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Whatever Happened to BPM?

Business Process Management (BPM) was big in the 2000s but lately is scarcely mentioned. Want to feel like a dinosaur? Start talking about BPMN 2.0 diagrams and syntax. Discussing BPM has been overshadowed by new efforts such as Digital Transformation, Master Data Management (MDM), or trying to get your computer to do the work for you with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA).

But where did it go? We didn’t solve every BPM problem in a decade. We didn’t automate every process at the time, let alone all the new ones that have been created since then. The truth is that BPM is all around us, and there is still a great need to automate business processes, we’ve just rebranded it. In doing so, we’ve added bells and whistles like AI and RPA, but let’s take a minute to get back to our roots.

Value of the BPM Movement

When BPM was the big buzz word, companies were making their biggest push to optimizing and automating the processes that drove their business. They knew that everything they did boiled down to business processes, so they set about to improve those and use the technology around them to cut costs, increase productivity, reduce swivel-chair work, and more. How did the movement grow so big? – it worked!

BPM as a discipline made it easy for every business to improve its processes without needing to get degrees or certifications in ten different methodologies. As it grew, it became easier to hire or contract BPM experts who could help you re-engineer how your business operates so that you could sit back and reap the reward. Well, you wouldn’t really sit back, but sometimes it seemed that easy.

Where it Went

I’d argue that most of BPM has been engulfed by Digital Transformation. Digital Transformation is powerful. According to Wikipedia (yes, I’m citing Wikipedia), Digital Transformation is

“The use of new, fast, and frequently changing digital technology to solve problems. It is about transforming processes that were non-digital or manual to digital processes.”

Solving problems, transforming processes, automating through new technologies – sound familiar? In my experience, Digital Transformation is BPM at scale. Digital Transformation goes beyond business processes to also focus on single-source-of-truth data management, well-connected enterprise architecture, highly-usable dashboards, and more. It’s possible to use BPM in a silo to improve one specific business segment or even a single process. Digital Transformation is company-wide, breaking down to the core of how you do business and using robust technology to build it back up.

Is it time for a revival?

To be honest, I don’t care one way or the other if the fad of BPM comes back. What’s more important is that businesses don’t forget how valuable it can be. Using BPM to improve how your business works, whether on it’s own or within a larger Digital Transformation effort, is still the future. Companies that successfully and continuously grow are the ones who are reevaluating, optimizing, and digitizing their processes to fit their current landscape.

Now the real question – why is this even on my mind?

Well, I work with the Appian platform day in and day out. I remember back when we sold how Appian was a valuable tool for BPM, and I live in a time where I sell Appian as a valuable tool for Digital Transformation. And I feel like I’ve been reminding a lot of people lately that Appian is still really good at BPM! The process modeler is still BPMN 2.0 compliant, and we still have extremely valuable dashboards, process reports, logical task tracking, and assignment, etc. And to top it off, Appian has remained in Gartner’s magic quadrant for iBPM suites for nearly a decade!

Looking at my clients from the last few years, the ones who used Appian’s BPM strength have gotten the most ROI. Many have successfully done so within a Digital Transformation effort. Still, those that simply focused on fixing one process and then another have gained a great deal of value for quite a minimal effort.

If you’ve lost sight of the ROI you used to get from simple Business Process Management work, take a minute to go back to basics. Evaluate what processes are inefficient, what reporting you need to be more effective, what technology you need to enable your employees to work smarter. Then work on solving those problems in the near term so that you can enable your company to take on significant growth challenges in the long-term.

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