The alternative for ERP: a Business Process Management System (BPMS)

By Guido Willemsen, Partner eXtropy

ERP is expensive and inert. Despite all initiatives, most ERP systems still act as a toolbox of functions, not a smart, process oriented platform that is required in today’s business. But leaving the ERP behind and moving over to a more modern solution is expensive and time consuming. How to overcome this “lock-in” of ERP systems? A Business Process Management System (BPMS) seems to be the answer. With modern license models (hundreds instead of thousands of euro’s a year) and a “modelling instead of programming” approach, the BPMS solution seems to be the answer to make ERP work again. Most business man quickly understand the added value of a BPMS instantly. However, the question arises: how to approach a phase in of a BPMS in the operational environment.

BPMS systems are actually “case management” systems. For each situation a case is created; a customer has a question, a service order is created to repair a machine, a delivery of goods will take place or manager has to approve an invoice. These are all examples of cases that will be created and executed in a BPMS system. During the execution several tasks will be executed, some manual and others automatically by a system. To enable execution at least five elements should be implemented in the BPMS:

  • Define detailed process flows that can actually be executed.
  • Develop the data model to store all process and functional data
  • Design the interfaces with the current internal and external application
  • Create the user interface and authorization
  • Set up a dashboard to control the execution of processes.

When the processes are applied, each case can be managed separately, even pro-active. During or after the process execution a detailed log is available what has actually been done and who is assigned to do the next task. The users only see a custom made form on their screens and only have to login once. All software that is used during the process execution is “invisible” for the user, although all functionality of the (legacy) systems can still be used.

A BPMS connects all manual and automated tasks in the organization and integrates all systems in a structured way. As a result of this a natural phase out of legacy systems is achieve where not the ERP vendor is leading but you. And on top of that, users will not notice any change when the legacy ERP is replaced by a BPMS or a best of breed functional application.

So, Business Process Management Systems are the key to break away from an ERP lock-in. Moreover, it aligns your business processes with IT in such a way that business is in charge.