Business process management software, also known as a business process management suite, helps companies design, model, execute, automate and improve the activities and tasks that make up a business process.
BPMS, also known as a business process management suite, uses hyperautomation tools to develop new application systems and business models. These tools use annotated process and workflow models, along with rules and descriptive information, to automate complex tasks and workflows.
BPMS tools typically use the Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN) method for modeling a business process from end to end. This standard gives BPMS tools the ability to orchestrate software from diverse vendors across different processes, making BPMS a core tool in digital transformation initiatives.
Embedded AI and usability
This is the third year I’ve reviewed BPMS tools for TechTarget. In preparing for this overview, a few major differences from last year became clear. The first is that the vendors have been hard at work modifying and improving their offerings with AI capabilities. Indeed, AI technologies, including game-changing generative AI tools, are now embedded in all the offerings to one degree or another. How AI capabilities are embedded does vary and is a point you will want to focus on. Secondly, many BPMS vendors talk about supporting continuous improvement as a benefit of using their products.
Because each vendor has taken a somewhat unique approach to products, the UX and interfacing capabilities should also be carefully reviewed against your organization’s needs and expectations. History has shown that usability is as important as the BPM capabilities themselves. There is a world of difference between having a tool that is able to do something and being able to effectively and efficiently use that tool — even with normal training and experience.
Technology is only half the picture
Another point to note: Buying discussions with BPMS vendors tend to be centered on technology. While needed, this point of view looks at only half the picture. Any discussion needs to include a business perspective — what the BPMS tool will allow the business to do, why that will be important, and the real business benefit that can be expected. Also, the purchase of BPMS is a long-term, strategic investment, so the system’s potential ability to support ongoing business and digital transformation must be considered.
Complicating matters in any BPMS product review is the fact that offerings are really groups of individual products that work together. Some of these products are part of the software written by the vendor and other products are partner products integrated into the product mix. In addition, the placement of a BPM capability in the products will differ between vendors, as will nomenclature and descriptions. So, make certain all selection team members gain a common understanding with the vendor. Of course, this may have licensing implications, which also need to be considered when evaluating what the tool can provide.
This year’s overview includes 12 vendors: AgilePoint, Appian, Bizagi, IGrafx, Kissflow, Microsoft, Newgen, Nintex K2, Oracle, Pegasystems, Progress Software and Trisotech.
How the 2024 venders were selected
Today, there are dozens of BPMS vendors and products. The inclusion of vendors on the lists you will find on the internet varies, depending on the source of the list. This list of BPMS vendors was selected based on my personal experience, product stability and capabilities.
Two more pointers before we dive in: While vendor claims of immediate use are often true, the reality is most tools are intuitive to use only for simple work. That’s not the case for complex projects. To improve the chances of success, it is suggested that organizations form a BPM/BPMS center of excellence: This concentrates BPM expertise and helps people gain the understanding and skills needed to deliver consistently accepted solutions.
The BPMS environment that any company creates through a mix of products will be complex and will require significant training for members of the BPMS Center of Excellence, for citizen developers and for the BPMS professionals who will use the selected BPMS tools. A week or two of vendor training is not adequate — nor is self-training from videos. I typically advise clients to purchase additional mentoring support from the vendors to help the team get past the learning curve, especially for projects that are difficult.
12 top BPM tools
The following reviews look at each of the 12 BPMS vendors’ capabilities. These are high level reviews that look at key points and capabilities. They are meant to help readers select a list of vendors to look at in greater detail.
Note: The terms BPM, BPMS and iBPM are used interchangeably as the definitions of all terms seem to be blurring. For example, all of the reviewed products are really at the iBPMS level — all have embedded AI and machine learning, and all products support a business process management approach.
Microsoft Power Automate is a comprehensive BPMS offering comprised of solid, user-friendly products for use on the web and in local business operating environments. The groupings of products provide a flexible technology environment. An advantage of Microsoft is that almost every company already has some of its products and thus existing relationships.
