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What is business process management (BPM)? The key to enterprise agility

Paul Rubens | Aug. 29, 2017
BPM is evolving as serving customers, rather than cutting costs, is becoming the key motivation for adopting BPM software.

At the highest level, Forrester Research groups the BPM market participants into three categories:

Enterprise stack providers: This includes large vendors with diverse portfolios offering solutions that can serve the majority of an organization’s needs through pre-integrated or easily integrated configurations. Examples include:

  • IBM
  • OpenText
  • Oracle
  • Software AG
  • TIBCO Software

Application platform vendors: These vendors offer highly integrated platforms, which their customers use to develop complex end-to-end solutions. Many of these vendors have placed a premium on providing tools with a common development and deployment experience to improve speed and lower training costs. Examples include:

  • AgilePoint
  • Appian
  • Appway
  • Bizagi
  • iTESOFT | W4
  • K2
  • MatsSoft
  • MicroPact
  • Pegasystems

Specialists for specific market niches: These vendors provide solutions that are aligned with particular vendor ecosystems or market opportunities. The three most important are Microsoft-focused (e.g., BP Logix, Nintex and PNMsoft), open source (e.g., Alfresco Software, Bonitasoft, Camunda and Red Hat) and domain specialists (e.g., Newgen Software and SAP).


New BPM software features

One result of this shift in priorities is that many BPM vendors are now investing in technologies that allow for the rapid development and deployment of customer-facing applications. The two most important technologies to achieve this are so-called "low code" development tools that are often used by "citizen developers" or business process management professionals who are not necessarily software developers and user interface technologies to make it simple for customers (rather than trained employees) to interact in various ways with internal systems.

BPM software vendors are also beginning to invest in artificial intelligence (AI) to add new capabilities to their offerings. "AI elements show up in new interfaces such as voice and chat, cognitive expertise sources to support processes, and machine learning to drive process optimization," Koplowitz explains in the Forrester report.

Another key change over the last few years has been a move towards the use of analytics and other techniques to provide real-time insights to improve business processes. This has become so important that Gartner has switched from talking about business process management suites to "intelligent business process management" suites, or iBPMSs as the company calls them.  

"iBPMSs have added enhanced support for human collaboration such as integration with social media, mobile-enabled process tasks, streaming analytics and real-time decision management," Gartner analyst Rob Dunie explains in the research firm's Magic Quadrant for Intelligent Business Process Management Suites.

One final change worth mentioning is that vendors are increasingly looking to introduce "thing" integration to allow for business processes that rely on, or will rely on, vast quantities of data generated and ingested from the internet of things (IoT). That's not surprising considering 73 percent of companies surveyed by Cisco said that they are using data from IoT deployments.


Choosing a BPM vendor

The most appropriate vendor for any given organization will depend on the current state of its business processes, the activities it is involved in, and many other factors.  But there are some general features to look for.


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