Education, Education, Education: Can BPM vendors adopt a standard method for adoption success ?

Like any industry, there are educational materials, books, training and certification courses all over the place, mostly unregulated. I won’t go into the pitfalls, I’ve written about it too many times anyway here on BPMredux.

But, I want to follow on from suggestions and attempts over the last couple of years and hypothesize again.

What if vendors who promote specific tool training and education courses all adopted one methodology standard as part of their introduction to the discipline ?

If you look at some of the offerings, IBM/ Lombardi, Pega, Appian, Ultimus, they all offer BPM training in a variety of flavours, mostly centred around their own tool. Fine. But obviously part of this learning experience people need to understand the discipline itself, the basics, the various tools as a methodology that are available. A vendor may not be best placed to do this, but…..if they all adopted one standard and recognised course as the precursor to their own tool certification programme wouldn’t this help drive adoption and standardisation of sorts ?

ABPMP, OMG, BPM Institute to name a few…take your pick (carefully) Align with one, help promote it as a standard and drive for formal adoption. If you think of the number of seats/ licences sold by vendors alone this is a huge base on which to finally campaign for method adoption.

Bear in mind, I’m not saying you can’t have choice, I’m saying that in terms of skill and recognition on an industry wide basis a practitioner will know they haven’t wasted their money on a course that no-one recognises, this is as much about an individual’s need and right as it is the business of BPM. They don’t have to take the tool specific training either, but knowing that one day if they do their previous certification will count towards it, much like any University credit system.

Be careful if you intend to align with a particular course.

For example, if you take a look at the BPM Council, I have no clue who they are (yet they appear in the Gartner Hype report). Website looks very ropey, there’s less than 12 people on LinkedIn found with specific mention of them. Due diligence for any BPM certification course is a must (as well as when compiling any research) and will increase your own reputation as well as the discipline at large.

So is this really such a bad idea ?

I’m calling out the vendors and the educators. Put your money where your mouth is and tell me why I’m wrong because the industry is listening.

And if I’m right, who’s going to take up the mantle ?


16 responses to “Education, Education, Education: Can BPM vendors adopt a standard method for adoption success ?

  1. Hi, I agree with your view. We recently entered the BPM market and are developing a BPM course that has to fit several technical solutions. Due to our edu background we came to the same conclusion as you did.
    In my opinion it would not hurt the suppiers to commit to a certain method. It might even improve the business, thanks to trust and transparency.

  2. We tried convincing Lombardi (Lombardi University folks) to tie into the OMB/OCEB certification structure -to incorporate something that was already out there, and add product-specific certifications to the more general BPM certs. Of course, you could swap out OCEB for some other certification, but pick one 🙂

    Unfortunately we weren’t persuasive enough. I think it could have really helped Lombardi with definition of expertise in BPM, and had they adopted it, there’s a decent chance IBM would have moved closer to such an approach as well (for BPM). It’s a great idea to try to separate product expertise (or technical expertise) from BPM expertise (which applies across products) but the s/w vendors don’t (yet) see their own self-interest in playing that game. Hopefully one of them (or more than one) will.

    • I did the same thing Scott, spoke with Wes Chung who was the lead at the time, there was a lot of interest but unfortunately the resistance came from the ABPMP (who I picked at the time)

      I don’t think some practitioner based orgs want to relinquish control of that revenue stream, or are certainly too short-sighted to realise just how big a game changer this could be…….

      • its why I thought OMG/OCEB might work out – they don’t really make money from training, they make money from certifications (my understanding) – so less conflict over revenue sources. And it wasn’t Wes at that point, it was someone else on the Lombardi side:)

  3. You bring up a great point that there needs to be someone who is above the vendor fray (I can’t count myself as one…working as I do for TIBCO). I would suggest that there is space for a startup service if someone could get three decent-sized (‘name brand’) vendors to invest but stay away from control. The entire market would benefit as all ships would rise with the education tide.

  4. At first glance, I agree with this post. However, one of the reasons that vendors offer significantly different solutions is that these solutions are often designed to support a BPM philosophy or a specific set of use cases. I’ll use Nimbus Control as an example: the philosophy behind this solution is to put individualized, easy to understand processes in the hands of end users.

    This objective drives the feature set. Some examples:

    UPN (Universal Process Notation) was selected because of its ease for end users

    Governance and Ownership are deeply supported because without them, you end up with a system nobody trusts or uses.

    All diagrams fit into a single web sized page for widespread deployment on the internet (rather than printing and hanging huge diagrams on walls)

    So the training for Nimbus (beyond the point-and-clicks) would also encompass this philosophy and might not be all that applicable to other products. Likewise, a BPM tool more focused on automation might have different conceptual learning objectives.

  5. I’m from a vendor (Active Endpoints) and I have to say I disagree. A BPMS is a tool, but it can be used with many methodologies, just as almost any tool can be. So, it isn’t a big deal that there isn’t one agreed-on BPM methodology. The introduction and use of a tool to automate processes and successively improve them will be a big benefit to any organization, even if they follow a waterfall-like approach for the development of the process.

    • Partially true Michael, but the problem with BPM “the method” is that it’s often forgotten and is an integral part of an organisation’s maturity and understanding toward process. You can’t expect to play with the LHC from reading a Particle Physics for Dummies free e-book, similarly you shouldn’t be engaging a BPM effort internally if you haven’t grasped the basics.