For companies that have a plan on how they will get started in BPMS use, Microsoft’s BPM offering allows them to begin with modeling individual processes and expand to enterprise process modeling, then on to identifying capabilities, leading ultimately to application generation. The Microsoft BPMS product library thus allows both citizen developers and BPM professionals to build business models and tie them to Word, Excel and PowerPoint-based information to help augment them for low-code application generation.
The capabilities in Microsoft’s various BPMS products are designed to work together to produce a wide variety of design options and outcomes. For example, with Microsoft Power Automate, BPM teams can use workflow automation and robotic process automation (RPA) to generate applications within Microsoft Azure’s cloud-based infrastructure. This enables project teams to use AI and simulation to build workflows that drive efficient business redesign with low-code application generation. The capabilities of these products combined with AI and big data analytics transform the product group into an intelligent BPMS (iBPMS) offering.
These capabilities, along with digital process automation, enable BPMS project teams to create streamlined automated workflows for both processes and repetitive tasks. In addition, Power Automate empowers teams to create a variety of forms used for information collection and application generation. The use of forms is an integral part of the application definition process. BPMS teams create custom forms to collect the information needed to define, design and generate the applications needed for their project.
Although the number of Microsoft products that can be combined to extend BPMS capabilities is extensive and somewhat overwhelming, this product inventory allows customers to customize their deliverables and confidently take on both business and digital transformation. Some of these extension products include the following:
- Azure Cognitive Search.
- Web Application Firewall.
- Power BI.
- Power Pages.
- Visual Studio Code.
2. Pegasystems (Pega)
Pegasystems was one of the first BPMS tools. It is built around a mature rules library and offers a time-tested set of BPMS products that are both flexible and highly expandable. Today Pega offers a suite of proven low-code BPMS products that have had time to evolve and gain stability. A result of this evolution, the system is designed to be changed fast and easily, using AI-based decision and execution capabilities to enhance operational activity and design workflows. AI and RPA-based workflow automation capabilities can combine with low-code development and application generation to support the rapid delivery of both complex process automation and the automation of repetitive tasks.
Pega provides customizable forms for application development. In addition, it offers Frameworks, a tool to customize applications for financial services, communications, insurance and healthcare. These frameworks offer prebuilt data models, workflows, business rules and UI templates to provide a starting point to automatically produce programs through the vendor’s Build for Change platform.
Thus, Pega’s s technical environment provides the flexibility to deliver a continuous improvement and business transformation capability to both citizen developers and technology professionals on BPMS project teams. This helps control change throughout the development of the new business model. Templates allow BPMS teams to start faster and work through the development cycle with greater accuracy. AI-based workflow products let companies scan and scale process improvement efforts, from modeling and analysis to process redesign, application generation, deployment and operation. Pega’s emphasis on training and support services is helpful.
Pega’s process modeling capabilities are mature and strong. Modeling capabilities include simulation to drive quality and allow for iteration, while AI resolves issues with performance and RPA chatbots streamline the work. As business modeling is the heart of both BPM and business transformation, the product’s ability to create flexible business models and support ongoing model change is critical. In addition, process simulation capabilities allow BPMS teams to consider and test new operational ideas and bring the best ones to maturity.
Pega’s Customer Decision Hub uses machine learning, predictive models and NLP to predict and prescribe customer needs in real time. Data management is also supported to make certain the right information is available at the right place and time. The Pega GenAI tool can be used to suggest workflow design changes and improve appropriate data models. The result is that BPM teams have the ability to build quickly and improve the outcome through rapid iteration. Because Pega’s AI is always on, it can track activity and help anticipate upcoming needs.
Even the best products will fail to provide repeatable success without outstanding vendor support and ongoing assistance — especially when business needs, automation and transformation are constantly changing the fundamental concepts and capabilities of the operation. This is where Pega’s flexible support services become active in helping clients succeed.
