Business process management (BPM) used to be something that was seemingly out of reach for SMEs – and deemed only affordable and achievable by large enterprises. But with the availability of BPM as SaaS and many businesses migrating to the cloud, SMEs are now able to reap the benefits of BPM.

BPM – Back to basics

In simple terms, BPM is when the processing of mission critical information is automated into streamlined workflows, to provide a more efficient, productive and consistent approach to task management. It allows users to be more responsive, provide better service levels, gain competitive advantage and grow their organisations, while also reducing costs and improving regulatory compliance.

Born out of early document management processes, BPM has evolved to become the heart of a business. Sitting across mission critical applications – such as email, CRM, ERP and data repositories – it acts as a process layer, pumping information around the business and connecting users to up to date, real-time data to keep the business healthy and at the top of its game.

BPM requirements vary from customer to customer, with few running identical processes, meaning there is no “one size fits all” approach. As well as being variable, these processes are also unpredictable which is where BPM comes into its own, with the ability to rapidly adjust to processes in minutes to respond to changing market requirements.

Improving take-up among SMEs

BPM applications can take many forms and, to date, many are still the preserve of large and multi-national enterprises. For many SMEs, taking the step from simple scanning-to-archive document management to full-blown BPM is seen as a leap too far and often prevented by a lack of IT bandwidth and perceived high costs.

However, with the arrival of cloud-based services, smaller companies can now make BPM an integral part of their business. With the availability of BPM as SaaS, SMEs (and all sizes of business) can now benefit from low start-up costs and the ability to only pay for what they need with the reassurance of elasticity and scalability on demand.

The availability of on-demand, pre-built process solutions delivered via cloud-based BPM platforms takes this a step further, by giving SMEs access to process solutions and industry best practices that they would have been unable to develop in-house.

Opportunities for vendors

As well as providing a much more attractive option for SMEs, the BPM SaaS model also creates a business process outsourcing (BPO) opportunity for organisations within a specific area of process expertise. For example, organisations with specific domain expertise in financial services, healthcare or legal services can now deploy cloud-based process solutions within their own enterprises, as well as rapidly enter the BPO market and resell their intellectual property (IP) through the development of BPaaS (Business Process-as-a-Service) applications.

The risk of deploying BPM is also minimised by being able to implement rapid prototyping and testing of BPM solutions in the cloud. For organisations still developing their cloud strategy, business process solutions can be incubated in the cloud before bringing on premise.

Gathering momentum

While it’s been slow to develop, offering BPM via the cloud provides a great opportunity to strip away the barriers to entry for process improvement, stimulate much broader adoption of BPM technologies and engage with a whole new audience.