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Nintex Workflow – a new approach to BPM
09 / 07 / 2018
In the age of flexible solutions and comprehensive products, the differences between categories applied in IT that we have got used to are becoming increasingly blurred. A good example of this phenomenon is Nintex Workflow, which usually describes itself as a workflow automation tool. Equally often, however, one can come across opinions describing it as a Business Process Management (BPM) system.
I don’t want to embark on an academic dispute and cite various definitions of BPM. Later in this article, you’ll learn about the similarities and differences crucial from the client’s point of view between tools described as: Business Process Management, Business Process Modelling, Business Process Improvement, Business Process Reengineering and Business Process Automation.
Traditional thinking about Business Process Management
In clients’ consciousness, BPM is often correctly perceived as a process involving an army of consultants taking part in implementation. The result is usually numerous presentations and reports, definitions of the roles of specific participants in the process, and a number of new procedures stemming from “good practices”.
Those systems were developed as long ago as in “the olden days”. They were hard to implement and change, with all personalisation posing a considerable cost, which for a large number of clients meant a need to adjust the organisation to the manner of operation imposed by the company providing the implementation.
Prolonged periods of BPM implementation:
Time was another negative factor. It would often take over 10 months for a system to go live. Over such a period of time, even the best-prepared process analysis often turned out to be outdated.
In a pessimistic scenario, the client would finally receive a system 25% of which was developed according to its requirements from one year back, and with 75% accounting for functions that just had to be adapted to.
Even more drawbacks of Business Process Management systems:
Another characteristic element of the traditional approach to BPM systems is applying them only in certain processes. Given the characteristics described above, that is the difficulty of implementation, the time, and the cost, it’s natural that a vast majority of Business Process Management impleentations are limited only to selected processes, tasks, or streams.
In this way, only part of the business becomes automated. Most of the activity takes place outside the system without being controlled or streamlined by the implemented solution.
So who owns the process then?
The consequence of the tool’s complexity is the fact that it isn’t the business, and often not even the company’s department, but the BPM system supplier/producer that is the process owner. Any changes require programming work. An external company defines what can be implemented in the system. By doing that, it becomes the process owner. The integrator decides on the shape of the client’s business. From the client’s viewpoint, this situation is uncomfortable, to say the least.
Separation of systems:
Another strategy of a BPM’s entry into an organisation is an element of a separate project. A considerable number of such implementations are elements of other large systems. For instance, implementation of an ERP results in mapping production processes in the system.
All big systems feature automation elements and mechanisms imposing further steps. Domain systems carry out their tasks very effectively, but the problem is that the user doesn’t have a single tool to integrate various systems. Facing a task to be performed, the user has a dilemma of which of the available systems they should use.
Nintex Workflow – process automation must be easy
When answering the question of whether Nintex could be considered as a BPM, you need to identify in what way it performs the functions essential for solutions of this kind.
Nintex was designed following the “easy to build, easy to use” principle. It solves two problems that traditional BPMs have. Because it’s an easy and available tool, it makes it possible to automate any processes without the need for time-consuming training.
How does it work?
The workflow designer uses the “drag-and-drop” method, where you drag a block representing a mechanism of your interest to the workspace. Next, you enter process parameters in a simple manner. In this way, the business user can reproduce a cycle of any complexity.
Not only process flow creation is easy and accessible to everybody. Creating Nintex Forms is similar, with the user deciding about what is to happen or entering data which the Nintex engine uses to run consecutive steps.
The ease of use and low entry barrier lets clients automate consecutive elements of the business on their own. Unlike BPM implementations, an army of consultants isn’t involved – nor is support for only specific processes. The speed with which information circulation is created and the fact that no knowledge of programming is needed allows the user to expand the area being automated. Thus, you can optimise a wider range of the company activities.
Get the measure and optimise:
As is the case with every BPM, Nintex has reporting mechanisms. Some time ago we covered some of the key features of Nintex Hawkeye in one of our posts. And indeed, Nintex Hawkeye offers full access to all statistics and information related to the course of the process. The user can see how it is actually happening, as well as in which places and why the process is slowed down.
It may turn out that an element designed by the user isn’t working, while another one is doing exceptionally well. Thanks to such information, the process can be optimised and planned even better. Clearly, there is also the capacity of exporting data to other tools, like Power BI.
Even more reasons to consider Nintex:
Unlike traditional BPMs, Nintex isn’t domain-oriented, meaning it isn’t part of a system dedicated to a specific system department.
By principle, Nintex is supposed to integrate the work of different departments, which is why its basic function is integration with other solutions. For example, after the occurrence of a specific event in CRM (SalesForce), a process supported by Nintex can refer to cloud-based resources (Google Drive, Dropbox, Amazon or Azure), run communication using external tools (Slack), and turn on marketing campaigns (MailChimp). The list of ready integrations is available here. New connectors are being developed all the time.
When visiting Nintex’s RoadShow in London, I saw a demonstration where a process controlling the colour of diodes based on a specific answer was developed in 10 minutes. This is possible thanks to a well-written environment where Nintex partners can add new integration points on their own.
To sum up, you can attain the same goals without an army of consultants and the client being totally reliant on the supplier (so-called vendor lock). In my view, a modern perspective on process automation is definitely a step in the right direction.
One of the most important elements of the development of IT systems is the “self-service” concept. A considerable number of products are mature enough in technological terms that most indispensable changes can be made by trained users, which is the very spirit of Nintex.
Its purpose is to hand control over process automation to business departments. On the level of basics and principles, Nintex is very different from traditional BPM systems. The freedom of the client who already has an implemented solution is incomparably greater. As far as the set goals go, Nintex can undoubtedly be described as a Business Process Management (BPM) solution.