Business Process Management (BPM) is a holisting management approach that promotes business effectiveness and efficiency while striving for innovation, flexibility and integration with technology. It is a field of management focused on aligning organizations with the wants and needs of clients. Business process management attempts to continuously improve processes. It could therefore be described as a "process optimization process".
A business process is "a collection of related, structured activities that produce a service or product that meet the needs of a client." These processes are critical to any organization as they generate revenue and often represent a significant proportion of costs. As a managerial approach, BPM considers processes to be strategic assets of an organisation that must be understood, managed and improved to deliver value added products and services to clients. This foundation is very similar to other Total Quality Management or Continuous Improvement Process methodologies or approaches. BPM goes a step further by stating that this approach can be supported, or enabled, through technology to ensure the viability of the managerial approach in times of stress and change. In fact, BPM is an approach to integrate a "change capability" to an organisation - both human and technological. As such, many BPM articles and pundits often discuss BPM from one of two viewpoints: people and/or technology.
Roughly speaking, the idea of (business) process is as traditional as concepts of tasks, department, production, outputs. The current management and improvement approach, with formal definitions and technical modeling, has been around since the early 1990s (see business process modeling). However there has been a common confusion in the IT community, as the term 'business process' is often used as synonymous of management of middleware processes; or integrating application software tasks. This viewpoint may be overly restrictive. This should be kept in mind when reading software engineering papers which refer to 'business processes' or 'business process modeling.'
Although the initial focus of BPM was on the automation of mechanistic business processes, it has since been extended to integrate human-driven processes in which human interaction takes place in series or parallel with the mechanistic processes. A common form is where individual steps in the business process which require human intuition or judgment to be performed are assigned to the appropriate members of an organization (as with workflow systems).
More advanced forms such as human interaction management are in the complex interaction between human workers in performing a workgroup task. In this case many people and systems interact in structured, ad-hoc, and sometimes completely dynamic ways to complete one to many transactions.
BPM can be used to understand organizations through expanded views that would not otherwise be available to organize and present. These views include the relationships of processes to each other which, when included in the process model, provide for advanced reporting and analysis that would not otherwise be available. BPM is regarded by some as the backbone of enterprise content management.
Because BPM allows organizations to abstract business process from technology infrastructure, it goes far beyond automating business processes (software) or solving business problems (suite) – it enables business to respond to changing consumer, market, and regulatory demands faster than competitors, thereby creating competitive advantage.