Every business depends on a set of repeatable processes that a low-code business process management (BPM) platform can standardize and automate.
Every business depends on a set of broadly similar processes to facilitate the coordination of people and assets to produce information. Digitization is the key to enabling a smooth flow of that information in order to continuously enhance mission-critical operations, and this is where business process management (BPM) comes in.
That said, BPM is a commonly misunderstood term. Despite the widespread misconception, BPM is not a technology itself, but a discipline concerning how businesses analyze, measure, improve, and automate their business processes. Every business department has its own set of processes covering a diverse range of areas from product or service delivery to conducting regulatory compliance checks to handling billing and payments.
While not a technology solution in its own right, efficient BPM does rely heavily on digitization. As such, it often involves the use of intelligent approaches to automate and standardize tasks and workflows. For example, a business-critical process like fulfilling a product order is usually a repeatable and standardized operation, and that means it can be automated with the right software.
How does low code streamline business process management?
The challenge lies in the fact that every business relies on a unique set of processes. Although they may be similar to the processes deployed by other businesses, the differences are often significant enough that off-the-shelf software is simply not up to the job. This is why businesses face a growing need to develop their own software using readily accessible low-code software development platforms (LCDPs).
An LCDP provides a user-friendly software development environment consisting of a standard set of “building blocks”. These allow citizen developers to rapidly develop apps for handling routine business operations — typically without ever having to write a line of code. The main advantage of this is that people with limited technical skills themselves, but who have a clear picture of the business side of things, can develop apps to meet their own precise needs.
Sometimes, BPM and low-code are used interchangeably, albeit incorrectly so. An LCDP is simply a facilitator of BPM, but we can also safely say that not all BPM platforms are low code. However, adopting a low-code solution is, for many businesses and industries, by far the most efficient way to improve BPM. This is because low code allows business leaders, rather than only professional developers, to get involved in the software development process. While they might not have advanced technical skills themselves, they bring valuable domain knowledge and business expertise to software development. At a time when it is widely claimed that every business is a software business, the importance of the collaboration between BPM and app development cannot be understated.
How low-code can accommodate the entire BPM lifecycle
Although there is no universal standard for implementing BPM, the discipline broadly consists of five main steps, all of which a suitable LCDP can accommodate. These key steps take on a circular form, highlighting the fact that BPM (and, indeed, digital transformation itself) is a journey rather than a destination.
The first stage of the BPM lifecycle is defining and designing the processes themselves. This involves analyzing existing processes, whether they are currently digitized or not. It may also be necessary to plan entirely new business processes, especially when making any changes to key operations like product delivery and payment handling. An LCDP offers an intuitive and visual interface for designing these processes with predefined building blocks that represent specific tasks. In rare cases where the required building blocks are unavailable, professional developers can still code new ones, which is exactly what makes low code far more powerful than no-code solutions.
The next stage is to model the business processes by examining how they perform in different scenarios. Many LCDPs allow users to connect multiple data sources to easily view key metrics pertaining to process performance.
Based on insights delivered from the modelling stage, user can then implement improvements and start standardizing and automating processes. Insofar as low-code software development is concerned, this means actually compiling the app to accommodate the process designed earlier and putting it into a production environment.
The fourth step is to monitor the software to determine how any improvements perform. Again, an LCDP built with BPM in mind should provide a complete view of how the app performs by tracking various key metrics in real time, such as how long it takes for each task to complete. This instantly reveals any bottlenecks and other opportunities for improvement.
The fifth and final stage of the BPM lifecycle is where the broader process starts over. This is where users act on the insights provided by the monitoring stage by making new improvements to the app and, in doing so, continue to improve the efficacy of business processes. Another core benefit of low-code solutions is that they make application maintenance easier. Because the underlying LCDP does much of the heavy-lifting, implementing changes can be done in hours or days, without having to rewrite code from scratch.
Why low code is the future of business process management
In the near future, around 80% of business software development will take place in no-code or low-code environments. After all, BPM is all about facilitating the coordination between systems, people, and information to achieve desired business outcomes. Because of this, it is essential that business users are themselves able to get involved in app development.
More than ever, the implementation of business processes depends on a functional language that both business users and technical experts can understand. By abstracting a large part of the software development process away from the underlying code, we can bridge the divide between professional developers and business domain experts.
However, BPM is more than just a set of visual models of business processes. With an LCDP, businesses can enjoy the added benefits of accelerated digital transformation, automation and continuous improvement. These are the characteristics that define a modern business that can stand the text of time.
Planet Crust is the creator and driving force behind Corteza, a 100% open-source low-code software development platform that lets you import data from any source and use intuitive drag-and-drop tools to create custom applications for your unique business needs. Get started for free today.