In the findings from their Insurance Industry research meeting published this week, Gartner states the bleeding obvious:
Tactical BPM Approaches Will Cause Rule Management Nightmares for Healthcare Payers
It’s been pretty obvious for some time that BPM should not be a tactical, departmental decision, regardless of your industry. I’ve been working in this industry long enough to remember when BPM (workflow or EAI, before the Grand Consolidation) was sold as an application. Then, it was sold as a toolset. Then (again), it was sold as an application. Now it’s being sold as infrastructure, and I think the vendors finally have it right.
As soon as you start looking at your business processes, you’ll find something in your organization that could be helped out by the functionality provided by a BPMS: automation of manual steps, orchestration across disparate systems, process governance, whatever hits the hot buttons. And what you’ll find in almost all cases is that the actual business processes span several business departments, although the systems that support them don’t, leading to a lot of manual processes handling the interfaces between departments. So although you could make a tactical decision to buy a BPMS just for a specific business department’s urgent needs, if you don’t consider where the tendrils of that process reach, then you’ll still be stuck with those manual handoffs to areas outside the core of the process. The only path to a solution is to have BPM as part of the enterprise-wide infrastructure that supports all business departments, so that your business processes can extend their reach across the organization (and beyond) in the most effective way possible.
The same goes for business rules, which is part of what Gartner is saying: although they state that rules need to be integrated across applications and multiple rule engines, I’d go a step further and say that a common business rules engine (BRE, or BRMS) needs to be part of the enterprise-wide infrastructure as well. It’s critical that different departments have access to the same business rules: the same rule might be applied at a step in a back-office process, by call centre staff during a customer call, and by auditors when creating compliance documentation. The same rules need to be universally accessible by applications throughout the organization, without the propagation delay or lack of synchronization that could be caused by using multiple BRE.
Your business processes and business rules reach across your entire business. Your BPMS and BRE have to do the same.