Agile Workflow and Process Management (BPM)

Agile Workflow and Process Management (BPM)

The Agile Manifesto explicitly includes processes in its set of methods. But people and interactions are above business processes rather than vice versa
Agile Workflow Process Management

Agile Workflow and Process Management (Agile BPM)

In the early two thousand, a group of software developers sought a better way to develop software. This was the birth of Agile in software development and project management. It all started with the Agile Manifesto, a set of values and principles you can apply to any project management method. The four values are

  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  2. Working software over comprehensive documentation
  3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  4. Responding to change over following a plan

Already, the very first point downgrades the relevance of processes. Is Agile process management a contradiction?

How does Business Process Management fit together with Agile principles?

The Agile Manifesto explicitly includes processes in its set of methods. But people and interactions are above business processes rather than vice versa.

Traditional BPM often involves a more structured and planned approach, while Agile is more flexible and responsive to change. Also, BPM follows a top-down approach, with process improvements being driven by management, while Agile involves a more decentralized approach, with team members collaborating to identify and implement improvements. Agile Process Management is the attempt to combine both methods.

Flower Process Automation for Jira follows exactly these ideas. A traditional BPM System requires all process participants to follow the process model strictly and escalates any deviation. The process engine even stops if someone does not perform a processing activity correctly. This behavior is good for processing a bank transfer but unacceptable for long-running management processes that need more flexibility. The larger a business process becomes, the less likely it is that all iterations will be exactly the same. A certain degree of agility is essential.

Of course, Flower also follows a BPMN model, but this is more advice than a strict path. It guides the process owner through the process model by suggesting available actions, and a project manager can make changes to the running process instance in real time.


For example, an Agile approach to BPM might involve breaking down large, complex processes into smaller, more manageable chunks (sub-processes) and then continually reviewing and improving those processes as needs change.

Both agile methodology and business process management relies on a continuous improvement cycle at their core.

The Continuous Improvement Model in Agile Business Process Management

Continuous improvement is a never-ending strive for perfection in everything you do. In Agile, continuous improvement is also known as Kaizen.

Kaizen originated in Japan shortly after the end of the Second World War. It gained massive popularity in manufacturing and became one of the foundations of Toyota’s rise from a small carmaker to the world's largest automobile manufacturer.

The Lean approach to business processes is based on three fundamental principles: delivering value defined by the customer, eliminating waste, and continuous improvement.

In the context of Agile Process Management, continuous improvement seeks to improve every process in your company by enhancing the activities that generate the most value for your customer while removing as many waste activities as possible.

Muda in Agile Process Management

There are three types of waste in Agile:

  • Muda – consists of 7 major process wastes: transport, inventory, motion, waiting, overproduction, over-processing, and defects.
  • Mura – The waste of unevenness
  • Muri – The waste of overburden

Obliterating all of them is nearly impossible but focusing on minimizing their adverse effects on your work is crucial for successfully implementing continuous improvement.

Mura is caused by unevenness or inconsistency in your process. It is responsible for many of the seven wastes of Muda. Mura stops your tasks from flowing smoothly across your work process and therefore gets in your way of reaching continuous flow.

Muri is a major problem for companies that apply push systems. When you assign too much work to your team, you stress your team and the business process unnecessarily.

If you want continuous improvement to become part of your culture, you must focus on eliminating that waste.

How to adopt Continuous Improvement in Agile Business Process Management?

In Lean management, there are three major approaches for achieving continuous improvement:

  • Root Cause Analysis It is an iterative practice that drills down into a problem by analyzing what caused it until you reach the root of the negative effect. It can be considered root only if the final negative effect is prevented for good after the cause is removed.
  • Applying a Kanban Board Jira already provides a built-in Kanban board. It helps teams visualize their workflow and limit work-in-progress
  • Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) PDCA is widely used in many organizations. It is a simple concept and very common in traditional BPM as well as in Agile. This should be your starting point for Agile Process Management.
Continous Improvement in Agile Process Management

In the planning phase, you need to establish the objectives and the process model necessary to deliver results per the expected output (the target or goals). Flower provides a graphical BPMN modeler to design your process model. learn more about BPMN.

The second phase is “Do”. It is straightforward as you need to execute what you’ve laid down during the process's planning step. Basically, you launch an instance of your business process model.

After you’ve completed your objectives and at least one process run, you need to check what you’ve achieved and compare it to what you’ve expected. Gather as much data as possible and consider what you can improve in your process to achieve greater results next time. Based on these insides you have to adjust the underlying process model and start a new iteration.

Important Note: Adjustments to your Business Process Model should be lean and only affect organizational aspects. Avoid costly software customizations and API changes, as this would lead to slower iterations.

Principles of Continuous Process Improvement in Agile BPM

No matter whether you do the continuous improvement cycle in agile or business process management, the overall principles remain unchanged.

