There’s a select group of about 80 BPM industry experts gathered together this week at the Asilomar conference center in Pacific Grove, CA, attending a new conference organized by Bruce Silver and Nathaniel Palmer: bpmNEXT, billed as “defining the next generation of process innovation”. The first afternoon was mostly just for getting here and getting settled, but before we got down to the serious business of enjoying some local wines, we had a welcome from Bruce and a keynote from Paul Harmon of BPTrends. This conference is mostly about BPM technology innovation, and Paul — who focuses more on the practitioner side — spoke about how that innovation is impacting business process practices.
Business process management is the broader category that includes business management, process improvement methodologies, and technology such as BPMS. Although a recent BPTrends survey found that 16% of companies think that BPM is synonymous with BPMS, it’s really the much bigger picture of how companies use process to improve their business. A number of different practices and technologies are needed to make this happen: Lean (to cut out waste steps), human performance management (to determine if the people in the process are doing a quality/efficient job, decision management (to decide what steps need to be done, and when), BPMS (for process automation), Six Sigma (to measure deviation from the quality metrics) and more. He walked us through the CMMI-style business process maturity model from level 1, with no organized processes to level 5, where processes are continuously being improved. He pointed out (quite rightly) that most BPM technology vendors are selling the ability to implement level 5, yet most organizations are at level 1 or 2, and struggling to improve their process maturity.
There’s been a lot of BPM evolution in the past 10 years: the problems have become more interesting, with the technology chasing (or driving) these problems, and new platforms being added all along. Most (western) businesses today are in the service industry, so the problems that process managers and practitioners face are no longer standardized processes: it’s a much more complex and dynamic environment, with a collaboration within and across companies, and social media impacting and driving processes.
Paul sees the biggest issue for practitioners is the chasm between levels 2 and 3 in process maturity, since that jump from tactical to strategic requires an enterprise commitment to process, not just departmental process improvement efforts. If you can’t get the senior company management sold on the value of BPM to the enterprise, and to make a long-term investment in it, then you’re never going to cross that chasm. For vendors, the challenges are the wide range of technologies that are now considered part of (or need to be tightly integrated with) BPMS, and the platforms that need to be supported. If you consider a company that grows through acquisitions, such as IBM or TIBCO, there’s an additional challenge of how to integrate and refactor these disparate products into a unified experience.
The good news: the BPTrends 2011 survey showed the first uptick in corporate interest in BPMS, and Paul estimates that the market is growing by 15% per year. It’s not the hockey stick projections that the vendors like to show, but it’s not bad. Has BPMS crossed Moore’s chasm of adoption? Not in his opinion, and in part that’s due to the complexity of the market and the technology offerings.
There was a really great Q&A/discussion at the end, as you might expect in a room full of people who are deeply involved in BPM, and where everyone in the room is probably at no more than two degrees of separation from anyone else in the room. A good indication of what the atmosphere is going to be like for the next two days.
I’m blogging here using a Google Nexus 7 tablet, a Logitech bluetooth keyboard and the WordPress Android app, so if the formatting is a bit wonky, I’ll fix it up later. I’m testing this out as a travel platform, since I bring the Nexus along anyway as my ebook reader and general entertainment device; just having to bring along a keyboard instead of the whole netbook makes the load a bit lighter. Definitely not quite as fast for creating posts, especially for adding links, but overall seems to be working out fine.