BPM, the sick man of the enterprise

BPM on it's last legs

In my last entry I wrote frankly about the state of play in the BPM industry at large and received a lot of positive and constructive feedback.
In this post I’m going to attempt to address some of the shortcomings highlighted from various posts I’ve made in the past as well as conversations I’ve had with people since. It’s really just an addendum to the previous week but no less important in order to make you think a little more.

The Emperors Old Rags

Just what exactly are you boys trying to sell ? Let me take a couple of extreme examples to highlight the point:

  • Progress Software deem themselves an Operational Responsiveness, Business Process Management, Complex Event Processing and SOA Infrastructure company. A recent online article called them a “business application platform” vendor. So which is it ?
  • Casewise are a “business process modeling improvement analysis and management solutions’ vendor. What exactly does that mean apart from covering every base with a buzzword ?
  • BusinessPort have a Process Management Software solution which they brand as an “intelligent Business Management System”. So which is it ?

Before the analyst rush to invent ever more sparkling acronyms and terms for vendors to align against life was simpler. Now it’s messy and lacking in any real cohesion or state of definition. The marketing machine is a nightmare, a real nightmare. Instead of sending the sales force out on a pitch I think the marketing bods should swap places and finally understand just how bad their material is in front of a client, especially newbies to The-Thing-we-call-BPM-but-should-die-in-a-fiery-explosion.

Tip: Instead of marketing, try education. I’ve said it in previous posts before, lose the jargon. Hell, even Forbes wrote about this today in their article (http://www.forbes.com/sites/alexknapp/2012/03/13/five-leadership-lessons-from-jean-luc-picard/)

Speak to people in the language they understand.

“In my experience, communication is a matter of patience and imagination. I would like to believe that these are qualities that we have in sufficient measure.”
Sadly the BPM marketing machine has very little of any.

Because BPM has been led down the garden path to ruin and become the Jack of trades perhaps the term “business application platform” is correct or more closely aligned to where the software solution is today. It’s less about pure process management and more about encompassing and engulfing everything business-like in its path. If you take Bonitasoft or AuraPortal as an example you can see where I’m coming from. Everything under the one roof. That to me is no longer Business Process Management.

Staying the course in choppy waters

Clay Richardson of Forrester is currently pulling together a ‘wave’ assessment of sorts for BPM training and certification courses. To me it’s long overdue but welcome. The biggest issue, and again one out of the fact BPM has become so wide a topic, is that it lacks real definition to be able to offer any real certification or authoritative training on. It’s so subjective that I could write a training pack and flog it to the masses. Personally I don’t want to go down that dirty route like many others have, it might be a great money spinner but there are parts of my soul I won’t sell. A couple of years ago I approached the Lombardi University and the ABPMP to try and tie together a vendor and BPM organisation together and merge some of the process thinking into a course that covered both practical, solution and theory. Obviously it was like mixing oil and water so never went anywhere. I even went insofar as to try and kick off with a few other great guys an ‘open source’ BPM Guide that the practitioner community at large could add to. A few others have attempted this since. It’s a noble endeavour but doomed like the rest of BPM as it is today. I reckon you’ll get more out of picking bits out of TOGAF, Zachman, Lean and DMAIC and a healthy dollop of pragmatism and common sense instead of wasting 000’s on certification that isn’t recognised.

I saw an interesting question on LinkedIn recently: Do you draw BPMN first or Use Case diagram and narratives first ? There is still so much confusion despite trying to get BPMN/ BPMN2.0 adopted and the de facto standard for notation and modeling. But the problem stems from that it’s mostly a vendor driven requirement, and both Use Case and BPMN have roots closely in IT rather than in the business.

Like I said before, you only have to look at the job boards to see what is actually being called for in the process profession.

The Auld Alliance

Conferences and Analysts. They should divorce.

Plenty models have worked in the past, like the Unconference, or vendor shootout, there’s no need for expensive venues and banners now. People prefer a more intimate affair on a personal level, you have time to understand their woes not a quick gloss over and then shove a brochure in their hand with your business card. If you’re insistent on branding a large event, make it transparent that it’s purely for networking, nothing more. There are hardly any lessons to be learned from BPM anymore. Hence the reasons BPM itself is stagnant. Frequent calls for speakers (more like begging) highlights this in my mind and it’s the same people who heed the call every time.

Ever used a virtual platform to host a conference and remove cost and locational barriers ? No ? Why not ?!!

The Analyst model should be ditched, look at companies like RedMonk who buck the trend (or even my little freemium offering). I’ll say no more about pay to play. The very term itself should ring alarm bells but the klaxon falls on deaf ears. It’s a social world out there, there’s no room for a gated community.

Sick bay

I’ll spread no more doom and gloom. The recent posts are as much about my own personal opinion as they are a reflection of the BPM industry at large from a number of opinions expressed to me, some because of who these people are they can’t state openly. I don’t mind taking the flack, I’m known for being vocal and to the point.

But I do have a point.

And that perhaps is the strongest case for switching off the life support.

Footnote: Jump to the ebizQ forum on BPM and hear what the industry has to say on the subject too.

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4 responses to “BPM, the sick man of the enterprise

  1. Hi Theo.
    A pleasure reading your article! I completely agree that we must lose most of the heavy weight ( dead weight ?) jargon used.

  2. Pingback: Anti-BPM rant makes a key point: add process to Salesforce, don’t replace it | VOSibilities·

  3. I do believe all of the ideas you have introduced on your post. They are very convincing and can definitely work. Still, the posts are too quick for beginners. May you please lengthen them a little from subsequent time? Thank you for the post.

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