Since I’m having so much fun, let’s go back to the musical analogy to explain the power of BPM. We’ve just entertained the concepts of Workflow as an instrument and have discussed the strengths and weaknesses of the workflow “instrument” on its own.
What we have not yet discussed, however, is what happens when our workflow, “instruments” are harnessed together and used for creating powerful, complex, and impressive business processes.
Earlier in this chapter, we explored the definition of BPM and some of its key characteristics. In that definition, we mentioned that a BPM Process could consist of one or more “workflows” and may also integrate with one or more “systems of record”.
That said, let’s think of BPM as a Symphony Conductor.
They Symphony Conductor is adept at coordinating the strengths and weaknesses of all of the instruments in his Orchestra. Sometimes, he may use them all at once, to produce powerful, complex, and impressive works of art. Sometimes, he may only enlist a single section – or even feature a soloist.
In either case, the Conductor has the ability to leverage any resource available. He can make ad-hoc decisions to change the speed or volume of a performance (or even specific performers) at his own discretion. However, there is still a common set of musical instructions that the instruments are set to follow. The Conductor has the capability of being flexible or sticking to a rigid plan.
BPM solutions, by nature, place many more resources, tools, and workflow “instruments” at your disposal then are possible with workflow alone. Unlike workflows, BPM processes can span multiple systems of record, or include multiple workflows. They can work across Site Collections and other system “boundaries”. With BPM, you have the ability to gracefully handle exceptions and gather artifacts from all across the enterprise. Traversing workflows and allowing ad-hoc human decisions to be made, which may affect the direction of the process, are common in BPM Solutions.
BPM Processes can be, but do not have to be, clearly defined. As a result, process participants will have greater flexibility in the types of user interface artifacts that can be used with BPM processes. This translates to a more “useable” application that functions in a way that’s natural to the end user, and in context with their role.
Often, one of the drawbacks often experienced with a pure workflow process, is the fact that users may need to navigate to where the piece of work (document or list item) resides. With BPM, those artifacts can be brought to the end-user “just in time”, and in context with that user’s role in the process - regardless of where that piece of work is located.
The following are some common examples of productive BPM Processes:
- On-boarding (employees, patients, accounts, etc.)
- Processing Applications (Mortgages, Investments, Job Opportunities)
- Complex Transactions (Accounts Payable, Insurance Claims, Loss Mitigation)
- Case Management (Records Management, Document Management, Customer Service)
In our next post, we will discuss how SharePoint 2010 workflows can be used, in conjunction with BPM processes.