Appian’s suite of products continues to make the vendor a major player in the BPMS community. Incorporating AI and RPA capabilities, Appian offers flexible process definition and design and low-code application generation through a combination of cloud and local capabilities. The system’s drag-and-drop approach to define activity, execution sequence, execution outcomes, solution deliverables and intuitive model building is easy to use and helps companies move to a mixed team of citizen developers and automation experts.
Appian offers a wide range of user-friendly capabilities for both small and large organizations. The platform supports AI and RPA capabilities to deliver process automation, mobile application services, flexible interface development, data management, social collaboration, end user reporting, intelligent analytics, case management, alerts and document management. Simulation modeling and AI provide advanced performance analytics to streamline and optimize solutions. Rules-based low-code applications can vary from simple to complex and are highly scalable. AI process monitoring helps find ways to improve the work and workflow. Security and privacy capabilities are also built into all applications.
BPM frameworks and templates are available to drive the rapid development of business models. Changes to the process can be recommended through Process Modeler — the vendor’s AI-based analysis of a process to enable scalable, end-to-end workflow automation using AI, RPA or simple low-code generation. Appian’s SAIL design systems and AI Copilot provide the ability to build forms to define processes and produce applications.
Bizagi’s BPM suite is a proven, intuitive-to-use low-code, cloud-based product. As with all vendor BPMS products, Bizagi’s BPM offering comprises several individually focused products. In general, the suite provides collaborative process modeling and low-code application generation that allows diagrams to be published in multiple formats — PDF, Word, Excel or SharePoint, as well as modes imported from Visio, IBM Blueworks, XPDL and BPMN. In addition, Bizagi offers simulation and process mining to help optimize solutions. Business and application model reviews are supported in a co-developer environment in the vendor’s Process Modeler and Studio products.
Business models are created through a drag-and-drop technique for placing BPMN shapes onto a Lucid chart canvas to create detailed future-state process models depicting all activity in the order that activities should be executed.
For AI and cognitive services, Bizagi uses its own generative AI product. This provides conversational analytics, allowing users to ask questions about their data for advanced analytics and improved decision-making.
To facilitate interaction with users, Bizagi has created an AI product called Ada. Ada is an AI assistant that uses generative AI and conversational analytics to help clients interact with their data. Through its natural language capabilities, Bizagi’s Ada can make action item recommendations, simulating human cognitive capabilities to solve problems without human intervention.
The product’s powerful forms collect information and direct action. Applications are integrated using intelligent business rules that orchestrate the data, company staff and RPA bots, assuring compliance with government regulations and company rules.
In addition, Bizagi uses generative AI to ensure security, reliability and improved governance.
As with other BPMS products, training is critical. While many BPMS vendors focus on ease of use to downplay training, Bizagi makes it clear that education is key to successful use of the tool, stating that the results achieved are dependent on the amount of time and work the learner is prepared to commit to the course. This concern is refreshing as, in my experience, too many efforts get into trouble because developers are not adequately trained.
Trisotech is actively involved in the organizations that promote BPMN and other BPM standards, and its products are based on these vendor-independent standards. The groups include the Business Process Management Initiative, OpenAPI and OData. Trisotech’s involvement gives it an inside track on the interpretation of BPMS standards and their use by BPMS vendors in creating their products.
The Trisotech Digital Automation Suite offers easy-to-use, low-code BPMS tools. Its Workflow Modeler features industry standard drag-and-drop BPMN model diagrams, tables and interface capabilities.
Using Trisotech’s drag-and-drop modeling approach and rules engine, BPMS teams can build comprehensive process models annotated with application generation symbols to guide application definition. Business process simulation is available to analyze the efficiency of the workflow in the current or new business design. While this requires the entry of additional information on time, cost, resource needs, control rules and priorities to guide the simulation, the simplification of work and workflows normally offsets investments in this area.
Custom-built forms are used to capture a variety of information that the BPMS team needs to define the capabilities of generated applications. This jump-starts the production of applications.
