BPM is Dead. Long Live BPM!

Scott Francis
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The End of Days.. ahem… The End of BPM, is here.

Or is it? We have several pundits proclaiming so (either anonymously or otherwise). We have several vendors and analysts and bloggers dancing on the grave of BPM (or the pure play vendors). We have even BPM advocates bemoaning the loss of the BPM vendors of yore.

But lets take a step back for a minute… and imagine a strange alternate universe…

[fade to black, gradually clearing away as the voiceover starts]

Let’s imagine a world where there are only 3 BPM engines in the world, like the three heads of Cerberus. One from Oracle, one from IBM, and one from Microsoft. Or, if you prefer hydras, we could have another one from SAP. BPM will have achieved the ubiquity of RDBMS because every corporation that buys software from these giant software providers will have at least one BPM engine as part of their enterprise stack, along with requisite modeling tools.

Along with myriad integration technologies to plug these into existing applications or even other BPM engines. In this world, there will still be opportunities for start-ups to sell tools for building applications to run on these stacks, just as there are still opportunities for start-ups with better SQL tools.  There will still be opportunities for open source BPM engines to compete with commercial BPM engines, just as there are open source RDBMSes competing with commercial ones.  If the Techies try to bury BPM in IT, the Business guys will drag it back out into the light of day where it belongs because they have real business needs to address.

Because it has never been about BPM engines, the parts that the business never sees.  Or software stacks.  Its always been about the ease in building the applications that the engine runs, the ease of adapting those applications to changing business requirements (processes), and the effectiveness of the measurements, dashboards, and analytics that provide the learning feedback loop for the business. [ fade to black and then the lights return ] As we wake, groggy from this little daydream… what was so different about our alternate universe? It turns out, while we like to root for David over Goliath, the various BPM software companies selling have largely done well for themselves, their shareholders, their employees, and their customers.  Not a one of the pure play BPM vendors went out of business (or even came close, so far as we can tell).

A few IPOs would have been more exciting.  And in times when enterprise software companies were awarded better multiples, might have made sense. And the new batch of BPM tech and companies coming along is pretty interesting too.  I see no reason for melancholy with the batch of startups that are hitting the market with interesting products that take different approaches to BPM (or facets of BPM). I think things might just get more interesting.  Ubiquitous BPM has a good ring to it.

  • Scott:

    shall we have the discussion again about how many business processes in a given organization are actually being automated via a “BPM engine”. Most people I have talked to have stopped after one or two due to the huge pain and the little gain. For me the success of BPM would be 100% of the business processes are controlled by the BPM infrastructure (I am careful not to use the “engine” word).

    The BPM Engine is dead whether you like it or not. The executable BPMN is dead, BPEL as a “Business Process” Executable Language is dead, there is now room for the true BPM paradigm to grow where there is a balance between human tasks, processes and business entity lifecycles. You should make no mistake that companies like IBM or Oracle (Microsoft or SAP have a process engine? ) do care about reaching the 100% mark.

    Do again, let’s all share honestly the percentage of processes that have been automated and then we’ll talk about what is dead, alive, successful or a failure.

  • Scott:

    shall we have the discussion again about how many business processes in a given organization are actually being automated via a “BPM engine”. Most people I have talked to have stopped after one or two due to the huge pain and the little gain. For me the success of BPM would be 100% of the business processes are controlled by the BPM infrastructure (I am careful not to use the “engine” word).

    The BPM Engine is dead whether you like it or not. The executable BPMN is dead, BPEL as a “Business Process” Executable Language is dead, there is now room for the true BPM paradigm to grow where there is a balance between human tasks, processes and business entity lifecycles. You should make no mistake that companies like IBM or Oracle (Microsoft or SAP have a process engine? ) do care about reaching the 100% mark.

    Do again, let’s all share honestly the percentage of processes that have been automated and then we’ll talk about what is dead, alive, successful or a failure.

  • JJ –
    By your definition (100%) I sincerely doubt this will ever happen in they way you mean. So we can stop there, and say that there will never be success by your definition.

