Posted by: Adam Deane | 27/04/2011

ERP Trends: BPM

SAPEvery now and again there is an industry trend that gets the attention of the technology vendors.

One of them is: “ERP and BPM”, which in my opinion actually makes good business sense.

ERP and Business Process Management are one of the few joint solutions where technologies compliment each other.

I’ll give an example of BPM adding value to ERP, one that I’ve seen in a project I was running last year.
The Portuguese government, going through austerity, were looking to cut costs and obtain more control over their expenses.

They are big users of SAP and happy with their current system.
They understand the advantages of the ERP solution and are aware of its limitations.
They tried building business processes using SAP without success.
They then tried building them using Windows Workflow Foundation, again without success.
In the end the decided to use a BPM suite as a development platform to build the business processes.

It’s was an interesting project. We were not trying to replace SAP, just build workflows around it.

The team, three groups of four developers, were each in charge of a tier:
The first tier – BPM and frontend
The second tier – Web services
The third tier – Backend: SAP and BizTalk

In the end, both management and the SAP team were happy: more people using the system, processes go-live quicker, the forms were prettier, the business logic is easier to change, connects more systems…etc.. all this without disturbing SAP, without tearing up systems, without “starting from scratch”.
BPM was a complementary solution for the ERP system. The right tool for the right job.

Its a good example of how BPM adds value to ERP without conflict, without causing disruption, without tearing up existing understructure or needing to begin building from scratch.
ERP and BPM. I think it’s one of the few solutions where technologies compliment each other nicely.


  1. See

  2. Hello!

    Can you shra that BPMS was selected to this project in the Portuguese Government?

    Thank you

  3. Agree.
    From one perspective, ERP systems is just another backend (a.k.a. Functional Service) for a BPM.

  4. Adam,

    Thanks for sharing your story of BPM success and how the solution was actually quite compatible with SAP. That’s something we see quite frequently at my company. Of course, there’s a lot of debate on this point. You might be interested in a note that China Martens, ERP analyst at Forrester (see had to say on this point. I wrote a blog post challenging her points and making the case that BPM already addresses the ERP gaps she highlights (see

    Thanks again for sharing your insights and I look forward to more discussions.


  5. Adam, good stuff. Gartner’s Bill Swanton presented on this at the BPM Summit in Baltimore. I wrote up my thoughts in:

  6. I’ve built prototype that merge BPM and ERP, and I even don’t know how to name it. It has logical workflow and each activity (making a document or approve) and has structural function to accomplish the task, and also actors organization to do the task. BPM (?) and correspond tool function share the same data, so forward process session and rollback could be done easily. I’ve tested in manufacturing company and a software reseller company, both the implementator and end user seem happy. Build the application also quite fast. It’s a tool for both bpm+erp developers and end users.

    My background experience is providing solution for complex supply chain synchronization in manufacturing floor nesting resolution with multiple constraint. It implements lots of AI and logical flow mostly for handling general system quality deviation (resources, time, material and output). My BPM+ERP idea is using the concept to make a part become to make a document, even I can put alert and make time critical activity to this bpm+erp.

    I don’t know how you guys to design and make bpm and erp and end up in two block of application instead of one like I design and build.

    but, anyway, thanks Adam, now I little bit know about erp and bpm world, that I never touch

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