more quickly.

That’s all changing with availability of no-programming required BPM solutions, that are available through the cloud, and as such, any department head can purchase a few seats without involving IT. Suddenly BPM has emerged as a go-to solution when a quick pivot is needed, like when critical process must be automated, such as those that drive efficiencies (think mobile apps), improve customer service, and/or comply with regulations or compliance. 

Indeed, according to its April 2013 report, “Vendor Landscape: Business Process Management (BPM) Suite, “(BPM) is a long-standing business practice that can now be largely automated with a BPM suite to help manage tasks and workflows across the enterprise…and can eliminate the need for manual process chains and allow for better, faster, streamlined business processes.”

“Business users are more tech-savvy than ever, but they’re not programmers,” says Stewart Bond, senior consulting analyst at Info-Tech Research Group. “Vendors in this space must balance simple user interfaces and extensive back-end control for effective solutions.”

Getting back to what we said at the top of the article, this stuff should be easy. And it is, if you know what to look for. Thus when thinking about deploying BPM, you should think about a system that does the following:

  • Drag, Drop, and Go −Your system should enable you to build any workflow by dragging and dropping, no technical background required and entirely template-based, so workflow structure is created one time, then repeated for every other process.
  • All-in-One Business Engine –Your system should be able to capture data directly in the system and create databases on the fly. Build forms with just a few clicks and then immediately put them into use.
  • A Total View – Your system should have real-time reporting and Business Intelligence features that deliver minute-to-minute insight into what’s working in your business and what’s not. Responsiveness and flexibility allow necessary changes on a moment’s notice!
  • System Integration −Your system should easily integrate with local databases and third-party systems. Model, launch, and make changes in real time without programming.
  • Document Integration – Your system should be able to store, manage, and track documents directly in the system. Not only is BPM efficient, it’s green too!

 Have we got your attention yet? Good!

But it’s more than simple UIs that are driving adoption of BPM. New-breed BPM systems give business users access to something they really want, which is the power to mash-up cloud applications and mobile apps and really connect and improve business processes. 

For example, Host Hotels, a Fortune 100 company, uses Interneer Intellect (News - Alert) 7 for managing repairs and maintenance work on hotel properties such as Marriott, Westin and other top brands. Katie Palmer, VP, Marriot, can adjust her application on her own – IT is involved to provide guidance but not day-to-day management.

Says Marriot’s Palmer, “We can literally take someone with very little programming background and teach them very quickly to develop reports, iPad applications, business workflow, etc.; we use it to create contract management workflow, project workflow, invoicing workflow, funding request workflow, purchase order workflow and most recently, 10 year planning workflow.”

BPM is gaining a trench-hold as an awesome productivity tool and competitive advantage. Here are five big reasons why, if it came down to a vote, we think BPM would win America’s Next Business Idol in 2014:

  1. Complexity versus functionality: BPM is so much more attractive, now with drag and drop design capabilities, highly intuitive and easy to use UIs, so users can easily define, configure, optimize and automate business processes and workflow around common, but critically important tasks or applications; with ability for business users to modify on-the-fly, critical when adapting to changing business requirements
  2. Solution versus platform/Problem versus Process: It is rare that a midmarket or SMB company would purchase BPM software as a platform without a specific problem in mind, i.e. automating a specific process, like Accounts Payable, inventory management, employee on- boarding, etc.  Trend now is for business professionals to automate business processes to drive efficiency, improve customer service, and comply with regulations or compliance. While customers tend to have a specific problem in mind, they often discover that BPM offers a solution to many other issues. Therefore, a solution often evolves into a platform for managing many processes. Example, Los Angeles Firemen’s Credit Union uses cloud-based BPM to manage more than 100 processes, both internal and external to the credit union’s members.
  3. IT-Business User Wars:  The latest trend among companies of all sizes is to seek solutions designed for business users, requiring little or no support from IT. New cloud-based BPM solutions and Smart Mobile Apps, available on-demand, well fit that bill.
  4. Not Your Grandfather’s BPM: An immediate flag for most companies that they assumed that BPM was out of their reach given the amount of training, hardware, people, expertise and cost they needed to invest to implement and maintain a system and automate processes. The traditional BPM software providers typically charge $1M for an enterprise scale application, much too expensive for midmarket companies or departments within large global companies. For example, Wind River, a leading software provider and subsidiary of Intel (News - Alert), uses BPM to manage business critical processes, such as quarter-end financial statements, and 1200 of their 2000 employees use Interneer for processing purchases, personal time off, etc. The solution saves time, money, and provides a record of all activities for internal reporting purposes.
  5. BPM simplifies transition to B2B Smart Mobile Apps:  B2B smart mobile apps make mobile workforces more efficient. In a great example, Allied Beverages has a fleet of trucks that deliver alcohol shipments around the country – with smart mobile apps they quickly created a native iPad app created for drivers in the field to deliver and track the display of their products. Smart Mobile Apps are born the cloud and designed for business users.

Edited by Peter Bernstein

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