As a business owner, you want all your investments to pay off with the greatest possible benefit. For almost every modern company, investing in tailor-made software development is a necessary step. It is an optimal way to improve workflow, reach your target audience, and ensure easy business scalability.
The tricky part is that custom software development may require significant investments, and it’s vital to ensure that developers will use a customer-centric approach, especially when we talk about small companies and startups that can’t afford to waste money. Luckily, there are dozens of methodologies allowing to build the development process in such a way that the result will satisfy the customer to the greatest extent. Today, we’ll consider one of these approaches applied for a plethora of industries, including software development. Of course, we’re talking about Business Process Management or BPM.
What is Business Process Management and Why It’s So Important
First of all, let’s define what a business process is. Usually, what we mean by this term is a set of activities with one or more inputs. The result of these activities is something that creates value for the business. For example, a production line process and following up quality assurance and maintenance activities can be an example of business processes in manufacturing.
Business process management, in its turn, is an approach allowing a business to see the whole picture of activities involved in creating its products and services. Such an approach enables a better understanding of how the business operates in total and at the level of individual processes. In addition, business process management allows identifying which areas require special attention and how their improvement will increase the company’s overall efficiency.
Such optimization usually affects processes that are repetitive by their nature and may consist, for example, in their automation if it’s possible. In the rapidly changing world of software development, business process management is usually closely related to the software development life cycle methodologies and follows their features. The goal is to improve how a company designs, creates, tests and deploys its software products. It’s important not to confuse BPM with task management or project management since these terms describe activities of different kinds that are non-repeatable and usually have a one-time nature.
The importance of business process management is explained by the fact that unsystematized and poor-structured processes may remain unrecognizable by a specific person involved in the software product life cycle. For example, a software developer sees only one part of the overall picture while working on different tasks that will become an integral part of a more complex software solution. Business process management, in its turn, is an approach allowing one to zoom out from a specific task, thoroughly assess the impact of a particular process on the overall picture, and find possible bottlenecks.
We can distinguish three main types of business process management.
- Integration-centric BPM implies that you want to focus on processes that don’t require much human involvement. They depend on APIs and mechanisms enabling data integration between such software solutions as CRM or HRM systems.
- Human-centric BPM, as the name suggests, focuses on human involvement. This type of process usually implies a massive number of approvals and tasks performed by individual employees.
- Document-centric BPM is irreplaceable, for example, when signing an agreement between the customer and company providing custom software development services. It’s required in situations where a specific document must go through a long cycle of formattings and approvals before the agreement can be finalized.
The business process management life cycle usually consists of five stages. During the process design step, the team must define the milestones within the process, determine the individual tasks within the BPM process, and assign task owners. Clearly defined tasks for each step in the process helps to determine what areas require optimization and what indicators must be tracked to assess how improvements affect the overall picture. The next step is to visually represent the process model, including timeline, task description, and data involved in the process. Various business process management software is usually used during this stage. During the execution phase, the team conducts proof of concept, tests the business process management system with a limited group, and presents the process to a broader audience after making some improvements according to the received feedback. After that, it’s time to monitor the process to detect any possible additional bottlenecks. The final step is to optimize the process in accordance with the received data. Various project management software solutions may play a significant role in business process management. For example, such features as data management, collaboration, real-time analysis, and many others are somewhat helpful for successful BPM.
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Specifics of Business Process Management in Software Development
Software development is an industry that has its own specifics leading to unique features to consider when applying business process management techniques. Say, in manufacturing, businesses follow more rigid processes compared to the software industry. A wide variety of software development life cycle methodologies, each of which is selected based on the characteristics of a particular project, requires flexibility in applying BPM methodologies as well.
The waterfall model, a traditional approach to software development, implies that each step of a project begins after the previous one has already been completed. For example, construction companies follow this model when they build a house, starting from the foundation, continuing with the walls, and so on. Unfortunately, in the case of software development, such a model has many drawbacks. Business requirements tend to change, so adherence to a once designated plan without the ability to make changes in the process may not be an optimal decision.
Nowadays, software developers prefer more adaptive methodologies whose primary goals are to take out the middleman as much as possible, develop the product iteratively, and deliver working versions of the app more frequently. From this point of view, Agile, one of the most popular software development approaches, rightfully takes its place on the pedestal. Unfortunately, it has its limitations.
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For example, the decreased role of business analysts may shift emphasis to the end-users specifying the original requirements. More minor far-sighted requirements deprived of the necessary perspective, in that case, may lead to a situation where developers have to implement functionality that won’t invest in achieving business goals. Thus, besides removing additional levels of interpretation, we force software developers to interpret what the end-user means. This situation may lead to significant time waste.
Business process management can be pretty helpful in overcoming described drawbacks. BPM seeks to cut the middleman, but its main feature is that according to this approach to software development, there’s still a close connection between the BA and the end-user. In this scenario, BA’s skills in interpreting business requirements allow developing business processes close to the initial requirements of a customer. As a result, the business analyst’s models are more comparable to a customer’s understanding than the source code or prototype software. Besides, models don’t take so much time to produce if we compare them to working software, which allows achieving higher working rates.
Business process management in software development and other industries can bring dozens of benefits. First of all, it allows increasing the development team’s efficiency by optimizing the existing processes by removing bottlenecks and redundancies. Eliminating repetitive tasks that don’t invest in the overall productivity can help the employees to focus on achieving their current goals and simplify the onboarding process thanks to a more transparent workflow. Better process execution and automation of everything suitable for it enables effortless scaling processes making it easier to attract more extensive teams to work on the project.
If you want to learn more about BPM and how it can influence your project, please contact us.