Company business processes: ECM, CRM, BPM - what's the difference?

    Today they talk a lot about business automation solutions. But, to be honest, how many of the managers (top or lower - it doesn’t matter) really understand how the EDMS, ECM, CRM, BPM and other acronyms IT systems differ? If you answered yes with confidence, explain - for whom are all these reviews, videos, webinars about what these solutions are, how and why to work with them?

    There is nothing really reprehensible here. Like it or not, complex products. To understand the essence and purpose of IT systems, and even more so to select and implement a product at home has always been difficult. However, with the development of classical systems, the functionality of which now largely duplicates the capabilities of another class of solutions, it became even more difficult to do this, and here's why.

    1. Now there are almost no classic ECMs (I use it as a synonym for EDMS) or CRM. There is an EDMS with built-in capabilities for automating business processes, and modern CRM today is no longer just a database of contractors and a history of relationships with them, but systems that automate the entire process of working with clients.

      BUT, classic BPMS always served to build and automate business processes. How to distinguish between these solutions now? What is their fundamental difference, and is it there?

      A couple of examples, not to be unfounded (I took the TAdviser rating leaders and information on the sites of these products):

      • EDMS "CASE" "allows you to optimize the organization's business processes and automate the work with a large volume of documents. The main task is the automation of document-oriented business processes. ”
      • Docsvision EDMS performs “automation of any business processes, integration between EDMS and other enterprise systems, process management”.
      • Directum EDMS with a module of business process management, which "provides effective interaction of employees within the framework of business processes."

      Among CRM-systems with embedded capabilities to build business processes are:

      • Terrasoft CRM (bpm'online) - a system for marketing, sales and service, with the ability to simulate and automate the company's internal business processes.
      • Microsoft Dynamics CRM , which "allows you to reduce costs and increase profits by organizing and automating business processes, which helps to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty in all areas - marketing, sales and service."
      • 1C: CRM , in which BPM tools are built-in, which allows you to "develop and use business processes of any complexity in the company."

      Lists can go on.

    2. As for the BPMS themselves (modern business process management systems), they distinguish separate specialized solutions: CRM based on BPM, ECM on a process engine and so on. Or they form a product line in an industry-specific manner (business processes of a telecommunication company, business processes of a trade organization, etc.)

      • ELMA is a business process management system on the basis of which an application for organizing electronic document management ECM + is implemented, a solution for automating the process of working with CRM + clients, and a number of other solutions.
      • NAUMEN - offers solutions for contact center automation, procurement management, workflow and other products.
      • Serena Business Manager (SBM) - Offers a “portfolio of solutions for a variety of industries and typical services.” In particular, the workflow in the organization; order management and other solutions.

    So, today we have:
    1. ECM and CRM, with integrated processes;
    2. BPMs that automate workflow and customer service processes.

    How in this case to determine which of these solutions is suitable for a particular company. So, can you put an equal sign between ECM and BPM, as well as CRM and BPM?

    Actually no, you can’t. Despite the processes implemented, neither ECM nor CRM replace BPM systems. The approach to automation, and therefore the purpose of all these solutions, remains different. What is the difference from the point of view of the enterprise introducing the product?

    Products with embedded processes and BPM

    1. Workflow

      • EDMS with embedded processes

        By and large, EDMS is a repository of electronic documents, with the possibility of their registration and organization of the simplest movement (sighting, familiarization). The document processing process built into the EDMS is nothing more than a logical sequence of changing the status of a document in the system. In other words, the status of a document is an attribute of tracking the current stage of its processing.

        That is, the EDMS automates the process of processing documents in the company, the stages of which correspond to a change in the status of the document. Work in electronic document management systems is aimed at fast and error-free document processing. The result of the process is a document that has passed all stages of processing (registered, signed, sent, etc.), which can always be quickly found.

      • BPMS, automating workflow

        BPMS automate the same stages of workflow as modern EDMS, but not separately, but as part of other business processes of the company. So, for example, the process of concluding a contract is considered as one of the sections of a wider business process of delivering goods to a client. In addition to working with the contract, it also includes a manager’s request for a warehouse, the work of procurers, logisticians, and much more. The document appears only in the place of the process in which it is needed. The result of such a process is not a contract, but an expeditiously delivered cargo. As a result, the company has not only a faithfully and quickly executed contract, it can control the fact of further actions related to the document.

