“A rose by any other name” they say. Seems the first thing people want to jump on is to hang their hat on creating a new acronym for what BPM is trying to evolve into. And I say trying because there’s a massive amount of legacy to bin in order to move at least one step. Business Process Management was forged roughly 20 years ago now out of the fires of BPR but I’ll be frank and say that as a discipline it’s hardly broken out of the process reengineering mould has it ?
In a recent flurry of tweets between Connie Moore, Scott Francis, Ashish Bhagwat and myself, Connie said that “the problem with #bpm is that process is too constraining. BPM is spilling over the boundaries of process”, I agreed stating that BPM needs to shed it’s skin, it’s changing into something far bigger and more flexible. The perennial favourite of naming the newborn came up in question and Scott made a couple of interesting comments about the term BPM itself (I agree with him though that we should focus on what the ‘stuff’ in the middle is before we worry about the name): “how much more generic can name get than BPM ?“
Therein lies the issue. When the term was coined it was too generic, too vague and not a million miles away from BPR, so we’ve had confusion and misinterpretation for two decades now which has allowed multiple strands of what BPM should have been to exist, petty in-fighting, vendor hype and plenty of “certified” courses to choose from (certifiable more like if you took one but that’s a personal opinion).
So back to the point, it’s time to redefine BPM for this new era. But perhaps redefining is still too weak an option to take, what we need to do is examine what is happening in the industry and treat this as a completely new concept from scratch, start with the blank sheet and forget the legacy. So let’s try and consider some of the points that have shaped the last 12 months and brought about such a desire to break out of the process cage.
- No matter how you define it; phenomenon, discipline or technology, ‘Social’ is changing how we think about traditional BPM not only from a technical standpoint but also an organisational point of view. It’s clear from discussions that Social is also affecting other industries too, most notably CRM. But it’s the way it’s exposing how little difference there really is between sectors which have been kept at arms length before is astonishing. Like I blogged before, Salesforce may have understood process better than we have by doing everything backwards, coming from CRM and not BPM. Pega’s acquisition of Chordiant is another clear indication of the blurring of lines between strategies. Social is nothing new, people like Sandy Kemsley have been talking about it for a few years but it’s only really now that it’s getting the attention it deserves. But please think beyond the technology ! Social is not exclusive to just one industry or aspect of it, it can really change the fabric of the enterprise but little focus is made in this area.
- Gartner talks of ad-hoc and unstructured processes, Forrester speaks about Dynamic Case Management. Depending on who you talk to in these areas surveys suggest there is between 60-80% of an enterprise built on these seemingly unmanageable and unstructured processes, meaning there’s 20-40% that can be mapped. Speaking to the traditional BPA vendor market the numbers are similar to manual vs. automated processes so who is right, and more importantly has anyone qualified them both together (so have we been mapping for the sake of it and capturing exceptions left, right and centre when the process was too chaotic in the first place ?) Andrew Smith made a really good case (no pun intended) for managing without maps altogether in this blog this week about Adaptive BPM (again though I have to question why we need to think about the ‘BPM’ element if it’s something evolutionary, or even revolutionary)
- There have been blurred lines between BPM, ECM, MDM and other areas coming to the fore in recent times so there appears to be a push in consolidating all these terms and finding commonality between them all, and given the buzz every time people mention this there must be scope to. Ashish blogged about convergence in the industry and it’s very true.
- PaaS, SaaS, Cloud, Mobile, Business Process Applications, Open Source, they’ve all changed the platform and if you’re not there in some shape or form then you’re lagging behind a little.
- The term BPM itself means many things to many people. Business – Process – Management. Like I said, it was too vague to begin with. Connie may have struck on something when she said that process has become too constraining as a term or concept. I’d argue that all three elements have been outgrown by where we are today.
So, as practitioners, vendors and analysts don’t we have a duty to sit down as a collective and start scribbling on that blank sheet of paper ? If ‘Social’ can break down so many barriers and faux-silos then it also can bring parties to the table for a common cause.
“Your father called the future ‘the undiscovered country’….people can be very frightened of change…”
The ramifications are huge, whole product strategies and ways we apply change and think of process are at stake but it’s just as bad to resist just because “we’ve always done it that way”.
I said in a previous blog that CRM and BPM were destined to get married. I was wrong. It’s not a marriage we want, it’s a rebirth. Or perhaps a brand new birth itself. Like a hybrid or Chimera, take the best DNA from each industry, shake up the test tube and watch the results unfold.
Just don’t quote me entries from the A-Z of Modern Baby Names please…..