#bpmNEXT – BPM Crossing the Chasm? by

I flew up with Ivan Kornienko to the Asilomar conference facility in California on Tuesday – for the brand-new bpmNEXT conference.  The conference, as you may know, is hosted by Nathaniel Palmer and Bruce Silver.

We started out in style by eating at a Hobee’s near the San Jose airport, and then drove down to Asilomar, caffeine in hand.  Like a few other early arrivals, we sat outside in the cool weather and worked on email, presentations, and demonstrations.

Tuesday afternoon kicked off with an introduction from Bruce Silver, in which he promised to be relentless about schedule, while having fun presenting to peers.  Paul Harmon delivered the keynote, and gave a brief history of his own work in the industry, and attempted to address the question of whether BPM had, or was going to, “cross the chasm”, so to speak.

Addressing BPM, Paul said: “I suggest you think of yourself as being part of a broader movement to get companies to think about process” and also, to realize that BPM/BPMS is a moving target because the technology landscape just keeps changing.  He pointed to a couple of trends that “change everything”:

  • We used to think of continental businesses. But now we’re talking about global businesses. How big can they get?  How many is the “natural” number once the dust settles?
  • 3D printing is going to change everything. Inventory and part backlogs are a huge cost and management issue for manufacturers.  What if inventory is just a blueprint of the part we need to print out in a few minutes?
  • Mobile is still unleashing a lot of change on industry.

Shifts like this are hard to anticipate in terms of the outcomes. Although his estimate is that BPMS is growing 15% a year, and this sounds disappointingly slow, it has been steady progress year-in, year-out – rather than a moon-shot.

He then talked about how big vendors are rationalizing their offerings and used IBM as an example – a company with 5 products in their BPM chart (blueworks live, BPM, ODM, Case Manager, and Business Monitor) – but they had many more acquisitions than that and were able to consolidate down to a small number of more manageable products – that look and act similarly.

It is a significant consolidation of IBM products. Other vendors are, apparently, doing the same.

So has BPMS crossed the chasm?  No… the early majority isn’t there yet.  And to get there we need more examples of working solutions with big ROI.  So what is holding BPM back?

  • it isn’t one technology, it is a bunch of technologies
  • BPMS vendors need to get better at promoting a process perspective
  • If companies become interested in working on business processes, they’ll adopt BPMS
  • BPMS needs really good success stories to tell.

In the Q&A session, several good questions were asked, but my favorite comment from the audience was this one (paraphrased):

“ASK the executives: WHAT DO YOU MEASURE?  If you influence that, you’re in.  If you don’t, you’re out. “

Another question asked whether BPM is magic or science. Paul’s take is that it is not magic.  In followup discussions with people at dinner, the takeaway was that it is more of a craft – somewhere inbetween if the spectrum is between magic and science.  How do you learn a craft?  You study and practice at the shoulder of a master craftsman.  It has subjectivity, it isn’t all objective result.

Sandy Kemsley’s excellent take is here.

[ More to come from the conference - just behind pulling notes together! ]