Generative AI, coupled with other machine learning tools and RPA, augment Trisotech’s advanced decision management capabilities, enabling BPMS teams to integrate potential changes into the business redesign product mix and simulate the operation to preview the impact of changes. Through iterative development, project teams can determine how to optimize the new process.
With a history in business decision-making, Trisotech has evolved into a top-level BPMS vendor. New business solutions can be designed, built and deployed quickly using the Trisotech Digital Automation Suite. This suite allows BPMS teams to orchestrate as many RPA bots from any RPA provider as needed. The bots are integrated with low-code applications through various microservices, AI and machine learning capabilities to deliver a final new application and business operation. Security related capabilities are also associated with the different Trisotech products.
AgilePoint NX is a cloud-based BPMS product group that runs on a .NET platform. The products are model driven and enable end-to-end process automation. The NX BPMS platform delivers the ability to sustain digital flexibility and operational excellence through low-code application generation and AI-based services. Running on the Windows Azure platform, AgilePoint BPMS provides drag-and-drop process modeling through application definition, simulation and generation.
Designed to work with other vendors’ legacy and modern product offerings, AgilePoint BPMS is able to link to products from different vendors to offer an extensive hyperautomation product grouping.
Through a customized architecture, AgilePoint’s BPMS platform creates codeless applications, in addition to low-code ones. This gives companies flexibility and the speed to adapt quickly. AgilePoint uses its low-code application development option to build and modify applications in real time, while using its codeless capabilities to simulate the change and then generate the applications and interface users need to improve their workflows.
Its AI and simulation capabilities enable BPMS teams to identify design, rule and flow issues with any process change they make. RPA-based capabilities offer the BPMS teams another application generation option for its processes that are heavily rules-based with repetitive task execution. In addition, AgilePoint EForm Builder provides a form-based application definition and generation capability.
AI, process management with machine learning, and three application generation options provide extreme flexibility. The functionality supports customized solutions and, if appropriate, uses REST APIs, to interact with other internally generated or external applications. This provides data access flexibility.
The flexibility and ease of use is well suited to mixed BPMS teams of citizen developers, BPMS professionals, legacy application developers and business users.
Oracle’s BPM Suite is a mature set of products that have evolved over time to include both AI and RPA capabilities. The suite offers a comprehensive grouping of products that support both intelligent and adaptive business processes, automated workflow services and collaborative case management application generation.
The suite offers a range of flexible features, including support for collaboration, low-code application generation, simulation and real-time analytics. Drag-and-drop process modeling uses BPMN standard technical symbols — the foundation for generating low-code applications. The product enables both citizen and digital developers to design and simulate processes.
Oracle BPM Suite offers in-flight process modeling, real-time performance measurement with predictive analytics, business-friendly rules management, rapid change modeling, decision management, process management and performance reporting. In addition, team members can assess their business designs, take advantage of secure mobile process integration and optimize processes through simulation and bottleneck analysis.
Oracle Application Express provides a complete operational design environment for producing the business models and rules used in low-code application definition. Modeling and simulation, human tasks, workflow, activity monitoring and collaboration are built using WebCenter.
Oracle Cloud Infrastructure includes a generative AI capability to support innovation and iteration. This enables BPMS teams to check designs for work and workflow optimizations, while providing guidance on improvements. Oracle’s prebuilt forms help streamline analysis and deployment of the final product. RPA support enables teams to produce a variety of bots to process work, ensure rule compliance, streamline repetitive activity, and find and fix errors. The AI-enhanced RPA component can also monitor its own activity and recommend ways to improve the process and the bots. Data mining is supported by a comprehensive set of algorithms for such tasks as regression testing, anomaly detection, efficiency analysis, process optimization and predictive analysis.
