Business processes flow across functions and consist of series of activities, which are manual or automated. For example, a new business application process in life insurance industry is the series of activities such as receipt & scrutiny of application form by customer service executive, data entry in core insurance system by data entry operators, underwriting of the application by underwriters, and issuance and dispatch of the insurance policy document to the customer by back-office staff. The process involves manual activities as well activities supported or automated by IT systems such as core insurance system, underwriting system, etc. As a result, BPM systems, which offer the vision of enterprise wide process management, offer themselves as a software layer integrated with and running on top of enterprise applications layer in the IT architecture of the organization.
A Business Process Management system consists of a set of tools, which allows process & system analysts, process performers, process supervisors, and process champions to define, automate, execute, manage and improve business process. These tools are:
1. Process Definition Tool: A process definition tool is a graphical drag and drop tool allowing process analysts to define process in terms of activity flow, business rules and information flow.
2. Process Simulation Tool: A simulation tool enables process analysts simulate real life conditions and identify process bottlenecks or resources requirements. Process analysts thus can predict and overcome business issues right at the design-time.
3. Application Development Toolkit: Business process applications built using BPM systems require system development efforts for building user interface (forms), and bringing about integration of BPM engines (Workflow and Rule servers) with business applications deployed within and beyond the organization boundaries. Process development tool kit provides developers with set of tools, which can minimize system development efforts.
4. Workflow and Rules Server: Workflow and rules server execute activity flow, information flow, and business rules. They assign tasks to human performers based on the activity flow and rules defined and inter-operate with other back-end systems.
5. Process Execution User Interface: Process execution user interface provides a run-time environment to process performers. This interface allows users to initiate process instances, view tasks and associated priorities, and carry-out tasks assigned to them.
6. Process Management Toolkit: Process Management toolkit provides process activity and performers monitoring application, query application & analytics tool, which address the needs of process supervisors & process champions. Process supervisors can monitor performance of the various process parameters and take corrective actions proactively in case of delays and exceptions. Process Champions on the other hand analyse process and business performance data to identify areas of process improvement. More advanced systems support export of process data from production environment to simulation environment.
7. System Administration module: System administration module allows system administrators to configure servers, monitor server performance, perform user & access rights management, etc.