How BPMS compares with ECM Workflow

Business process management systems (BPMS) enable business process automation. But doesn’t an enterprise content management (ECM) workflow system also do the same?

So what’s the difference?

An ECM workflow tool is used to automatically route content to the relevant stakeholders for activities such as approval, review, and editing. Typical scenarios include routing contracts, approving and editing press releases, updating policy documents, etc.

Whereas, BPMS enables a holistic approach to automating and coordinating work across a broader set of resources including people, information, machines and systems. Content routing to the relevant stakeholders in the context of an overall business workflow is just one of the many components of BPMS.

So what are some things that a BPMS does better?

BPMS provides a better way to reach and communicate with customers. It delivers rich web content and enables instant customer engagement across all channels including the web, mobile, and social. It allows customers and employees to initiate and complete work actions in a secure environment from anywhere either over the web or through a mobile device.

BPMS provides a better way to work with content in context. It allows the integration and access of all relevant information and related work across systems that is contextual to the content being actively worked on. It delivers a “single view” of the content and related items.

BPMS provides a better way to measure results and optimize. It leverages real-time analytics to examine business trends, monitor SLA’s, and respond to potential bottlenecks. It allows managing team productivity by intelligently allocating work based on backlog, time, skills, and schedule.

BPMS provides a better way to do work. BPMS allows the organization to more effectively manage work by using business rules, monitoring in-progress work, and continuously improving how work gets done.

It is not surprising then that many ECM workflow vendors have recently acquired BPM companies to bolster their product portfolio. However, many of these ECM vendors lack a coherent product rationalization strategy. One such ECM vendor’s recent acquisition of a BPM company prompted the following advisory from a prominent independent analyst firm, Gartner: “The acquisition of Cordys, a BPM and cloud platform vendor, complicates OpenText’s rationalization and innovation of its multiple BPM products. If OpenText’s BPM suites do not fully meet your needs, evaluate other providers.”

iBPMS Magic Quadrant by Gartner (September 2012)
iBPMS Magic Quadrant by Gartner (September 2012)

The above magic quadrant for BPMS suites released in September 2012 is the latest ranking of various BPMS vendors by Gartner. Note that not many ECM vendors with BPM product offerings are placed in this BPMS magic quadrant by Gartner.

There is a clear comparison to be drawn between ECM Workflow and BPMS. You decide whether workflow or BPM systems better meet the broader needs of your organization.

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