IGrafx’s Process360 Live is a cloud and on-premises intelligent BPMS platform that has provided support to companies in all industries for many years. It combines process discovery with process mining, process analysis and design, and process management to define work and workflow. AI and RPA aid in application generation. In addition, IGrafx uses customizable forms to obtain a variety of information used for defining the capabilities and flow of the application systems that are generated in its applications.
The product caters to both citizen developers and BPMS technical developers. Using the product’s data mining, simulation, predictive analytics and AI-based automation capabilities, BPMS teams can analyze work and workflow, discover issues, test out changes and optimize processes to deliver improved performance. These services set up IGrafx customers to move from localized small improvements to a continuous improvement approach for enterprise business operations.
To fulfill the aim of BPMS to get the right information to the right place and the right people at the right time in a decision process, IGrafx uses AI-driven process analysis to identify change and iterate new ideas and, through simulation capability, to produce a new process and workflow design. The modules in Process360 Live also have embedded security to control access, reporting and data privacy, and to ensure compliance with company rules.
AI capabilities include intelligent process mining, simulation, data analytics, performance analytics and predictive analytics to provide real-time operational intelligence reporting.
Kissflow is an easy-to-use, stable and scalable BPMS offering that provides both low-code and no-code application generation capabilities to help BPMS teams streamline processes and build solutions faster. Through process analysis, rules definition, simulation and management, along with RPA and generative AI tools, BPMS teams can find and eliminate redundant processes, streamline work and workflows, and leverage automation wherever possible.
Kissflow continues to evolve its AI capabilities. New capabilities address the automatic generation of information from user-entered forms, allowing the Kissflow BPMS to create entire workflow processes. The low-code and AI capabilities, along with the drag-and-drop modeling, enable citizen developers and BPM technical experts to choose between using either visual models, natural language processing or application generation. The product helps BPMS team members and business management teams collaborate by providing easy access to information.
These capabilities are expanded with the Kissflow Form Builder function. In addition to supporting the use of standard forms, Form Builder allows BPMS teams to access prebuilt and custom forms to jump-start the business operation redesign. These forms ask specific questions about the process, the workflow, data use and rules. Answers define the process and workflow along with other data and rules information. In reality, the form becomes a no-code application. From this organized set of activities, developers can utilize AI-powered features to recommend a process and the applications to support it.
Using real-time analytics and performance monitoring to feed simulation capabilities, process models can be analyzed for performance and flexibility with Kissflow’s AI providing suggestions to the process developers. Where appropriate, the BPMS team can decide whether low-code generation, form-based AI-defined applications, RPA-based application bots or custom Java software application development will be used to build its project. The team determines how to include Kissflow’s advanced reporting capabilities with AI monitoring into the process and its applications. The team can also look at formalized work assignment and determine what analytics will be used to provide process execution and performance-related information.
10. Progress Software
Progress Software is a low-code BPMS firm focused on streamlining corporate client operations to lower operations costs, while increasing automation, flexibility and reliability. The company’s Process Artificial Neural Network (PANN) product, which is built on neural network technology, is touted as revolutionizing BPMS.
Benefits of the PANN technology include the ability to develop advanced low-code software, handle big and super big data, enable fast performance, process unindexed data, provide data protection and offer extreme flexibility, with access to all the data on the internet and high application reliability.
While this technology is fascinating and is something all readers should gain an understanding of before seriously considering it, it is a very different approach to BPMS. As with any new technology, the introduction of PANN in BPMS tools can be expected to be a rough road, as digital developers learn to train it and optimize how it works.
In addition to PANN technology, Progress Software also offers RPA chatbots, predictive analytics and low-code application definition using point-and-click, as well as other machine learning capabilities to generate, deploy, run, scale and manage applications.
Using the vendor’s generative AI capabilities, BPMS teams can build directly into the content authoring interface. In addition, a no-code data integration platform enables Progress Software clients to aggregate customer information from critical business systems to gain a holistic view across platforms. This capability will enable the creation of personalized digital experiences with speed and precision. Progress software also uses generative AI and enhanced data connectivity to save time and improve system outcomes. With these capabilities, BPMS teams can now interface applications quickly by building custom data drivers for any data source or API within days.