  • Small changes: Improvements happen with small, incremental changes. With minor changes that occur continuously, there’s no need for significant paradigm shifts.
  • Employees matter: Employees are critical to continuous process improvement. Employees should feel empowered to identify opportunities for development. This involves engaging with your staff and allowing their voices to not only be heard but also to create change through actionable steps. ‍
  • Incremental = inexpensive: This principle also stems from an engaged employee base. Most employees work within processes every day, and that’s why it’s easier for them to see where inefficiencies lie. More often than not, they may find ways to eliminate steps instead of adding more to increase efficiency. Small incremental changes are naturally less expensive.
  • Employee ownership: When your staff is involved in coming up with changes, they are more likely to see the value of differences and be open to rolling them out. This consists of the idea of ownership and leads to sustainable improvement. Automation tools can also play a role in sustaining change as processes that are automated become standardized and ingrained within the organization.
  • Improvement is reflective: Everyone within an organization is busy with the many tasks on their plates. By implementing solutions that involve increased collaboration or visibility, it’s easier for team members to see how their actions impact positive results. Organizations that use continuous improvement software/data automation solutions can allow all stakeholders to stay abreast of changes and positive impacts in real time with dashboards and reports.
  • Measurable and repeatable: Small improvements need to be measured to see if they are doing what they intend to do. With the help of technology solutions like automation, you can use tools to see how success is happening with continuous process improvement. This could involve making a change to how accounts receivables are collected by adding an automated solution. Then, you can track average days until payment to see if the new process flow is producing faster results, for example.

What is the difference between traditional and agile Business Process Management?

While agile and traditional BPM methods have their advantages and disadvantages, most organizations prefer the agile methodology today for its time efficiency and higher success rate.

To help you differentiate agile vs. traditional BPM, here’s a quick peek at what their main differences are:

Agile BPMTraditional BPM
adaptive (flexible; responsive to changes during iterations)predictive (follows a specific plan; not responsive to changes until the process is completed)
cyclic (workflows through a loop; enables going back to certain phases to make adjustments where necessary)linear (work follows a sequential path where each phase must be completed before proceeding to the next phase)
customer-centric (enhances customer satisfaction by creating a product that meets their needs)process-centered (the objective is to complete the process based on the plan formulated at the onset)
collaborative (customer is involved in every step of the process and can give feedback and request changes in each iteration)contractual (a contract is negotiated and customers finalize requirements before development begins)

Learn more about how to turn a Jira Project into an Business Process

Sociotechnical aspects in Business Process Management

The design and performance of any organizational system can only be understood and improved if both ‘social’ and ‘technical’ aspects are brought together and treated as interdependent parts of a complex system.

Traditional Business Process Management often fails because it only focuses on a single aspect, such as technology or structure, without considering the complex interdependencies that exist within the organization.

This is similar to the design of a complex engineering product, like a gas turbine engine. Any change to the engine must consider how it will affect the rest of the system, and the same is true for organizational change. It is unlikely that any individual will fully understand all the interdependent aspects of a complex system, whether a piece of engineering or an organization.

Therefore, it is essential to involve all key stakeholders in an agile way, including those who work in different parts of the system, in the understanding and continuous improvement process. This is known as "user participation" and is essential for understanding the system deeply and implementing successful change.

Sociotechnical Aspects in BPM

What is an agile workflow?

An agile workflow is a way of organizing and managing work in an agile way. In an agile workflow, work is broken down into small, incremental chunks called "iterations" or "sprints." At the beginning of each iteration, the team determines which tasks are most important and will deliver the most value, and those tasks are completed during the iteration. This allows the team to quickly deliver small pieces of working software or other deliverables and get feedback from stakeholders early in the process.

The agile workflow lifecycle generally remains the same regardless of the prject involved. It typically involves the following steps:

  • Define the project goals and objectives and create a high-level roadmap for achieving them.
  • Break the process into smaller chunks of work called "user stories." Each user story represents a piece of functionality that will be delivered to the customer.
  • Prioritize the user stories based on their importance and value to the customer.
  • During each iteration, the team selects a set of user stories to work on based on their priority and the team's capacity.
  • The team works on completing the user stories using agile techniques such as frequent collaboration, testing, and documentation.
  • At the end of each iteration, the team reviews the completed work and demonstrates it to the customer. The team then gathers feedback and adjusts the plan for future iterations based on the feedback.

Agile workflows are designed to be flexible and responsive to change. The team can quickly adapt to new information or changing priorities and deliver value to the customer regularly.

Jira Software comes with built-in agile workflows e.g., for Scrum or Kanban projects.

Learn more about Workflow vs Business Process Management

6 types of agile workflows

  1. Feature-driven development - Feature-driven development model is a progressive iterative process that focuses on developing core features in shorter, more frequent cycles.
  2. Crystal - This model follows a fluid method of development centered around humans and the requisites of the process.
  3. Agile unified process - An agile unified process is a simplified approach to product development that is easy to understand but stays loyal to the rational unified process that uses adaptable frameworks that tailor fit the needs of the development and project teams.
  4. Extreme programming - This is a process of agile product development that is completely dependent on reception and feedback from customers.
  5. Scrum - This is a popular subset of agile methodology that uses cross-functional teams to deliver specific pieces of functionality through a repeatable approach.
  6. Kanban - Unlike other methods, Kanban is a non-iterative lean process aiming to deliver quality while keeping the backlog in check and effective team collaboration.

Automate Agile Workflows and Business Processes with Simplicity

Mapping single Jira workflows won't necessarily go far enough. Flower Workflow Automation adds the strategic layer to your business process management.

Unlock the full power of Jira by aligning and streamlining your BPMN processes and workflows directly with your team: Every business process turns into an automated workflow by creating a Jira issue for each business process activity.