Business Process Management (BPM) has always been one of those disciplines that sounded great on paper but was difficult to realize in practice. It made sense that documenting, analyzing and managing the entirety of an organization\u2019s business processes would enable those organizations to increase operational efficiency. But for those brave organizations that gave it the "old college try"\u2014particularly in the early days of BPM\u2014the results were seldom spectacular.\nA new generation of BPM software, however, is changing this trajectory. Driven by the need for speed and agility, in addition to the traditional needs of efficiency and optimization, organizations are now turning to BPM as a key driver of digital transformation.\n\n[ Learn why\u00a0CIOs neglect BPM in favor of trendier software\u00a0and why these 10 old-school IT principles still rule. | Sign up for CIO newsletters. ]\n\nEvolution of the BPM industry\nTo say modern BPM tools look wildly different from their predecessors of only a few years ago would be a gross understatement. Like many disrupted industry segments, the BPM space has been under relentless pressure to transform itself and adopt a more modern incarnation. And, like other industries undergoing disruption, this period of rapid change has resulted in both confusion and opportunity.\nThe modern BPM landscape is a mishmash of colliding segments with traditional BPM vendors, traditional Enterprise Content Management (ECM) vendors and new players from the burgeoning low-code space all overlapping and vying for a piece of the pie. But in the midst of the ensuing collisions and confusion, modern BPM tools of all flavors are finding their place as part of the enterprise\u2019s digital transformation toolkit.\nThe shift to agility\nAs organizations barrel into the digital era, the primary driver of BPM\u2019s new digital transformation role is the demand for organizational agility. Whereas BPM\u2019s historical value was in driving optimization and efficiency, it is its ability to deliver new levels of automation-fueled agility that is changing the game.\n\u201cWe are leveraging BPM tooling to take business processes that used to require expensive and lengthy one-off IT projects and [are now] engineering them into a configuration-driven platform,\u201d\u00a0explained Kyle Pause, director of SaaS Platform Development at Pitney Bowes. \u201cAs Pitney Bowes develops and brings to market new SaaS offerings for our clients, we can now wire them to our customer onboarding business processes in a matter of hours instead of days or weeks.\u201d\nPause sees\u00a0Pitney Bowes' use of Alfresco Process Services, powered by Activiti, as a key enabler of the firm's digital transformation initiative.\u00a0Citing increases in development speed, solid execution and a quick learning curve, Pause said it gives Pitney Bowes the agility it needs to continue focusing on building innovative products for its customers.\nUsing BPM to uncover innovation\nAn essential part of the new BPM story is the mashup of traditional business process modeling, automation and monitoring with the new low-code movement, in which organizations can rapidly develop applications with little manual coding. It is the incorporation of this low-code approach, in combination with traditional BPM principles, that is the driving force behind BPM\u2019s agility enablement.\nThe rapid development cycles that low-code approaches provide, however, are also enabling organizations to uncover innovation opportunities that they may have otherwise missed.\n\u201cWhen we began using PMG Software, our plan was to simply replace some legacy tools and have the ability to maintain and develop things in-house,\u201d said Jon Jenkins, manager of IT Business Process Automation at German-based\u00a0Kautex Textron. \u201cBut after we\u2019d been at it for a while, we saw that we could start doing much more innovative things. It\u2019s also helping us pilot solutions and help customers understand their requirements faster without significant investments.\u201d\nJenkins went on to share that these new, more innovative developments are also changing the way teams interact and communicate. The ease and speed with which they can now develop and test new automated business processes helps them bridge long-standing gaps between departments and simplify processes for both internal and external customers.\nBPM as an enabler of digital transformation\nThe reason why agility, innovation and improved interactions are so important to enterprise organizations is that they are the critical enablers of digital transformation. The ability to deliver them in an organizational context is why BPM is starting to take a central role in some transformational efforts.\n\u201cWe are trying to build a digital transformation ecosystem,\u201d explained Sidney Fernandes, CIO of the University of South Florida. \u201cIt\u2019s not about buying a technology and saying that we have a \u2018digital transformation platform.\u2019 It\u2019s about changing the way people think.\u201d\nAt first blush, it may seem odd to say that a BPM tool can change human attitudes and approaches, but Fernandes said their ability to use Appian\u2019s BPM platform to rapidly model, build and test automated business processes changes the game.\n\u201cWe pulled all the people that touch students together in one room and challenged them to build something that ensured better student outcomes," he said. "We were able to build something quickly that allowed them to pull information from different systems and break through the barriers. We delivered it in 10 weeks. But most importantly, they saw it as \u2018their system\u2019\u2014so we essentially built organizational change management into the development of the application itself.\u201d\nOrganizations realize that creating this kind of transparency and enabling staff to break through barriers to see across the expanse of the enterprise are becoming critical capabilities in the era of digital transformation.\n\u201cIf you can clearly describe what you\u2019re doing in a simple way that the whole organization can see, you give the organization a platform that leads to innovation,\u201d said Ivan Seselj, CEO of Promapp, a cloud-based BPM provider. \u201cDemystifying the unknown makes it easier to attack the status quo. Eliminating the mystery unleashes the imagination.\u201d\nThe essence of digital transformation is a technology-powered re-orientation of organizations away from internally focused business processes and toward customer-facing engagement. But the fact remains that organizations are made up of intricate and intertwined collections of people, processes and their supporting technologies.\nThe new generation of BPM tools offers organizations a way to turn that complexity into an advantage by creating transparency, enabling rapid development and testing, and providing a platform for those closest to the customer (or student or constituent) to stop worrying about technology and focus on solving the problems that matter most.\nFernandes summed it up best: \u201cAs a lifelong IT professional, it was amazing to have a participant stand up and say, 'If I had this system when I was a student, I wouldn\u2019t have gotten lost.\u2019 That\u2019s what this is all about.\u201d\nDisclosure: As of the time of writing, Appian and Promapp are Intellyx customers. None of the other organizations mentioned in this article are Intellyx customers.