Impressions from #bpmNEXT

Scott Francis
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This was the fourth bpmNEXT we’ve attended and presented at – every one since the beginning.  Every year the conference gets a little bit better in terms of content, and the collegiality gets better as well.  And the rooftop lunches and dinners are just part of the charm. 

Overall impressions:  the headline is that I couldn’t be more optimistic about BPM’s future than I am now. Details follow:

  • Analysts are still not sure if BPM is dead or not, but they feel like the excitement is past its peak.  I couldn’t disagree more – the data that I’ve seen from vendors indicates they are growing at healthy clips. But as a vendor, it may mean more opportunity for those of us who are passionate about the benefits of BPM if others take their eyes off the ball.
  • Paradoxically, there are new entrants to the BPM space, with innovative offerings and perspectives.  More than I would have expected.
  • There is room for the smaller vendors to innovate, as predicted by yours truly ever since 2010.
  • As an example, DMN is catching on with the upstart vendors, but not as much with the big players. It feels like it has more traction than CMMN actually, though CMMN had more fanfare as it came out due to the attention of the ACM community.
  • The open source alternatives are steadily improving, including in support for standards like DMN and CMMN.
  • The word IFML never came up in discussion
  • The attendance from overseas (mainly Europe, but including Africa and Asia) was quite impressive. There’s a lot of innovation and activity on this topic in Europe.
  • Service providers are not only thriving, they’re finding excess profits to invest in software and utilities to improve their services businesses. 
  • Handlebar coffee still makes a mean cup o Joe.
  • I once again forgot to put the Buzzword Bingo cards together for the conference.  Feels like a good project for next year though.  

My overall impression is that some of the big BPM vendors have become entrenched in their overall strategies, and don’t have a focus on improving on the principles of BPM per se.  Migrations, Cloud, Multi-device support are dominating their attention over things like adding richness to the BPMN representation, or mining the process models for useful insights into those solutions.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this prioritization, I suppose – it is a business decision.

But you can tell that some of the big software vendors (and at least one smaller vendor) just aren’t passionate about the subject of BPM the way that we are.  Their BPM businesses aren’t being led by people who are passionate about the subject, and about the value BPM can create.  It could be email software or control automation or ERP. 

This is leaving room for the upstart vendors to innovate, as predicted.  The ones who have a mission, and are passionate about it, are finding ways to innovate and grow and expand their footprint and create more value in the BPM sphere.  I’m really grateful to Bruce Silver and Nathaniel Palmer for making a space for people who are building a future with BPM, and who are passionate about it in all respects.

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If you’re looking for the best coverage of the event, you’ll find it on Sandy Kemsley’s blog – highly recommended.