Extending ERP with BPM

Companies of all sizes have realised the benefits of enterprise resource planning (ERP) software in managing business processes. However, as more companies, large and small adopt ERP solutions, the realisation that these benefits are finite is also dawning.

"Business knows it needs business applications to streamline its processes, but many corporate leaders are also aware that operational functionality is only a stepping stone in improving productivity and competitiveness," says John Olsson, marketing director of Ability Solutions. "The next step in improved efficiency is a move to improving the human experience when dealing with applications and systems."

By wrapping ERP processes in a business process management (BPM) engine, users will be able to meet the needs of the business without having to get involved in the complexities of operational functionality. These will all be taken care of automatically, allowing humans to focus on tasks that add value.

The same principle applies to external people dealing with companies. BPM ensures they all receive a standard quality of service designed to resolve their issues in the shortest possible time. It also ensures they don't vanish from the system unless they have been appropriately assisted.

"In short, BPM adds value to the operational functionality of your ERP system to improve the company's productivity," explains Olsson. "When implemented correctly, the value of a BPM system is felt across the organisation and even through to customers."

He offers the following example. When a new stock shipment arrives at a warehouse, instead of simply adding the goods to the inventory list and updating the corporate database, a BPM engine will link the stock to a salesperson's historical enquiry and could automatically send a text message to the individual. A sale could be made almost immediately because the salesperson received pertinent information as it happened and could immediately go back to his client with exact stock quantities and pricing.

BPM is not a product or technology, but a process that links systems and people to each other and thereby extends the value of any business transaction. This means that for any basic transaction, people and systems can respond and react in a manner that ultimately builds the business.

"Any company doubting whether it needs BPM should take an honest look at the service levels it offers," notes Olsson. "BPM, when applied to the areas where service and productivity challenges are high, will bolster both without adding to staff's workload. In fact, BPM will ease workloads."

Olsson adds that South Africa is at the forefront of the BPM world because of two local companies, FlowCentric and K2.Net. These two businesses produce BPM products for the global market and their success in is a testimony to the growing importance of BPM and their ingenuity in being ahead of the curve.

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