Talking with people at the first break of the first day, I feel so lucky to be part of a community with so many people who are friends, and with whom you can have both enlightening and amusing conversations.
Building a BPM Ecosystem
Continuing on the Business of BPM program, we had a panel with Miguel Valdés Faura of Bonitasoft, Scott Francis of BP-3 Global and Denis Gagne of Trisotech on the BPM ecosystem. Although billed as a panel, each participant had a 10-minute presentation slot before joint Q&A.
Not surprisingly, Miguel sees open source as an important part of the BPM ecosystem because it creates more of a meritocracy in the development of BPM capabilities, allowing many more people to participate actively in BPMS development and be recognized for their contributions. Being part of an open source community doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re writing core code: there are many people who contribute through developing extensions and add-ons, providing requirements, testing code, writing documentation and training materiels for developers and users, and creating vertical solutions based on the open source offering. They may do this as volunteer contributors, or create businesses around the added-value components that they offer.
Scott talked about BP-3’s journey as former Lombardi employees who became Lombardi (then IBM BPM) partners, and now build add-on products for IBM BPM including user dashboards and code quality checkers. He talked about the things that they have done to build a successful business as a partner and ISV for a large vendor, including being consistent, adding value, building their own customer base rather than subcontracting to the vendor’s professional services arm, and marketing what they do. Having run a boutique BPM implementation services firm in the past, I agree that companies like BP-3 are an essential part of the BPM community, providing an alternative to the vendor’s PS that can often provide higher-quality services at a lower cost.
Denis, with his background in standards as well as building the Business Process Incubator resource community, has worked for years at explicitly building the BPM ecosystem. He has a “rising tide lifts all boats” philosophy of providing resources that allow potential customers to educate themselves and exchange information, which broadens the reach of the industry and helps to lift it out of the BPM 101 discussion stage. He also talked about the problem of BPM standards being divergent, that is, vendors take an agreed-upon standard such as BPMN, then create their own proprietary extensions that detract from the standard, and therefore the community in general. Vendors that do this rather than participating in the standards development effort are not good community members; in my opinion, they are working from a fear-based philosophy of market scarcity rather than Denis’ more generous view that there will be a lot more of the BPM market to go around if we all help to educate and commoditize.
There was a wide-ranging discussion following their mini-presentations, although I only captured a couple of points:
- Ensuring that the BPM ecosystem that we’re talking about covers process improvement, enterprise/business architecture and related topics, not just BPM software.
- Why the push towards (mobile) apps isn’t more oriented to/supported by BPM technologies; as well as the problem of mobile app developers who don’t think at all about the back-end process of the transactions that they initiate, low-code BPM solutions might be hindering this since it removes the focus from developers. Mobile development fiefdoms have formed in many organizations, and these barriers need to be removed to integrate mobile apps and process.
We finished off the Business of BPM half-day program with Neil Ward-Dutton of MWD Advisors, talking about whether we are at the end of BPM or the end for transformation, and where we go next. The term “BPM” is starting to disappear from communications and the market for platforms is growing slowly, with maintenance revenue dominating license revenue, but there are still plenty of inquiries about how to get started with BPM, including from non-traditional (read: not financial services) sectors. He sees this as an indication that we’re in the middle of mainstream adoption of BPM, with the conversation shifting from pure technology to domain-specific expertise, success stories, stakeholder education and how to develop cost-effective skills. A key challenge is that a BPMS isn’t like most other enterprise technologies, because it includes aspects of many different technologies and methodologies, and can be positioned as the “one suite to rule them all” application development platform as well as an enabler for significant organizational change. Since mainstream adoption means approaching the more conservative half of the market, this is a scary proposition.
He presented two organizations that both embarked on BPM projects: a retail group that successfully implemented a cloud-hosted case management system to specifically improve the delivery of in-home customer services; and a banking group that failed to implement an expensive IT-led technology transformation project that built their COE before implementing anything, and not focusing on a specific business problem to solve. For organizations used to solving problems like the bank, enterprise-wide BPM looks like it’s too big and too disruptive; for more nimble organizations like the retailers, it’s a tool that can be used to solve a business problem while moving to low-code platforms, Agile development methodologies, cloud and mobile.
The lines are blurring between different product classes: BPMS, BPA, low-code, operational intelligence, task management, project management, enterprise social collaboration, and cloud orchestration. Customers are picking products from different categories to solve the same problems, and products are spanning multiple categories. It’s not so easy any more to put boundaries around what any particular product can do. The digital business era is also creating new threats and opportunities: new customer expectations, and new ways to gather information from devices, for example. This requires two capabilities working in concert: instrumentation of products, services and processes; and agility of services, processes and business models. This is a fundamentally different view of transformation, with continuous change and improvement based on instrumentation of a quickly-implemented solution rather than pre-planned to-be/as-is multi-year transformation projects.
His summary: enterprise-wide BPM initiatives are just not happening in the way that transformation efforts happened 10 years ago, but organizations are actively transforming business processes using more agile iterative techniques, particularly in the area of work coordination. Keep an eye on the non-traditional vendors and starting with simpler solutions, while linking to broader digital strategies.