"What problem does BPM solve?"
BPM technology provides managers and technologists with a common language and vocabulary of work, instantiated in technology. With the use of BPM technology organizations can more rapidly and successful meet today's core work automation challenges . While all technology, by definition, is a force- and thought-multiplier for human effort, BPM technology is unique. Only BPM technology specifically concerns the work of business, i.e. where the concepts of work are first class citizens of that technology.
I had to repeat the question to myself because it would be so easy to define BPM technology, instead of the problem being solved. And it's a good question.
Here's the full argument. First, some Biz101 definitions:
1. "Organization": Which has goals, governance and resources (let's ignore inter-organizational processes) and which has as its focus a characteristic type of work.
2. "Resources": The usual resources are employed in the work the organization: capital, labour, skill, commodities, components, energy, land, IP (possibly) etc.
3. "Management". Which is the exercise of the practices enabling governance, a coherent identity and the management of employed resources to perform the work required to achieve the organization's goals. Managers have two main strategies for success: be more efficient or do something different, i.e. change the business model. In a rapidly changing world, managers are under lots of pressure to do both.
4. "Technology": Artifacts and systems which are force multipliers. Including both production technology and information management technology and possibly IP. But in the broadest sense, also includes management practices and even human language.
Technology is a force multiplier for human strength and human mind. And software in particular enables humans to organize vastly greater enterprises than are possible with only language, pencils and paper. All software consists of inventories of tools which are useful to managers. The greater the capability of the software to help organize the work of the organization, the more useful that software technology.
Now let's get to the problem.
5. "General Business Problem": Do more with less. You might use ROI or an OEE metric. But basically how can an organization achieve more with less? Or if you want to change your business model, how can you do something new?
6. "Specific Business Problem": From custom apps to ERP to Cloud, all software is used by business managers to perform the characteristic work of business better. But all software is difficult and expensive to build, and more so to change. So, how can technology help one do more with less?
Now the answer.
7. "Long Answer": There is one category of technology that is specifically about the "work of business", and that is BPM software and BPM methodologies and practices. BPM is about making explicit a language and vocabulary that is about the repeatable processes that are at the core of organizations. All software aspires to supporting the work of business, but only BPM, by definition, is explicitly about the work of business. BPM is not just another technology.
8. "Short Answer": BPM technology provides managers and technologists with a common language and vocabulary of work automation, instantiated in technology. Organizations that use BPM can more rapidly and successful meet today's core work automation challenges.
As a technology BPM is not fully mature and BPM is a challenge to master. But the payoffs are significant and the effort is worthwhile.
As for solutions, certainly business likes to buy a solution. And a solution might be based on BPM. But they are two separate things.
Go back a generation and consider a "solution" to the need to keep track of millions of insurance contracts. The insurer needs a "solution". And the solution could be IMS-based or based on a new relational database from Oracle. in the technology business (both buy-side and sell-side) there is an irreducible responsibility for technology as such. The organization that stayed with hierarchical databases for too long paid a price in terms of business inflexibility.
The problem/answer suggestion here is compatible with most of the contributions; but the question is important and having a formal answer (which can also be disputed) is useful.
BPM projects serve mostly to reduce the chaos and set some order in the business live of an organization. As well as the cost of chaos is significant. Not only burned man hours. Bad decisions, lack of decisions, higher external operational costs.
BPM provides guidelines, in respect of the performance of work. Workflow management with BPM and Adaptive Case Management yields improved efficiency, decreased errors, increased throughput, improved compliance with internal and external rules and regulations, setting the stage for improved outcomes.
BPM improves operational excellence. Any company that would like to achieve operational excellence to get a competitive advantage will get a benefit from BPM approach. BPM is a key factor for business success in current dynamic and competitive environment. Of course, there are some challenges to adopting it right. Otherwise, BPM approach will fail to meet a high expectation for it. Success with BPM occurs, when organizations well align the people, process, and technology, roll out templates of best practices and encourage staff to use them, well balance standardization and creativity, management practices and governance discipline.