Hello there! If you’re a business analyst, I’m sure you’d have come across the need to model business processes. Now, business process modeling is useful for many things – two of which are to explicitly document how a company operates, as well as to help in process re-engineering.
Documentation of a company’s business processes is something that companies know they have to do, but just don’t do it. Executives say they don’t have the time, they don’t have the resources, etc. If you think about it, process documentation is one of the MOST IMPORTANT things to a company. If the company changes reigns tomorrow, who will know what to do? You need to get down to the most granular levels of processes where necessary and get them documented.
The other aspect of why business process modeling is so important is the need to re-engineer, to improve and revamp processes. What works today for a company – be it the account opening process in a bank or the financial account closing for a manufacturing firm – may not be the best thing for tomorrow. Companies need to re-look, analyze and see where are the bottlenecks in their processes – and these are best done via business process models.
Now, for drawing up business process models, there are dedicated tools in the market. These business process management (BPM) tools go way beyond merely “drawing processes” to include functionalities to monitor and simulate business processes in companies.
In this article, I’d like to elaborate on the top 3 Business Process Management software applications in the market. I’ve worked for a long time in the business process re-engineering field as a consultant and end-user. And these 3 software applications are the ones I see being used in the top corporations around Asia and the world.
Business process management software helps you document and optimize your business processes
Before we delve into the top 3 BPM suites, let’s understand what to look for in a leading BPM software. There are indeed many factors to consider, and I list some of the important ones here.
Here is a list of criteria a typical BPM software vendor will say is important:
- Provides business process execution and state management
- Provides a “studio” for business process modelling, drawing and simulation
- Allows integration with a Document Management System
- Allows integration to other applications via web services
- Allows easy collaboration between users
- Allows specification of business rules, e.g. approval limits, deadlines, processing times
- Provides “Business Activity Monitoring (BAM)” and event-based notifications like emails or SMS
- Has robust user administration and security
Well, I largely agree with the above criteria.
Except that they are from a software vendor’s point of view!
What’s more important to me, as a BPM suite buyer, are the following:
- Ease of use for users, business analysts and IT?
- Does the product work? You’d be surprised that many software vendors say their software is the “perfect solution” to a customer’s problems, but when asked to demonstrate it in a real life customer situation, they struggle.
- Is the product configurable and to what extent?
- What other companies use the product and how successful were the implementations?
- How soon can I achieve Return-On-Investment (ROI) on the product?
- What is the background of the BPM software company? Are they willing to partner with my firm over the long term?
- What are the pricing details license and maintenance, implementation costs, or other “hidden costs”?
Consider all of the above factos to locate a vendor that is suitable for you.
2. Top 3 BPM Software
In my opinion, the top 3 BPM software programs in the market (as at the time of this writing) are:
- Pegasystems BPM Suite
- Software AG webMethods BPM Platform
- Appian BPM Suite
Let’s try to run through each of these suites in turn.
Pegasystems BPM Suite
First up, let’s look at Pegasystems. I’ve seen the demos of this product and it blows away the competition. Don’t take it from me – Pegasystems BPM has been the leader in Gartner Quadrants and Forrester Waves for a number of years.
What the Pegasystems BPM product provides is a basic software framework from which you can build intelligent, business process aware applications.
There are a number of distinctive advantages that this BPM product offers.
First, it features a business friendly toolkit for defining applications. Unlike traditional BPM tools, there are much less complicated, technical syntax to handle in modeling processes and hardly any hard-coded programming. A well-trained business user can be trusted to create a business application from the Pegasystems BPM framework if desired.
The BPM suite here features what they call “Case Lifecycle Management” – which allows any business user to capture and process the full scope of work in their operations, be it document handling, approvals, decision making, etc. These tasks can all be built into a process flow to automate as much as possible.
The other interesting thing about Pega’s BPM solution is its design-once, deploy-anywhere user interface. You may not appreciate this until you realize how much effort it saves. For example, I can make one intuitive user interface for the desktp, but then the Pega software will be able to replicate this to other channels like tablets and mobile phones for me. Besides that, there is the ability to hook in business data and also tap on big data to improve decision making in any process flow.
Click here to read more about the Pegasystems BPM suite.
Software AG webMethods BPM Platform
The Software AG BPM platform is also repeated rank high by Gartner, Forrester and other industry analysts. One thing I really like about Software AG is it’s business modeling product called ARIS. This is a mature solution which I’ve used in a number of banks to model business processes.
The Software AG BPM suite uses ARIS as a starting point to model processes, then “realize” them in applications by adding in business rules, content management, task management, as well as dashboarding to monitor KPIs.
In essence, much of what Software AG’s BPM platform does – Pegasystems and Appian and a whole lot of other software companies – do just as well. Their differentiator is the ARIS modeler, so if your overarching objective is to explicitly documenting your company’s processes, Software AG may be the right solution for you. If you want to focus more on a powerful BPM engine with all the bells and whistles integrated, I think Pegasystems may be a better bet.
Read more about the Pegasystems BPM suite over here.
Appian BPM Suite
The Appian BPM Suite is similar to what is offered by Pega and Software AG. What differentiates it, in my opinion, is its implementation in three flavors – Mobile BPM, Cloud BPM and Social BPM. These exist in addition to the standard “desktop” version of the Appian BPM Suite.
In this sense, I think Appian is a leaner and modern cousin version of its competitors (albeit more lightweight).
Mobile BPM allows your users to access and collaborate on business processes, with mobile forms built in, along with task approval, notifications, and security.
Cloud BPM helps to speed up your process improvement initiatives.
You get the same functionality as standard “on-premise” versions of the BPM software, except that all business processes are stored in the cloud. This greatly speeds up deployment of process models and the associated “realization” into working BPM applications.
Social BPM is, in my opinion, still in its infancy as at the time of this writing. However, companies know social is important and Appian is one of the first few to take a step to make BPM social. You have, with the Appian BPM suite, a way for users to collaborate socially, i.e. view business events, execute tasks and actions jointly in a central user interace.
Read more about the Appian BPM suite over here.
Wrapping Up …
I hope the above has helped you understand a lot more abou the top 3 Business Process Management (BPM) software out there in the market. If you ask me to choose which of the suites I’d prefer (if I were the buyer in a company) – I’d say my bets sit with Pegasystems. I’ve interacted with them, seen their demos and would say their software is top-notch. Of course, this is just my own opinion. You’d have to do your own research to decide what is best for you.
That’s all I have for now. Until next time, have a great time researching BPM software!