Convergence is definitely happening. Make no bones about it, no matter how hard analysts will try to keep sectors apart the lines between CRM and BPM are starting to blur to the point I need stronger prescription lenses to shaper things up again.
Take Salesforce.com and it’s rather cool Cloud solution called Visual Process Manager. With over 75% of their current user base happy with their current workflow set up in Salesforce many would have rested on their laurels but according to Andrew Leigh, Product Manager for VPM, Salesforce decided to push things to a new level.
With VPM, Salesforce are targeting that sweet-spot of 75-80% of manual, paper/ spreadsheet-based processes that BPM cannot handle and 100% in the Cloud using the existing infrastructure that’s been such a success so far. Whilst others are still struggling with a variety of issues such as security (the BIG one) and user capacity, Salesforce can boast over 2m users and a security model that’s enjoyed by all users. If a client wants something additional then this is rolled out across the infrastructure for everyone.
Drawing from their workflow and approvals process experience, and coupled with the acquisition of Informavores Salesforce have an instant Cloud based process design studio that integrates into it’s own CRM solutions, enabling users to quickly pull together processes and deploy them. With an inbuilt process simulator users can check how the process runs and is executed before it’s deployed and the scenarios play out before you as if you were interacting with it in real-time which makes a change from the usual moving coloured dot on the process map. The usual constituents of modelling are catered for in a traditional BPMS; users can create forms, question based workflow and decisions, make external calls to other applications and back-end systems for retrieval of data and updating. Once deployed it’s handled by a real-time execution engine, again all Cloud based. What’s more this is done with no code, a common phrase which I’ve encountered a lot recently but actually rings true here. It was simple to create a process model from what I saw and turn it into an executable which will appeal to business users a lot. Look IT, no hands….
I have to make mention again to blurring of the lines here as I watched Chatter in action and how the Social CRM and Social BPM scene are almost indistinguishable here. User push infrastructure which is designed for both desktop and mobile use cases people can communicate and share with almost anything in Salesforce; people, data, cases, objects. Users can follow or ‘subscribe’ as I describe it anything that they’re interested in which may allow for collaboration further down the line. Events which trigger within a process is notified to users in real-time through Chatter.
What started out as a look at the Visual Process Manager turned into a journey of discovery in how Salesforce has approached CRM, BPM and Social technology. Like I said in a blog entry a few weeks back when the product was first announced, Salesforce seem to have approached the BPM market from a completely different angle and got it right first time. Everything seemed natural and seamless in how it was deployed and not a cludge of bolted on modules to keep up with the trends. I still maintain that the Pega acquisition of Chordiant was to make a play for Salesforce.
The biggest dilemma I faced when writing this up was where to put this post! Is it BPM ? Is it CRM ? Is it Social ? Is it Cloud ? It’s all four. And all the better for it.