BPM is Dead. Long Live BPM!

  • January 14, 2010
  • Scott
  • 7 Comments

The End of Days.. ahem… The End of BPM, is here.

Or is it? We have several pundits proclaiming so (either anonymously or otherwise). We have several vendors and analysts and bloggers dancing on the grave of BPM (or the pure play vendors). We have even BPM advocates bemoaning the loss of the BPM vendors of yore.

But lets take a step back for a minute… and imagine a strange alternate universe…

[fade to black, gradually clearing away as the voiceover starts]

Let’s imagine a world where there are only 3 BPM engines in the world, like the three heads of Cerberus. One from Oracle, one from IBM, and one from Microsoft. Or, if you prefer hydras, we could have another one from SAP. BPM will have achieved the ubiquity of RDBMS because every corporation that buys software from these giant software providers will have at least one BPM engine as part of their enterprise stack, along with requisite modeling tools.

Along with myriad integration technologies to plug these into existing applications or even other BPM engines. In this world, there will still be opportunities for start-ups to sell tools for building applications to run on these stacks, just as there are still opportunities for start-ups with better SQL tools.  There will still be opportunities for open source BPM engines to compete with commercial BPM engines, just as there are open source RDBMSes competing with commercial ones.  If the Techies try to bury BPM in IT, the Business guys will drag it back out into the light of day where it belongs because they have real business needs to address.

Because it has never been about BPM engines, the parts that the business never sees.  Or software stacks.  Its always been about the ease in building the applications that the engine runs, the ease of adapting those applications to changing business requirements (processes), and the effectiveness of the measurements, dashboards, and analytics that provide the learning feedback loop for the business. [ fade to black and then the lights return ] As we wake, groggy from this little daydream… what was so different about our alternate universe? It turns out, while we like to root for David over Goliath, the various BPM software companies selling have largely done well for themselves, their shareholders, their employees, and their customers.  Not a one of the pure play BPM vendors went out of business (or even came close, so far as we can tell).

A few IPOs would have been more exciting.  And in times when enterprise software companies were awarded better multiples, might have made sense. And the new batch of BPM tech and companies coming along is pretty interesting too.  I see no reason for melancholy with the batch of startups that are hitting the market with interesting products that take different approaches to BPM (or facets of BPM). I think things might just get more interesting.  Ubiquitous BPM has a good ring to it.

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