How to Choose Between Workflow and Business Process Management

Recently, our editorial team sat down with Nintex CFO Eric Johnson to get his take on how businesses should choose between workflow and business process management (BPM) to solve their automation needs.

Here are five questions he suggests LOB owners ask themselves before deciding.

What Problem Are You Trying to Solve?

To find out what kind of functionality you need, ask yourself what your primary focus should be in your process improvement efforts.

Depending on their goals, Forrester analyst Rob Koplowitz suggests that companies have the option to go “wide” or “deep” in their digital transformation journey.

In his report, Forrester Wave: Digital Proces Automation Software, Q3 2017 Koplowitz classifies processes as:

  • Deep processes:
    • Traditional BPM solutions that require in-depth development and IT support
    • Meant to handle large, complex, enterprise-wide needs
  • Wide processes:
    • Low-code solutions to automate smaller, everyday tasks
    • Integrated with a large number of business-driven applications
    • Managed by Ops teams with light IT governance

If you have a structured, business-critical process that you’re trying to build an application for, BPM is the way to go.

Building a BPM solution typically takes one to three years, requires a lot of upfront development and allows for very little experimentation. BPM is for heavy, massive processes, whereas workflow is for dynamic processes that involve unstructured data. Typically, workflows solve problems stemming from everyday tasks, so you want to quickly build an application in hours, days, or weeks.

With the Nintex Workflow Platform, large companies typically automate more than 1,000 processes that handle much of their daily work.

The takeaway:

Consider the amount of human interaction and unstructured data involved in your processes. When you know HOW you’ll be using the platform, you can understand the capabilities you’re looking for when choosing a path to automation.

What Are Your Workers Doing, and How Are They Doing It?

Look at how your employees are utilizing paper or email.

Do they have processes that leverage email applications to do approvals and reviews? If they do, that’s where you start automating workflows.

Ops teams can spin up a workflow in a few days – if not hours – that automatically sends an email notification to a manager to approve a document the moment their employee finalizes it. This gives you greater visibility and control over the document review and approval process, and means no more paper-chasing.

Who Should Be Solving These Problems?

Do you want departments outside of IT (like HR, finance, marketing, sales, etc.) to work on their own solutions? Or do you want to allocate programming resources to take on larger-scale operations?

If you would like IT or software developers to solve complex processes that affect the entire enterprise, that’s where BPM shines. If you have a lot of processes living in emails or on paper and you want an information worker to automate them, that’s workflow.

Workflow empowers line of business employees to quickly build applications to solve their team’s problems.

Does Your Business Have More Than 100 Employees?

I’m confident that every business that has at least 100 employees absolutely needs workflow automation. If a company has thousands of employees, it probably needs BPM and workflow automation.

There are going to be some applications that are specific to BPM and, in a general sense, it’s an enterprise solution. Workflow is for everyone.

What’s Your Pain Point?

Very rarely do people come to us knowing exactly which processes to automate and the method in which to automate them. Typically, people come to us with some problem, some process issue in their business that they’re interested in solving.

If they don’t know which specific problem to address, we’ll have a discussion and ask them about some common problem we’ve seen. We’ll say, “We know a lot of our customers have challenges with their contract approval process. Do you work on that?”

If we know what group they’re in, we’ll talk about a common pain point there.

Think about your everyday responsibilities or those of your LOB owners. Do the headaches surrounding these processes involve a collection of small, repetitive, inefficient tasks? Or are the pain points a symptom of a larger, organizational issue that will require a larger-scale solution?

What to Choose: Workflow or BPM?

When making the decision between implementing workflow versus BPM within a company, you should assess what problem you’re trying to solve, how you want to solve it and who you want solving it.

Once those questions are asked and addressed, the answer will become quite clear.

 

Click here to try the Nintex Workflow Platform free for 30 days!

Haley Burton

Haley Burton has worked as part of the corporate marketing team at Nintex for two years. In her role as Corporate Communications Specialist, Haley manages, writes, and designs content for the Nintex website, blog, and social media channels. She is passionate about digital marketing strategy, graphic and web design, and representing Nintex as the global leader in Intelligent Process Automation (IPA). Follow Haley on Twitter @burtonhf.