Microsoft SharePoint – A synonym for enterprise BPM?

Many CEOs and IT deciders think about Microsoft® SharePoint® as the ultimate BPM system. The question is: What are they expecting from “BPM” and how do they define “BPM”?

Certainly, SharePoint® is a powerful business process management (BPM) system in the sense that it permits to define very attractive forms, to load and store data as SharePoint® lists, to define human workflows for procedures like approval requests or inquiries using forms and storing their related data. If this is your understanding of BPM, that’s okay. The relation between SharePoint® and a business process (isn’t this, what BPM is about?), however, is more on the micro-level with a focus on the implementation of form-based local workflows in support of business procedures.

Compare this to enterprise BPM involving complex, department-spanning end-to-end business processes involving complex IT landscapes. Such processes are run on dedicated business process management systems (BPMS) with strong business integration features through adapters connecting to ERP and other management systems, enabling B2B processes and supporting service-oriented architectures (SOA).

This certainly is not the positioning of SharePoint® as a BPM toolbox. So, SharePoint® should rather be regarded as an excellent collaboration platform for capturing enterprise expert knowledge, share documents between teams, and build governance processes with a combination of workflows and document management functionality. SharePoint helps in the documentation, analysis and improvement of business processes; it creates transparency by permitting to publish the relevant process information and thereby making it available to process owners and executers. This can be achieved by linking Microsoft® Visio into SharePoint® and depicting the organizational and business areas and processes. Visio® is the killer application to map business processes in a visual and easily accessible way for the business lines. Here BPM-X is the glue to bring the tools together and ensure the consistency of process data and employed methodologies.

On the process implementation level, SharePoint® can realize document-driven workflows. But in the sense of enterprise BPM its value lies more in enabling the visualization and accessibility of business process information to the associated stakeholders. By its support for governance workflows, SharePoint® helps to move from a functional to a process orientation and thus improves the overall process maturity over time.


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