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BPM: “complicated” is not the same as “dead”

Neil Ward-Dutton

Friday, March 30, 2012 by

Over the past few weeks I’ve come across a few conversations, both online and offline, that celebrate, or commiserate, BPM’s “death”. Certainly, it’s possible to find evidence that suggests that there’s less interest in something specifically called BPM. A number of technology vendors that have previously put all their effort behind positioning themselves as BPM players now put less emphasis on BPM itself: some are shifting slightly sideways and bringing their case management capabilities/strategies to the fore; others are shifting upwards to major more on specific business issues (that can be resolved through BPM); yet more are shifting another direction, and emphasising core BPM technologies (many people think of these as BPMSs) in combination with other complementary technologies – such as analytics tools, event processing platforms, and so on.

In my mind, though, all these shifts are doing is representing the ongoing maturation of the market for tools that help people improve the way that work gets co-ordinated and managed, through the intelligent application of software. You might call that something else, but I’m going to carry on calling that BPM technology for now.

Up-to-date data from our online BPM capability benchmarking tool tells us a different part of what I think is the same story: building and maintaining a mature BPM capability is tough. As you can see on the tool’s home page, the average benchmark reflects a pretty modest level of maturity across all five dimensions that the tool assesses.

The lifecycle dimension score (which assesses the maturity of practice in each phase of a BPM activity cycle), at 34%, is marginally higher than the others (organisation at 27%, governance at 26%, architecture at 29%, and technology at 27%) – but on the evidence we have here, it seems there’s still quite a long way to go before BPM practice in industry can be called ‘mature’. At the time of writing, this is based on 50+ completed benchmark assessments from across financial services, government, telecoms, utilities, transportation/logistics, healthcare, retail, tech and others; and across every geographical region.

What does this all tell us?

Although this is still a modest sample, I think it provides more evidence that sustainable BPM success is complicated. There may well be a causal link between this fact and the ways in which some technology vendors are shifting their own approaches to the market. (Maybe it’s better to try and sell something “shiny” to leading-edge innovators than continue to sell something to more mainstream technology adopters with more mundane, practical concerns; interests in developing portable skills; and so on).

BPM is far from ‘dead’ though.

If you’d like to use our BPM benchmarking tool and see how you stack up, it’s completely free of charge to access. Let me know how you get on!

Posted in Process

3 Responses to BPM: “complicated” is not the same as “dead”

  1. Couldn’t agree more. And if things are complicated, then there are great opportunities in our BPM space to make things easier or simpler (as vendors). And if things are complicated (organizationally) then there are great opportunities for leaders and visionaries within firms to pave the path.

    People seem to expect all tech to move like a rocket through the market – but BPM has been the steady-eddie, growing above-market year after year. That seems to bother some people – but in my biased opinion this is a sign that it is an area of substance, rather than fad.

    As you point out, the “shifting” is attempt to differentiate, to find edges and wedges with which to compete against other vendors in the BPM space. (One only need look at other markets to see the same thing going on in the past – MRP, ERP, etc. )

  2. Pingback: BPM Still has a Long Life Ahead » Process for the Enterprise

  3. Thanks Scott – agreed 100%!
    I always maintain that the biggest challenge in the market for BPM technologies and techniques today is customer/prospect education. Few opportunities are being missed, or sales dropped, because the available tech is insufficiently advanced.

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