What is BPM? | Business Process Management

BPM is about Business Improvement. BPM analyses business processes to identify inefficiencies, remove waste and streamline work flows. BPM follows a set of steps or phases to document, analyze, implement and improve processes. stakeholdermap.com

Business Process Management (BPM) defined

BPM stands for Business Process Management, however it can also stand for Beats Per Minute. This article focusses on BPM as an acronym for Business Process Management.
Experts give differing definitions of BPM, but they contain common themes of analyzing and monitoring processes with a view to improving business performance.
BPM (Business Process Management) is a business solution approach which views a business as a set of processes or workflows. (Business Process Management (BPM), PNMSOFT, 2016)
BPM is a process-centric approach for improving business performance that combines information technology with governance technology (An Introduction to Business Process Management, Tillemans. S, 2010)
A more verbose, but comprehensive definition is provided by bpm.com:
bpm definition

Video - what is BPM?

This video explains what BPM is and why BPM helps us improve our processes and ultimately improve business performance.

What is BPM transcript?

In this video I'm briefly going to cover the concepts of business process management [bpm], we are going to go on a little bit of a speed date here

All businesses have processes whether that's to process credit card request, a loan, a student enrollment an employee onboard.

Whatever it is there are the people that are involved the steps that are involved, and the systems that we use to get things done.

And in most businesses, and especially as businesses grow processes can become chaotic we lose sight of where things are especially as we hand off things between departments, we duplicate one another's efforts we make mistakes, and there's a lot of other issues with our processes.

Business Process Management is first and foremost a method or methodology, and that methodology follows a set of phases and, steps that we go through to take a look at a process figure out how to make it better.

It helps us formalize that process by establishing the way we should do it and it also helps us analyses it gives us tools to look at waste and other inefficiencies, and streamline the way that we should do things.

And it certainly does improve our processes and that's been proven time again, and there are formal methods like lean or six sigma or you can use more generic methods.

In addition BPM is also technology, and bpm technology helps us to enforce that process, so if we define a process now, and we have a policy, BPM software can help us enforce the way that that policy or that process is actually performed.

Taking that same methodology let's start with design and modeling. So the first thing we do in methodology is we design the process.

Technology tools can help us visually depict the flow of work and information in an organization. These tools can output policy documents and we can store them in Central libraries for ready access.

Once we've modeled our flow of work the next thing is to actually perform it or execute it, so bpm technology products have among many things at their core a workflow engine.

What is it that workflow engines let us do?

It lets us establish rules to take that same process map we add things like:
  • who should perform this step? what group or individual?
  • what type of deadlines might there be on a given step in the flow?
  • and if the deadline occurs who should be notified?
They [BPM software] provide form tools so that we can capture information and we can route information, and those form tools can integrate with existing business systems presenting data and pushing data into those business systems as necessary

And then they also of course have a learning mechanisms and ways for people to interact with these applications

I can start a form on my browser, on my computer and maybe i get, or get for my manager gets a notification on their cell phone to approve this particular information.

And then last but not least these tools help us with the monitoring measuring and tracking of our processes.

So that gives us insight into the performance, so not only can we track a given item, the same way we track a fed ex package, we can also aggregate data and understand our processes through metric, averages, volumes and other types of information.

And the last and final component of business process management - philosophy or really a corporate culture or approach.

In an ideal scenario business process management [bpm] is an initiative led by your management organization, and it's a culture that your organization adopts to apply these methodologies and technologies to improve your business

The BPM life cycle

The BPM life cycle

Adapted from the original By Aleksander Blomskøld (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (https://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons


Sometimes referred to as define, design is the first step in the BPM life cycle During this step the 'as is' processes are documented along with 'to be' processes. A representation e.g. a graphic is produced to show the complete process(es). The graphic needs to show: the task flow, notifications, escalations, service level agreements and handoff of each task. See example business processes.


In the second step the process diagrams are analysed. The flows and steps are reviewed, inefficiencies are identified and alternative flows are modelled. BPM uses specific notation, see Business Process Model Notation - BPMN to explore the symbols used in modelling.


In the execution step the changes and improvements are implemented


Once a process is implemented we need to monitor its performance. Processes are tracked and BPMS tools can be used to aggregate data and understand performance through metric - averages, volumes and other KPIs.


Optimisation is the final step, is not so much a step as part of a continuous process of optimisation across across business processes. Chenal describes optimisation as a philosophy embedded into the business culture (Chenal, D. 2010). All levels of a business look for potential or actual issues and identify/design alternative flows to improve performance and make cost savings.

The rules of BPM

In the Handbook on Business Process Management, Michael Hammer (pg. 11 & 12) sets out the principles or rules of BPM:
  • All work is process work - process modelling doesn't just apply to common transactional work, like procurement or order fulfillment. Any process bet it creative, or transactional or development benefits from process management.
  • Any process is better than no process - without a defined process results are not repeatable. They rely on individuals, whose experience, or level of motivation impact directly on performance. Small changes like a person leaving can stop progress completely.
  • A good process is better than a bad process - this seems self-evident, but as Hammer states it important to understand that the quality of process design is crucial to process performance.
  • One process version is better than many - different departments will have legitimate variation to their processes, but the priority should be standardisation of process to prevent a seamless experience for customers.
  • Even a good process must be performed effectively - a good design is essential for performance, but must be coupled with process management to ensure high performance is realised.
  • Even a good process can be made better - BPM is a process of continuous improvement. Process managers must monitor process to find improvements and take opportunities to improve process for example, with advance in technology.
  • Every good process eventually becomes a bad process - Business are constantly changing with customer needs, technology changes, market place and competition changes.
BPM the rules

Example BPM architecture

This image is an example architecture diagram for a BPMS (Business Process Management Suite)
bpm - bpms architecture diagram

BPM references and further reading

BPM.com Enabling the Digital Enterprise, 2015. What is BPM? [online] Available at: https://bpm.com/what-is-bpm

Brocke, Jan Vom. 2010. The Handbook on Business Process Management. Springer. PNMSOFT, 2016. Business Process Management (BPM). [online] Available at: https://www.pnmsoft.com/resources/bpm-tutorial/bpm/

Aleksander Blomskøld. 2008, File:Business Process Management Life-Cycle.svg. [online] Available at: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ABusiness_Process_Management_Life-Cycle.svg [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (https://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons.

Daniele Chenal, What is BPM (Business Process Management) in 3 Minutes. [video online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XtvIU0ZCwjE

Tillemans, S. 2010. An Introduction to Business Process Management. [video online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_YXqnEXnnBk

Bonitasoft. 2012. The Future of BPM: Tips, Trends & Customer Pain Points. [slideshow online] Available at: https://www.slideshare.net/BonitaSoft/the-future-of-bpm-tips-trends-customer-pain-points

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