Progress Software’s BPMS tool set also includes Semaphore, an AI technology that provides semantic AI capabilities for RPA tools. This allows RPA tools to handle a broader range of use cases and deliver added value derived from enterprise information to improve business outcomes.
The Progress OpenEdge BPM Simulation product is designed to discover potential design flaws, inefficiencies, bottlenecks and other issues. The simulation results can drive predictive analytic modeling to increase solution value and business benefit.
Newgen is a proven low-code BPMS product that provides low-code process automation, content services, customer engagement, AI and data science capabilities. Its NewgenOne platform provides support for scalable, comprehensive application development with enterprise-grade security, scalability, governance and compliance.
Through generative AI support, BPMS teams can build machine learning, deep learning and graphical models. The product combines AI with RPA, business rules and process automation, empowering BPMS teams to insert intelligence into applications and processes. Customizable forms are used to define what information will be collected to support application design.
Newgen WebProcess is another Newgen BPMS tool for designing and building web-based application support using features such as process models, capability maps and flowcharts.
Using Newgen’s RPA capability, NewgenOne RPA, BPMS teams can address repetitive, rules-managed, end-to-end process automation. Then, if appropriate, they can expand the new process with built-in AI and process intelligence to transform workflows and eliminate redundancy and error. The result is a hybrid workforce of RPA bots, AI and people orchestrating user journeys. This allows the process designers to use RPA for repetitive tasks; people for decision-based, more complex tasks; and low-code applications and AI to control flow and provide operational consistency, performance monitoring and improved analysis. Newgen tools also support interfacing with legacy applications, other vendor supplied third-party applications, and other generated applications.
Newgen’s RPA control center allows companies to monitor bot use, issues, errors and overall technical health. It also helps clone bots and manage confidential credentials through a vault for bot management.
To drive optimization of new and old processes, Newgen offers advanced simulation capabilities with the ability to pull data from both models and Excel to import flow and other information that sheds light on inefficiencies and bottlenecks. Using the ongoing integrated process mining in NewgenOne, BPMS teams drive both performance management and predictive analysis.
12. Nintex K2
The Nintex K2 blackpearl product is a low-code BPMS platform made up of a comprehensive bundle of products that allows companies to automate complex processes. Using a drag-and-drop approach to solution design and development, blackpearl allows citizen developers and BPMS professionals to collaborate on all phases of process design and redesign, process simulation, AI-based design optimization and application generation.
The drag-and-drop capability is provided through the Nintex K2 Process Manager, a cloud-based process modeler. RPA application generation is provided through Nintex RPA and a comprehensive rule library. Together, these products let BPMS development teams choose either a low-code or RPA solution. Using the Nintex K2 ability to integrate with both internal and external applications, the new process design can tie to legacy applications for capability reuse. When appropriate, BPMS teams can also mix low-code with RPA to support complex processes. AI analysis and process analytics can be added to the solution design to look for ways to improve efficiency and optimize activity.
Using the Nintex K2 Cloud and the K2 Five products, BPMS teams can deal with both structured and unstructured data, allowing solutions to use both native and cloud-based capabilities. A variety of analytics tools allow the BPMS teams to track the performance of their applications and new business models while they are being built and after completion. This performance evaluation capability also supports the testing of new ideas as the BPMS teams optimize the solution and its capabilities.
AI capabilities are built into a variety of platform features to help optimize the results of a variety of capabilities, including complex decision-making.
SmartObjects is another process design capability option provided through forms generation. Using these forms can increase the speed of the project and in some cases the quality of the outcome.
Analytics capabilities support a wide range of performance analytics and allow managers and BPMS teams to define and manage changes to the business and applications as they drive to continuing improvement and optimization.
Daniel Morris is an independent consultant specializing in business process management. He has co-authored six books and over 100 articles on business transformation.