How do you define business process management (BPM)? For some, BPM is about tools that automate processes to increase efficiency across the organization. Yet, properly implemented, BPM tools enable much more.

This was illustrated to me at Appian World 2014, Appian's showcase conference in which the company presents its newest features and enhancements to some of the industry's top BPM professionals and thought leaders. Appian World 2014 included several talks on Appian software from Appian employees, customers and partners, who explained how they used Appian, what their Appian journey has been, and how they intend to use it moving forward.

Appian is an industry-agnostic platform that allows companies to build custom applications in an interoperability environment. Appian provides a common interface for integration across siloed applications and databases, enabling users to scale solutions across their enterprise.

A few major themes and takeaways stuck with me over the past few weeks that I think every person interested in or currently using a BPM tool like Appian can benefit from.

Triple M – the importance of being mobile, multi-device, and multichannel

In the modern world, almost everyone has at least two devices, if not more. People are accessing applications and communicating through various devices, on various platforms. Therefore someone in my position, who has the opportunity to advise a client on a BPM tool wants to ensure that the growing demands of users can be met seamlessly.

Appian offers its full suite of services consistently across platforms and devices. This ability was demonstrated by different companies across multiple industries including FlowServe, whose employees use Appian to track supply pumps, valves, and seals. Before implementing Appian, the warehouse floor employees used paper checklists for managing supplies and inventory and would have to manually enter in all this data into a legacy system afterwards. Appian allowed FlowServe to implement a cloud-based mobile solution that resulted in improved efficiency, real-time data retention and waste reduction.

Kevin Dalley of Punch Taverns shared how employees of his company use Appian while on the go scouting potential taverns to buy. These employees were able to pull up an Appian record of the tavern, read past observations and details, and add (in real time) information about their most recent trips to the tavern locations. Someone sitting back at the main offices in London was able to read the updates to the record as they were entered.

Records, reports, and newsfeeds- linking data and processes closer together

In the modern work environment, enormous data stores exist for each application and executives spent countless hours accessing various systems to extract information in order to make informed business decisions. Information is power, and as Matt Calkins, CEO of Appian, mentioned, it is time for all of us as professionals to start thinking of defining processes in terms of the data of the subject (or record), instead of the actions. Thinking of processes in this perspective helps us understand what data is needed and how to change a process so that that information is constantly being accessed by the right people so that appropriate action can be taken to achieve results.

Appian's newsfeed feature enables users to measure what Daryl Plummer, Chief of Research and VP & Gartner Fellow, defined as ‘sentiment analytics'. In an increasingly connected and collaborative work environment, it is not enough to see that a process completed or failed. We also want to know how someone felt about what they just did or where they struggled. Very often, the most obvious process improvement ideas come from those working the process on a daily basis. Properly presented, data can show us not just performance and lag time, but also give workers a place to collaborate and take action.

Dallas Fort Worth International Airport CIO, William Flowers, shared how BPM not only automated very slow and tedious processes, but how it made the airport smarter. Appian was able to build a solution that allowed Terminal Managers to walk around on an iPad and help customers with their travel issues in real-time. These terminal managers were able to assist customers and type up a quick report on the iPad, instead of having to walk back to their desk to enter in the report. DFW also took advantage of the social platform that Appian offers. Any airport travelers can now tweet a complaint about an issue, and anyone from the Airport staff can log into Appian and address the issue right away. These are just two of the dozens of solutions Dallas Fort Worth has implemented with Appian to create a more productive and efficient work environment.

Smart Prototyping – how BPM should be sold to executives

Another big takeaway that was stressed by several customers, and one that I found particularly interesting, was the emphasis on ensuring executive and management buy-in through smart prototyping. As the CME Group shared from their experience with BPM rollouts at their company, they spent time identifying and prioritizing processes to leverage BPM with and chose processes that were quick wins, but also high impact with an impact on the company's bottom line. CME Group had success gaining executive buy-in by clearly demonstrating the importance of incorporating BPM software by defining strong and clear metrics, and demonstrating how BPM was increasing revenue, rather than focusing on how it increases operational efficiency.

One thing is evident after going to Appian World – Appian is not simply software that enables process automation. It is software that empowers employees to redesign processes, standardize processes, assign metrics to processes, and increase company revenue overall. As I continue to work with Appian and their software, I'm excited to keep understanding how to use the software to its fullest potential.