      That’s how BPM value is eroded, how ROI is never achieved, and ultimately why BPM projects fail. Lack of education.

  6. It’s a laudable goal and if I had all the time in the world, I’d have a bit of a think about how to do it.
    But let’s talk about commercial realities. Is there any financial incentive for such a harmonisation/standardisation to happen?
    I’m not privy to the financials of the education providers (ABPMP, BPMInstitute, etc etc) but I’ll bet they’re all doing nicely. I’ll bet all the vendors with their own training are doing OK too – maybe not when considered as a standalone business, but in terms of supporting a wider software / professional services business then I suspect so.
    So my guess (and it is a guess) is that this will change for one of two reasons:
    1) the market will naturally develop to a point where more conservative buyers demand harmonisation and the pressure forces that harmonisation to take place
    2) a new entrant disrupts the market.
    Perhaps what you’re fishing for is for someone (else?) to take on (2)…?

    • Hi Neil,

      At what point does harmonisation occur ? BPM is two decades old, Gartner’s 2011 report says mainstream adoption of BPM ‘the method’ in organisations is another 10 years away…..someone needs to plant a stake in the ground sooner rather than later IMHO.

      Only takes one to get the ball rolling (or two in this case, one from each ‘side’)

  7. Hi Theo:

    Let’s put the mambo jambo aside.

    If a company has it’s own experiencing deploying BPM the vendor will be in trouble if it tries to use it’s own methodology, despite if it’s backed in partnership or not. Even if for some reason extends the same method that is being used in the company, because people that work inside the company adapt it to it’s culture. Thus, in this case the vendor will have to learn first how it’s done and align it’s slice of the cake on the stage of tech deployment.

    If there is no method, the vendor can embrace the journey and assume the risk. I call it risk because it will delay significantly the solution deployment. If things go wrong, licensing revenue is erased. BPM method is not delivered in 1 month. I would like to stress that I saw some videos on you tube from distinguished BPM certification bodies that tell people to go for get process information of the last month to understand how the process works and start to figure it out where to improve it!!!

    Hence there is another approach: build a good process, deploy a good solution and train the people, the lads that put the hands on the mouse. That will make a difference.

  8. Theo – been there – that was what BPM Focus was initially all about but the market didn’t really buy it. We all know the self promotion experts that put up their version of training and you pay’s your money and get “a stiffkit” for all its worth (not).

    I have come to the realization that, in the end, an org and the people in it, doesn’t need one standard certification program – they need to develop their own organizational weave of methods and tools that are right for them. See

    Moreover, the vendors just have too many different approaches/philosophies to make a single “method” stick.

    So I am going to politely disagree with the thrust of your argument here …

  9. Hello Theo,
    After reading the comments, I must say that I agree with Tom Molyneux, Michael Rowley, Neil Ward-Dutton, and Alberto Manuel.
    It is a romantic idea, but I dont see a feasible implementation – at least not now.
    …kind regards.

  10. The thing is, as you intimated in an earlier post, there is a real distinction between BPM as a methodology and BPM as a technical solution set. Our product, for example, isn’t intended to be an implementation of a specific methodology (which doesn’t meant that there aren’t better and worse ways to get the most out of it).Nor would I necessarily want it to be otherwise.

    Some BPM solutions will end up working better with some methodologies, no doubt. But ultimately, a BPM product isn’t any more tied to a methodology than Word is to a particular style of writing. And that is probably as it should be.

  11. Methodologies, large or small, are generally shelfware. Back in the “heydays” of IS development dozens of companies and consultancies competed on their alternative methodologies (IBM, Andersen Consulting, SADT/IDEF, Yourdon, etc.). Guess what? Organizations bought them but rarely used them, let alone conformed to them. Tons of published emipircal evidence to support this assertion.

    From this a different idea was born — situational methodology engineering (or, if you’re Dutch, “(situational) method engineering”). Regardless of title, the point was and still is that each situation needs a somewhat different approach to getting from the perceived “as is” (with some kinds of problems or opportunities) to a future “to be” state. Has to do with many factors, too numerous to go into here. But the idea that one size fits all as regards methodologies for transformation simply flies in the face of well-documented reality.

    Standardized methodologies, of coure, have their value as a starting point and exposure to a basic building block library. They also act as an informal “guarantor” that if you do this, you have an improved chance that “Y” will happen. You have to start somewhere :). But they are, in the bigger picture, a set of method components (tools, techniques, skills, interventions) that need to be chosen and arrayed along some kind of time line

    Name me a “sanctioned methodology” that includes Pareto analysis, fish-boning, MOT, TRIZ (or P-TRIZ), Shapiro’s 7R’s, lean task elimination, and five or six other “methods.” Yet, this might be exactly what the situation calls for, depending upon the process owners, process customers, surfaced problems and metrics, susceptibility to change, and a number of other factors. Good/great practitioners intuitively know this and adapt accordingly. They selectively pull into the situation, methods that they view might work at that stage of moving towards an iterative or final “to-be.” That’s why they’re good/great.

    Replicating, reifying and testing on one such sequence that worked in a few cases, encapsulating it in a standardized “methodology” that all must adhere to and memorize to pass a certification test of some kind, is not how novices become good or great. And, it’s certainly not how the “real world” operates, except in selected “hammer-nail” bureaucratic situations.

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