    And I’m sorry, I am not using the term “BPM” to exclude human tasks, processes, nor business entity lifecycles – so let’s not even have that argument that isnt there. If that is what BPM means to you then I’m sorry, it will color everything you read the wrong shade, from my perspective.

    (Microsoft – no, SAP – thinks it does – and recall , this was a thought experiment looking forward, not a reflection of the world literally as of this moment. I thought that was clear in what I wrote above)

    Lots of processes have been automated – many of them live inside existing applications or were pieced together before BPM tools came along (and many of those are adding BPM capabilities to their products). The “stopped after one or two due to the huge pain and little gain” is your anecdotal experience – mine is dramatically different – the experience I have is that organizations are deploying tens or hundreds of BPM-powered processes (depending on how you count), and achieving ROI frequently in triple digits, with clear opportunities for further improvements at higher ROI in follow-on iterations/releases. The failures I have seen have been largely personnel and organizational failures rather than technology failures. My experience is still “anecdotal” but covers quite literally 100+ corporations at this point. For what it is worth, Gartner’s findings support my point of view.

    I do think that software companies are not generally aligned with the deep engagement with a customer that can drive wide adoption however – and that’s part of why we started BP3 – not to serve 100’s of customers, but to work with a smaller number of customers at a more comprehensive level. Obviously I think one potential outcome is that BPM “infrastructure” is going to be in the hands of a lot more organizations – and I think that means that its use and penetration will increase as a result – and we’re certainly going to leverage it. You disagree, and that’s fine. We don’t have to guess, the market will hand out its answers in due course. I understand you feel that the market has already done so, but I don’t agree with the straw man you have established for what defines success, and that is one of the core reasons we have one person who sees the glass filling up, and the other who sees the glass as being all too empty :)

    Regards,
    Scott

  • JJ –
    By your definition (100%) I sincerely doubt this will ever happen in they way you mean. So we can stop there, and say that there will never be success by your definition.

    And I’m sorry, I am not using the term “BPM” to exclude human tasks, processes, nor business entity lifecycles – so let’s not even have that argument that isnt there. If that is what BPM means to you then I’m sorry, it will color everything you read the wrong shade, from my perspective.

    (Microsoft – no, SAP – thinks it does – and recall , this was a thought experiment looking forward, not a reflection of the world literally as of this moment. I thought that was clear in what I wrote above)

    Lots of processes have been automated – many of them live inside existing applications or were pieced together before BPM tools came along (and many of those are adding BPM capabilities to their products). The “stopped after one or two due to the huge pain and little gain” is your anecdotal experience – mine is dramatically different – the experience I have is that organizations are deploying tens or hundreds of BPM-powered processes (depending on how you count), and achieving ROI frequently in triple digits, with clear opportunities for further improvements at higher ROI in follow-on iterations/releases. The failures I have seen have been largely personnel and organizational failures rather than technology failures. My experience is still “anecdotal” but covers quite literally 100+ corporations at this point. For what it is worth, Gartner’s findings support my point of view.

    I do think that software companies are not generally aligned with the deep engagement with a customer that can drive wide adoption however – and that’s part of why we started BP3 – not to serve 100’s of customers, but to work with a smaller number of customers at a more comprehensive level. Obviously I think one potential outcome is that BPM “infrastructure” is going to be in the hands of a lot more organizations – and I think that means that its use and penetration will increase as a result – and we’re certainly going to leverage it. You disagree, and that’s fine. We don’t have to guess, the market will hand out its answers in due course. I understand you feel that the market has already done so, but I don’t agree with the straw man you have established for what defines success, and that is one of the core reasons we have one person who sees the glass filling up, and the other who sees the glass as being all too empty :)

    Regards,
    Scott

  • Did you know that only 1% of all drivers in the US drive a big-rig trucks? Does this mean that big-rig trucks are dead?

  • Did you know that only 1% of all drivers in the US drive a big-rig trucks? Does this mean that big-rig trucks are dead?

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