The only constant in business is change. Simply driving cost and delay out of core operations no longer guarantees success. Efficiency remains vital, but to compete in today’s business environment companies also need to be agile, flexible, and innovative. They need to take a holistic view of the enterprise, across organizational and geographic boundaries, product boundaries, and system boundaries. In fact, the business’s “value chain” is no longer even confined within the company walls. Customers, suppliers, and third parties have become an integral part of the end-to-end business processes defining the new extended enterprise.

Business process management is an attempt to provide that holistic view. It provides a new management discipline, a new suite of software technologies and tools, and a new IT implementation style based on concrete links between strategy and execution. This white paper explains SAP’s place in the BPM landscape and describes its new offering in that arena, NetWeaver BPM.

What Is BPM?
As a management discipline, BPM views the business not from the perspective of org charts and systems, still largely fragmented along traditional functional lines, but from the perspective of processes that cut across the silos. It provides tools that allow the company to model those processes end-to-end for analysis and governance, promoting consistency with policies and best practices, and fostering innovation by making the flow logic visible to the business. BPM also provides a suite of tools and technologies that support the management discipline by making those new and improved process models executable. That is, the model can be deployed to a process engine that actually automates the process – chaining execution of business services, delegating human tasks to their assigned participants, enforcing business rules, translating between the disparate data models and programming languages employed in business systems that touch the process.

And while it is running the process, BPM continually takes snapshots of business data and aggregates it to make business performance, at the end-to-end process level, visible in real time. Continuously monitoring operational performance not only keeps the business running smoothly, but contributes to the broader sphere of business intelligence that ultimately drives insight and innovation.

One of the most important innovations of BPM is strengthening the link between strategy and execution (Figure 1). Strategy is primarily a business concern, execution an IT concern. Historically, their central goals have not been perfectly aligned. On the execution side, IT focuses on efficiency, security, and reliability, all critical to keeping the core business operating smoothly. But business has come to recognize that efficiency by itself no longer guarantees competitiveness. Strategy thus places increasing value on innovation, flexibility.

download pdf SAP NetWeaver BPM White Paper

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