So, What’s the Difference Between BPM and Low-Code?

Jeremy Francis

May 14th, 2018 low code  

Unless you’ve been running your business underwater (like these guys), chances are that you’ve ‘heard it all’ about BPM (Business Process Management) software suites. And if you’ve already heard of BPM, you may be aware of the buzz around low-code platforms, and promises of them changing BPM forever.

But what’s the actual difference between low-code platforms and BPM suites? Does it boil down to technological differences, or is it a conceptual thing, or is it all just one more big marketing ploy?

The Rise and Fall of BPMS

In theory, BPM systems were the answer to problems that plagued so many businesses. Each organization was presumed to be made up of discrete, interrelated processes. BPM software suites were designed to systematically improve each business process, and subsequently improve the efficiency of the organisation itself.

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These software suites made it easy to automate, model, monitor, and streamline everyday business processes. C-level executives around the world were understandably impressed, as you can imagine–terms like increased management oversight, risk mitigation, and better compliance were all music to their ears.

Consider the benefits.

  • Improved productivity – with business processes being enforced as if companies had each hired an ex-military manager, processes would get streamlined, driving profits higher and higher.
  • Process enforcement – with a formal BPMS in place, repetitive mundane tasks went through the path set for them, with rules defining what had to be done at each stage. This would minimize oversight, and eliminate bottlenecks.
  • Flexibility – any changes to the way a certain process was to be executed, can be done without any ‘procedure change’ meetings. You’d simply set the new parameters, and employees would complete processes according to these.

Pretty good on paper, right? But, as with most things that are great on paper, BPM’s projected successes simply failed to take the world by storm. Specifically, the thunder of all the ‘revolutionary’ hype wasn’t followed by the lightning of enterprise success.

“So what went wrong?”

  • Enterprise processes are often quite complex, spanning multiple departments and locations within the same organization.
  • BPMS were even more complex, requiring a number of in-house training sessions or on-call consultants before employees could actually use them.
  • Customizing these systems was complex work that could only be completed by coders. If you messed up the program to grant employee leaves, and didn’t include a crucial team member, you’d hand in a request to the IT coding team, earning dirty looks as they were already buried in request backlogs.

Soon enough, BPM suddenly started losing its ‘golden goose’ status, becoming more of an ugly duckling who grew up into an equally ugly duck. Articles like this one started proclaiming the death of BPMS as it was then known.

As it turns out, it was more of a re-birth than a dead-and-extinct situation—in other words, low-code technology forever changed BPM.

Low-Code, And The App-ification of BPM

BPM was, at least in the 90’s, every C-level employee’s ideal solution, given that it took care of the big four—efficiency optimization, governance, risk mitigation, and compliance. However, to the employees taking care of the actual gritty work, it seemed like one more thing to do, and an unnecessary one at that.

Low-code development platforms aren’t a replacement for BPMs. They are a technological approach that changes the way BPM services are deployed. Instead of bloated and complicated software suites, platforms like KiSSFLOW offer configurable tools, resources and components that you can use to whip up your own BPM solutions in a relatively short period, with very little coding knowledge.

low-code application development

Instead of depending on costly and time-consuming manual coding, you can create your own industry- and organization-specific applications with minimal effort. Another great thing—they have API integration abilities with 3rd party SaaS solutions.

Forrester’s Clay Richardson, one of the world’s experts on low-code platforms, spoke on the benefits of low-code:

  • You can create and deploy apps in mere minutes.
  • Data-driven configuration, which means that apps can be created with the Rapid Application Development (RAD) approach of ‘create first, then streamline’, without long delays between conception and release.
  • Development and testing costs are minimal.
  • Cost-effective development: devs with minimal training can easily learn development through a low-code platform, to create hybrid business apps that work cross-platform.
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“So, The Difference Between BPMS and Low-Code Platforms…”

  • Low-code platforms are easy to set up, and are mostly cloud-based. Traditional BPM can take up to 6 months for full on-premise setup and implementation.
  • Low-code platforms are cheaper. For instance, KiSSFLOW has a standard pricing of $9 per user per month, while traditional BPM bills can run into the hundreds of thousands, and frequently much more than even that.
  • Regular employees can, with minimal training, develop a range of BPM solutions using low code. With traditional solutions, they will need formal training and coding knowledge.
  • Low-code solutions can be integrated into 3rd party SaaS solutions, meaning that their range of functionality beats the most complicated traditional BPMS.

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The difference between BPM and low-code is more conceptual than anything. BPM was a way of getting things done, while low-code can well be described as a way to get BPM done!