From Workflow to BPA

As we in Flowman see it, the term workflow means simply flow of work tasks which are performed by human or machine. Workflow management software capture and develop human to machine interaction. It aims to provide end users with an easier way to orchestrate or describe complex flow of work tasks. Workflow management focus is often limited to organisation's internal work and does not cover the big picture of overall business process.

Business process management (BPM) is a method of efficiently aligning an organization with the wants and needs of clients. It covers the whole business process, which includes all participants of the process over organisational borders. It is a holistic management approach that promotes business effectiveness, efficiency and integration with technology. As organizations strive for attainment of their objectives, BPM attempts to continuously improve processes - the process to define, measure and improve your processes – a ‘process optimization' process.

Business process automation (BPA) goes a bit further from BPM. Traditionally most BPM software solutions have been developed according to the demands and requirements of the users. This is a nice and acceptable approach because you then have solutions that people like to use. Flowman has taken a different approach: we have looked at the whole business process from different perspective: the top management point of view. Having extensive knowledge in managing the media business processes, as well as best practices from other industry sectors, we have challenged all user needs with a simple question: is this functionality required at all - since this work phase may not actually be required or can be automated?

Given the similarity in terminology with BPM and BPA, it is not surprising that most casual observers would believe them to be closely related if not identical. However, to experts in these areas they carry very distinct meanings, even if they are ultimately complementary concepts. To explain this further it is necessary to summarise the views of each camp:

The BPM camp asserts that before any process can be automated, it is necessary to define (often at a very strategic level or enterprise-wide) all of the business processes running inside an organisation. From this the processes can be re-defined and where necessary optimised, including automation.

Flowman, among other players in BPA camp state that until a process is automated, there is no real value in analysing and defining it, and that the cycle of business change is so rapid that there simply isn’t time to define every process before choosing which ones to address with automation, and that delivering immediate benefits creates more value.


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