Innovation & Technology

Integrated ECM & BPM: the modern BPM approach

| Dr. Gregor Joeris

In the modern working world, there are similarly structured activities that are more efficient when managed by process models, and there are knowledge-based tasks that require greater freedom in completion. Modern BPM provides support for both concepts.

Business process management (BPM) is traditionally understood as a normative management of processes – derived from the work-sharing production processes in industry. Applied to office work, normative BPM guides “production workers” as they execute strongly regimented work steps. The modern “knowledge worker”, on the other hand, is confronted with a variety of tasks that are by no means forced into a strict process framework. Therefore, the general automation of office work, in contrast to industrial production, does not necessarily lead to greater efficiency. Due consideration should be given to whether or not a process can be automated. Only then, where the sequence of routine work can be exactly described, is automation possible, for example often for auditing and invoice approval. However, anywhere that human decisions are best made, process models that are too narrowly defined can prove disadvantageous. Here, knowledge workers need to keep the upper hand in order to be able to make assessments and provide instructions based on their knowledge and skills. The knowledge work falls to the person. Automation is often too inflexible and elaborate to reflect the complexity of reality. With complaint management, processing cases of damage or selecting applications, decisions must be made on a case-by-case basis. Completely managing knowledge workers here using process models is not useful, motivational or results-oriented!

There thus needs to be another process model outside of automation, one that does not focus on the process but instead the case, for which a goal has been set. A case can be the customer, a project, an order or a complaint.

To better clarify this, business process management distinguishes between “normative” (doing by design) and “adaptive” BPM (design by doing). Both sub-disciplines of business process management are equally found in company practice. The normative BPM, also called production workflow, addresses processes for which the course of action can be determined beforehand, while the adaptive BPM, also known as adaptive case management, ad hoc workflow or smart process applications (according to Forrester), supports any activity carried out by the knowledge worker processing a case. The definition of the EABPM, an association of legally independent national companies for the promotion of business process management, can thus be understood as follows: “Business process management is a systematic approach toward entering, designing, documenting, measuring, monito- ring and managing both automated and non-automated processes, and thus achieving process goals in accordance with the company strategy over the long term. BPM comprises the conscious, joint and increasingly IT-supported determination, improvement, innovation and maintenance of end-to-end processes.”

Doing by design vs. design by doing

The basic principle of the waterfall models is as follows: the process model defines the execution. Every exception/alternative must be defined in the model – or it will not be possible! This design concept can be applied to processes that never change, for example order processing in online trade or activating mobile phones. The process modelling is often too complex, e.g. for application processes and many other typically administrative processes. Doing by design is completely unsuitable for the implementation of projects, for example, and for a situational workflow management for which no mandatory processes can be determined beforehand.

However, the knowledge work of the knowledge workers does not take place in a vacuum. Tasks such as processing an insurance case or a customer request cannot be strictly regimented. Yet no administrator or customer advisor reinvents the wheel for each case. Instead, she asks herself whether she has already dealt with a similar case, which she then uses as a guide and reference. Or she asks a colleague: “I'm working on a similar project to you, can you give me your project plan, I can change it around to suit this job.” This “copy and paste” method takes similar cases as a starting point in order to generalize them and extract them as best practice. This realty-based design principle is also known as design by doing.

Integrated ECM & BPM

A modern BPM solution should combine both disciplines – doing by design and design by doing – in one architecture. While adaptive and normative BPM is discussed in theory, here at SER we call the two sub-disciplines of our Doxis4 ECM platform “Task and Business Process Management”.

SER thus takes the approach of integrated ECM & BPM and sets itself apart from middleware and integration-oriented BPM systems. In contrast to the middleware-oriented BPM systems, with integrated ECM & BPM there are no additional SOA required in order to integrate the BPM into the application environment. Integrated ECM & BPM solutions are used across the company, from corporate development and organization to the specialist departments and IT in order to independently model, manage, administer, optimize and execute document-based business processes, both ad hoc and standardized. They can also be used within individual organizational units, within a company and across several companies. An important feature is the joint metadata platform for all documents, records, processes and tasks.

“Standalone BPM is dead,” declared BPM veteran Tom Baeyens back  in 2010. It is now time for integrated ECM & BPM to take over as the new generation of business process management in companies.

Company-wideECM platformBPM & workflows

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