In today's tough economy, companies must be able to respond to sweeping changes overnight. That often entails mapping, managing and revamping long-standing business processes. The problem, however, is that many organizations are bogged down by IT infrastructures that are far too inflexible to address business process modifications in real time.
Enter BPM (business process management) software. BPM tools promise to help companies respond more quickly to changing business conditions, grant real-time visibility into business processes, minimize production delays, improve process efficiency and ensure process standardization.
In the past, pulling together and automating business processes to address changes meant "complex hard-coding by computer scientists using software known as enterprise application integration," according to Dennis Byron, a senior analyst with IT Investment Research, a research firm based in Massachusetts. That required "another layer of software" and some hard-to-find IT expertise.
But that's changed, thanks to BPM software. "Very few people use one single brand of packaged application software, and it's unlikely that your suppliers also use that same brand," said Byron. "But once you need to pull together processes that are being automated, BPM can do it for you."
Better yet, companies of all shapes and sizes can benefit from BPM, especially when it comes to streamlining disparate business processes across organizations. "BPM is applicable to companies of all sizes," said Byron. "Even if you're a relatively small company and can handle all your internal accounting and related needs with a single brand of packaged application, you still need to talk to your customers and suppliers in some automated fashion. Once you're crossing that firewall, you probably need BPM."
BPM software can also impact a company's bottom line. In the old days, redefining business processes required the expertise of "a computer scientist or people with a lot of IT training," said Byron. "With BPM software, you still might need those people, but more and more changes can be done by the budget planner, whoever runs your supply chain operations or even an HR person if the changes are related to payroll and talent management." Being able to leverage existing in-house talent means not having to hire IT personnel with niche expertise - pros who command big bucks. What's more, Byron said, "Anything that saves you from having to go into the IT department lets you move more quickly."
If BPM sounds like a good solution for your business, it's time for you to evaluate vendors offering such solutions. Fortunately, there's no shortage of BPM vendors, including Axway, Cordys, Intalio, Oracle, Red Hat/JBoss, Savvion and Vitria. Better still, many of these vendors are introducing new features and functionalities with their offerings. Vitria, for example, recently unveiled its M3O in the Cloud, the first BPM suite in the cloud to offer modeling and execution of business processes via the software-as-a-subscription model. Axway recently partnered with WebConcepts, a supply chain planning and replenishment solutions provider, to integrate WebConcepts' demand management functionality into Axway's BPM solutions. The partnership aims to help simplify consolidation, connection and collaboration between trading partners. And industry giant Oracle recently added new dashboard options to its Oracle Business Process Management 10g Release 3. The solution now includes enhanced dashboard features allowing businesses to customize their view of data coming from Oracle's SOA technologies for a better view into an integrated enterprise.
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