Customer Experience and BPM

Scott Francis
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Forrester’s Clay Richardson, Craig LeClair and others published a report titled “Predictions 2015: The Age of The Customer is Set to Disrupt The BPM Market“…

The premise for the article is that customer-centricity is disrupting the BPM market, and changing the way BPM is done.  The punch line is that this will favor:

  • dynamic case management
  • smart process apps
  • distributed, loosely coupled BPM platforms

Let’s take a look at the claims, which are informative…

Claim 1: Diminished demand for traditional BPM suites

I find it interesting that the contention is that the “age of the customer” will diminish traditional BPM suites.  The more nuanced stance on this is that customer-facing executives will tend to favor some BPM suites over others, on the basis of their ability to deliver revenue benefits or customer experience benefits.  Some of the BPM suites have taken measures to enable a rich partner ecosystem, or to foster partner investment on their platforms… and those that haven’t have had a harder time tuning their approach and pitch to prioritize user experience and design.

BP3 does a lot of work with IBM BPM customers, and much (most?) of what we do for them is to improve customer experiences in 2014 and 2015.  While efficiency is part of the equation, the focus is on the customer.  To truly serve an enterprise customer, our Fortune 500 clients require a BPM suite that can orchestrate processes, data, and integrations across many systems and teams to deliver better and more timely answers to their customers. Maybe BP3 is the outlier, and other BPM services and software vendors aren’t seeing revenue-focused projects, but I suspect the trend is broader than just BP3.

Claim 2: Low-Code Vendors will steal the spotlight for rapid change. 

If I had a dollar for every time this appeared to be true… The examples given are companies most people even BPM experts haven’t heard of or have fallen on hard times: MatsSoft, K2, Mendix, Intalio, and OrangeScape.  I had to look some of them up, and some of them I haven’t seen in a competitive evaluation in more than 5 years. Salesforce, on the other hand, will be limited to orchestrating processes within the platform rather than outside the platform.  It is too cost-prohibitive unless you’re already using it for the people involved in the process.

A key problem for low-code solutions is audience. I have no doubt in Forrester’s prediction that IBM and Appian will introduce low-code solutions in 2015 – they’re in a good position to make these predictions.  You could argue IBM already has such offerings. But who are the users?  Who is it that wants to build software but doesn’t want to write code to do it?  On this blog we’ve discussed the Zero-Code hypothesis before, and I guess my opinion on it hasn’t changed (yet). It doesn’t appeal to coders, and it doesn’t really appeal to anyone else in a way that makes money.

Claim 3: BPM teams will accelerate adoption of customer journey mapping.  Claim 4: Dynamic Case Management becomes standard issue. Claim 5: Smart process apps will attack life-cycle stages.

I think this is spot-on.  It certainly agrees with what we’re seeing in the market.

Claim 6: The four-tier model will disrupt traditional BPM architectures.

I think the argument here is that UI and Task Management need to be loosely coupled from process in order to unlock delivering mobile solutions and apps.  However, we’ve previously noted that the separation of UI from process is not the panacea that some assume. There are real costs to separating UI from process, when they are likely to naturally change at the same time.  If this UI ignores the process context, it can’t possibly present the end user the right context and information from screen to screen.  If the process ignores impacts on the UI, possibly incomplete data and context will be available to the user interface at a given screen or step in the process.

Conceptually, Forrester has a strong model, that looks something like this:

forrester chart modified.001

Source: adapted from Forrester’s article

 

But as with most models, it is a simplification of reality.  For example, there’s no reason that UI and task management features of an IBM BPM have to be tightly coupled. All of the functionality is exposed via APIs and REST APIs, which has allowed for BP3 to build Brazos UI, Brazos Charts, and Brazos Portal – enabling a more customer-centric approach to BPM layered right on top of a traditional BPM suite.  Less code is required to deliver a cross-platform user interface that leverages process context.

forrester chart modified.002

And because Brazos Suite is a responsive HTML5 user interface framework, it also enables mobile applications and scenarios that Forrester describes.  The whole operation runs in the cloud as well.

We’ve leveraged the investments in Brazos to produce case management features that extend what is in the IBM BPM product.

Though we’re quite proud of what we’ve built, and the impact our efforts has had on BPM and for our customers, we also have appropriate perspective. What we’ve done has been technically possible, but required the intersection of experience, vision, and ability to invest to make it happen.

As usual there’s a lot to learn from reading Forrester’s reports – but there are some insights that depend on getting your hands dirty delivering solutions and competing for business.  Layering that on top of the trends Forrester is broadly reporting gives you a different perspective.