Introduction to BPM
The term "BPM" (Business Process Management) refers to an approach in terms of creating a computer-model of the business processes of the enterprise, both in terms of their application-related and human aspects.
The purpose of this measure is to achieve an improved overview of all business processes of the enterprise and their interactions in order to be able to optimize them and, as much as this is possible, maximize their automation with the help of business applications.
A "bottom-up" approach
The BPM step presentes a bottom-up approach which consists in analyzing the actual functioning of the enterprise to create a computer model thereof.
This steps represents a break from the so-called "top-down" general schemes where the functioning of the enterprise must match the model proposed by the managing team.
Life cycle of a business process
Generally speaking, the life cycle of a BPM step can be broken down as follows:
- Study of the company by analyzing its objectives and its organization in order to be able to break down its entire activity into business processes.
- Modeling of business processes, i.e. computerized representation of a model which comes as close to the reality as possible,
- Implementation of the solution: implementation of a BPM solution, linked to an information system of the company (applications and databases)
- Execution: refers to the operational phase during which the BPM solution is implemented.
- Piloting, consisting in analyzing the status of the processes by means of border tables representing the process performances
- Optimization, i.e. proposing solutions which make it possible to improve the performances of the business processes
A BPM solution usually comprises the following elements:
- A process modeling tool, which makes it possible to create a model of the enterprise's business processes by using a graphical interface.
- Implementation-aiding tools, i.e. interfaces (API) and connectors which make it possible to integrate the BPM solution with the information system.
- An execution engine (workflow engine) in charge of instantiating the processes and to store the context and their status in a relational database;
- Piloting and reporting tools based on precise and pertinent indicators to create border tables which make it possible to quickly take proper decisions. The term BAM (Business Activity Monitoring) refers to the concept of monitoring the processes of the company step by step.
One of the goals of BMP is reusability, i.e. preventing having to reinvent the wheel for every change. Most tools, however, are proprietary, i.e. they have their own data model and a non-transparent mode of functioning, which makes them hardly interoperable.
Standardizing the representation of processes is therefore a major challenge to facilitate integration among BPM tools. Standardizaiton occurs at different levels:
- At the process modeling level
- At the process execution level
- At the level of communication with the IS
BPMN (Business Process Modelling Notation) is an initiative of the BPMI (Business Process Management Initiative, a consortium of enterprises) whose goal is to define a common graphical notation which makes it possible to model business processes.
The BPMN notation makes it possible, in particular, to disconnect the business information from the technical information (technical elements of the nformation system) to maximize its portability from one company to another one.
BPMN may be considered a UML notation applied to the management of business processes.
BPEL (Business Process Execution Language) is an initiative of the BPMI whose goal is to provide an XML representation of the activities linked with the execution of a process. Where the BPMN notation is attached to statically describe the processes, the BPEL language describes the overall dynamics.