The BPM world is a divided one with many camps. We have methodology on one side and software on the other. But even the software camp is sub-divided further into those which offer repositories and process analysis capabilities and the other which automate and drive work. Admittedly its a simplistic view of the market but we are entering a tipping point in which some vendors will be left well and truly in the dust.
I came across a customer example recently where they had spent a significant amount of effort in years documenting their processes to create a global process repository, in essence a prime example of a knowledge management system rather than a BPMS. It’s cross-referenced, generates reports, centralized but does nothing more. And on the other hand I’ve come back from PegaWorld where customers are automating and driving efficiency in weeks and months, not years, and it would be true of any other BPMS not just Pega but their new v7 is extremely close in removing this time consuming stage before automation can begin.
And the divide is further complicated when you encounter organizations who have Six Sigma or Lean teams who document processes separately and outwith an incumbent BPA tool. Double the effort, very little benefit.
Of course, a lot of this is a journey and implementing one over the other is very much dependent on the process maturity of the organization itself but I can’t help the feeling that those in the BPA space are slowly being left behind as businesses shift up several gears in a hyper-connected competitive world. I would find it a hard sell to explain to a COO that the return on investment will be over several years and there will be no benefit to be had from automation. In fact, if you were new to the world of process and heard that a competitor took several years just to document their processes but not do anything clever with it you’d either walk away despondent or rubbing your hands in glee at their sloth. But hey, you’ll get a nice static process library out of it that you can click on colored squares.
So, late in the day and we’re almost 6 months down in the year I’m going to make a prediction: BPA players are going to stall over the next couple of years. In fact, the BPA market may just die out completely. There are some that spring to mind that I’ve heard nothing from for a good while, and frankly a BPA acquisition no longer makes any sense in the market now. I think we saw the last of that when TIBCO bought Nimbus.
If you can spend time designing and capturing process artefacts in a repository you might as well do it in something that’s going to allow you to drive that benefit even further. You’re making an investment in the future agility of the business, and while it inevitably boils down to a numbers game (after all, BPA tools are a lot cheaper than BPMS) the fact remains that the man effort to develop a knowledge management system begins to pile up against not driving processes the way they should be; harder, better, faster, stronger.
So, before you decide on documenting vs. automating, keep calm and consider this: are you building a library or are you building agility ?
They are not the same thing.