MWD on BPM in 2011

Scott Francis
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I’m a fan of MWD and their coverage of BPM and related topics.  They have a bit of edge to their analysis, and aren’t afraid to go out on a limb. So it was with great interest that I clicked on the link to read the 2011 outlook for BPM.  Right off the bat, MWD notes that the BPM value proposition is holding strong even as the economy improves (something, I’ll note, that we at BP3 predicted in early 2010).  MWD reminds us of four value propositions from BPM:
BPM has four ways it can add value: driving operational efficiency and quality; driving product and service innovation; driving business model innovation; and lastly, driving improved collaboration between IT and business teams.
Typically everyone gets stuck on the first two.  Or, we dismiss the last one as not a value proposition in and of itself, but a constraint that needs to be addressed in order to achieve the value of BPM. The one prediction MWD makes that I disagree with: the decline of the BPM Suite.  While the arguments MWD makes in this regard make sense and hold together, the force for consolidating SKUs among large software vendors is just too strong.  The labeling (BPM Suite) may change, and the specific components may change (perhaps BI, reporting, etc. will be split out… while rules and the like might be more explicitly included – we’ll find out!).  And bundling vertically in the stack (for example, including the application server with the BPM product) will likely continue. I found MWD’s take on ACM interesting:
Adaptive case management (ACM) – Most importantly, perhaps, a group of vendors has spent significant marketing money and effort through 2010 attempting to “break away” from the BPM technology market segment, at least in part as a response to the impact in the market of activity from software platform vendors like IBM, Oracle and TIBCO.
That aligns with what I felt was going on with the ACM movement over the last year – more marketing and positioning than substantive differentiation.  Although, one can hardly blame them for trying to change the terms of debate, and the terms of product selection.  If you can create a new market segment you have a chance to be evaluated by every company in that segment. If you’re competing for the same market segment, many customers have already bought “one of those” and may not want to buy another one. MWD also turns their attention to consultants and integrators, noting that their market momentum is increasing.  As MWD notes:  “Until a couple of years ago, almost all the activity from systems integrators and consultants associated with BPM practice was carried out by small, local specialist firms rather than the big players.”  MWD sees the big players finally getting serious about BPM practices – and he’s right.  But it is still the case that the most capable firms are these small, local, specialist firms – some might even say boutique(!) firms.  (As an example in the IBM Lombardi niche, I believe BP3 represents both the biggest and the most experienced firm for Lombardi BPM deployment.  We would definitely be considered a smaller firm, despite our ability to cover the US geography.) Read the report – and get used to reading MWD’s analysis – it is among the best out there, and they often put out free or registration-only reports that can help keep you informed.
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  • Scott, thanks very much indeed for taking the time to read the report and share your thoughts and reactions. If you don’t mind, I might have to use your quote “among the best out there”!

    Re: the Suites prediction… I can see where you’re coming from. I think the current configuration of the “archetypal BPMS” (not that I’m 100% convinced there is such a thing in practice) – spanning the whole improvement lifecycle – is really great from a capability theory point of view, and as an analyst I do like things that are conceptually neat!
    I have to go against my own internal prejudice/bias towards the “conceptually neat” here though, because what I’m seeing in the market – at least here in Europe – is that as BPM becomes more of a mainstream proposition, those companies that are just coming to BPM now find the idea of an integrated suite that combines discovery/modelling, development, runtime, administration and monitoring a bit of a conundrum. It’s one product that crosses a number of very entrenched organisational silos.
    At the moment (and this can change of course) I’m strongly inclined to believe that this is a key reason why many “mainstream” adopters of BPM technology look at it from very specific perspectives that can be traced back decades to structured programming. A great many either look at BPM technology principally from the point of view of requirements definition, or from the point of view of application development.
    This isn’t something I’m particularly happy about, because it signals (to date) those people failing to engage with the deeper behavioural/organisational aspects of BPM, but I think it is the reality that we have.

    • Neil – I think in the US what is likely to happen is a rationalization of what should be in a “suite” rather than having them eliminated. I haven’t thought through the implications on the “total solution” and thought process – that is definitely a concern.

      • To echo some of Neil’s comments before offering an alternative hypothesis for discussion, I too have seen some strange adoption patterns come out of fractured decision-making around BPM in large organizations. Like a company that uses BizAgi for process modeling but IBM WLE for process execution as ordained by their Enterprise Architecture function.

        I doubt that this behavior will be the downfall of the BPM Suite – Pull of a complete product is too great for the vendors. Anyways, some businesses have always taken a best-of-breed approach and many BPM tools certainly allow you to separate process modeling and design/execution (requirement gathering and application development as Neil puts it above). Process modeling in many large organizations might have been the domain of a group of business users (Lean, Six Sigma, etc) and they might have adopted whatever tool suited them. So the placement of divide seems logical.

        My question, or alternative hypothesis, is that BPM is not yet as ‘mainstream’ as we might imagine. Yes, there are plenty of corporate deals being signed but how many are tactical or departmental / Line of Business investments rather than global or strategic deals? I am guessing that many are an individual region, department or function buying part or all of a BPM Suite to correct the shortcomings of another global system implementation.

        I don’t put this theory forward to minimize the importance of BPMS. Abstracting processes away from a core system of record and managing local variances of the process more elegantly than the core system is a great use-case for BPM technology. But, I see very few businesses picking both an ERP system and a BPM system before rolling them out in a coordinated fashion. The more common use-case is that the BPM system is an after-thought to better handle the exceptions in the original implementation. The result can be a piece-meal best of breed adoption of elements of the BPM Suite like using Blueworks to collect requirements for an ERP implementation.

        Interested in your feedback . . .

      • Dave: Agreed, not as mainstream as people (in our circles) might think. But certainly making progress. There’s still vastly more department-level work than “strategic” work. But as you say, that actually means that there is a great “strategic” opportunity in front of these businesses to pursue using BPM as a way of abstracting local variances, and overlaying a process on these core systems.

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