    2. Customer service

      • CRM with embedded processes

        The CRM architecture is similar to the EDMS. Classic CRMs are a convenient base of clients and statuses of working with them (relationship history) - lead, acquaintance, commercial offer, deal, etc.

        The processes built into CRM allow you to automate the business process of selling a product or service. The stage of capturing clients / applications from the site, forming a line for ringing, the task of sending a commercial offer, automatic sending of reminders to managers about the need to contact the client, transaction history. In addition, modern CRMs may include working with documents necessary to complete a transaction, can integrate with ERP (shipment management), etc. Thus, the use of CRM helps the seller conduct a transaction on the way from lead to customer. The result of this process is the sale of goods or services.

      • BPMS, automating customer relationship processes

        As for the BPMS functionality, these systems take the process of working with the client beyond the sales department, connecting other departments of the company to it. By analogy with the scheme in which we examined the workflow, sales are not the end of the process of working with a client. The result will be promptly delivered to the customer goods. The process is initially built as a coordinated work of production, procurement, warehouse, sales, accounting, delivery services, etc.

        In addition, the use of the BPM system allows us to take into account that the effectiveness of the customer process depends on a number of other internal business processes of the company, which should also work without delay - for example, to have raw materials in production, the stock will be replenished on time. Without this, the risks that the declared quality and terms of customer service will be in jeopardy will always remain.

    The differences in automation objects inherent in ECM, CRM, and BPM can be attributed to differences in the architecture of these solutions.

    The organization of work of business processes in ECM and CRM is based on the database (document storage / customer database) and statuses of working with them (document status / transaction status). The process embedded in these solutions always accesses data from the upper two tiers. The work of BPMS is initially built as a process - it focuses not on the object (document, client), but on the ultimate goal of the process (service provided, goods received by the client).

    If the company needs to change the automated process, the situation also develops differently. In ECM and CRM, this will require changes in the upper two tiers. Such a refinement is a costly thing, you will not do it constantly. Therefore, ECM and CRM are usually configured once and for a long time, fixing the desired procedure in the information system.

    To change the process in BPM, you will not need to modify or change the architecture of the solution. This explains the so-called “flexibility” of BPM, which is often mentioned among the advantages of these solutions. Changes are made immediately to the process model, and it is ready to go. At the same time, the processes launched before the introduction of changes continue to work according to the old scheme.

    Let's face it, the purpose, for example, of EDMS systems, has always been to fix the rules for processing certain documents. These decisions do not imply that document movement routes will change. Neither the companies that introduced the EDMS, nor the functions of electronic document management systems, respectively, simply have such a task. Therefore, the processes embedded in workflow systems remain unchanged. Once you build the process of document processing, and it works for several years. If there is a need for changes and improvements, you need a different solution.

    So, here are some fundamental, in my opinion, differences between process automation in ECM, CRM and BPM:




    Automation object

    Document Processing Processes

    Customer Relationship Processes (Sales Site)

    All company business processes

    The result of the process of providing goods or services



    Goods delivered to customer

    Automation result

    Fixed order of tasks

    Fixed order of tasks

    Fixed order of tasks that can be changed

    I emphasize that classic products, and solutions with process automation capabilities, and BPMS class systems have their advantages. However, mixing concepts and assigning to one solution capabilities that they essentially do not have is already marketing.

    By investing in such automation, managers do not get the effect they were counting on, or simply lose time, considering a product that does not initially meet the needs of the business.

    For each company, one or another solution is selected according to its needs. For example, we talked a lot about the versatility of BPM, but universality also determines the broad functionality of the system. It is a priori wider than in highly specialized products, and for a small company it may be redundant, the system itself may seem complicated. And vice versa, just such functionality will be necessary for a larger company, and investing in the development of, for example, a CRM system for all the tasks that a company poses to a product will not be justified.

    I personally know of a case when a large financial institution acquired a well-known CRM in the market to automate a complex of processes for providing certain types of services to clients. As a result, CRM did not take off, and the management, having spent several months in vain, was forced to look for another solution, which eventually became BPM. I intentionally do not mention the name of these systems, since public relations or anti-public relations is not my goal. And the situation itself did not happen because the CRM was bad, or the BPM was good. Simply, each solution is designed to perform certain tasks. And if the customer had originally understood the functionality of the system, and the vendor himself would honestly admit that the product was not intended to solve the tasks, this would not have happened. Having worked hard, developers of course can finish the functionality of any system before

    Carefully study IT systems and demos, interrogate and torture consultant managers. Good automation and thoughtful implementations.

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