2011 a Breakout Year for ACM?

Scott Francis
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Jacob Ukelson posed this question the other day:
So where does all this leave us? I think that in 2011 we’ll start seeing business user backlash to BPMS – they will want more participant control over process, faster start up time, better end-user usability.  That will lead them to ACM (or to continue using email+excel).  It also probably means that the BPMS growth rate will slow.
Having been in BPM, and remembering how many times a break-out year was predicted… I prefer not to make these kinds of predictions.  BPM has been a steady grower, however, which may actually be more appropriate for enterprise technology- giving technology time to catch up to some of the hype (although, admittedly, the hype always seems to lead!). Regarding BPMS growth rate slowing – I don’t think any slowing of growth rate will be caused by ACM, nor by a “backlash” as Jacob calls it. I see the trends Jacob is pointing too, but these are trends that play out over many years or even decades, not 12-18 months.  I often agree with Jacob – and 2011 may well be a “break-out” year for ACM – but I disagree with some of the arguments he proposes to make his case: “1. BPMN is becoming more complex because it is primarily a tool for IT professionals.” BPMN is not becoming more complex.  The standard (BPMN2.0) is out. BPMN is unlikely to now change for some time.  Whether BPMN is primarily a tool for IT professionals or not, this hasn’t suddenly changed.  If ACM is successful, it will not be because of BPMN.  It will be because of ACM’s unique, value adding, capabilities.  If those capabilities are subsumed by existing software packages that have market presence, then it will be difficult to determine what is ACM separate from what is BPM. “2. IT departments like the centralized control most BPMS give them.”  Actually, many IT departments push back against BPM, and against the methods that make BPM most likely to succeed.  In many cases it requires cultural change in IT departments to be successful.  This accounts for some of the slow-and-steady growth I referred to (not that 20% CAGR is bad).  On the other hand, in many cases the business is championing BPM – somehow I can’t accept that this is a bad thing.  Naturally IT can feel threatened in some cases when business takes the lead with respect to software, but it isn’t always that way. “Paraphrasing Phil Gilbert – it enables 1 Java programmer to control the productivity of 250 business users, and makes those business users completely dependent on IT.”  I don’t agree with this paraphrasing.  Phil Gilbert was, if I read correctly, arguing that Java programmers are highly leveraged, not highly controlling.  The implication of intent to control isn’t really accurate or appropriate.  It is simply an implication, on Phil’s part, of a limitation to agility because this 1 Java programmer is overloaded. “This is reminiscent of the mainframe era in the 60, 70, and 80’s – which generated the client-server backlash of the 80’s, 90’s, and 00s.”  I normally think of backlashes as things that happen faster than over 3 decades.  Also, I recall IT departments being pretty high on client-server and MS Office roll-outs… and *not* fighting them. “4. IT, the CIO and most vendors hated that trend and tried to fight it. The more they fought it, the more people found ways to get around IT and use the systems that gave them back control.”   I don’t remember this at all.  We had different experiences with this (and, admittedly, both experiences probably happened, depending on which companies you were working with at the time). Having said that, I think that products that address the “other 75%” of process work will find an audience.  I just don’t think that they’re competitive with BPM products – in fact, they’re highly complementary.  Just as email and Excel spreadsheets aren’t competitive with BPM…