The numbers tell it all. You can’t pretend it isn’t so. People don’t care about BPM, process management, operational excellence, or whatever you care to label it.

I was keynote speaker at an event billed as ‘one of the USA’s most important BPM events’ – 500 attendees.  Gartner gets fewer 1,000 at their US BPM Summit.

In contrast Dreamforce (image right), which is Salesforce’s PAID annual user event gets 25,000 delegates.

So what is it?  Perhaps BPM has been around too long and everyone knows about it, so they don’t need to attend conferences and measuring conference attendance is misleading. But the world has moved on with technology enabling fantastic advances in operational excellence, so surely there is a need for continued education. And similarly, CRM has been around 20 years or more yet Salesforce conference attendance is still climbing.

Is it too broad and badly defined a term? BPM is Business Process Management, Business Process Modeling, the speaking clock in China or a high-energy drink sold in Ireland. A Google search for BPM gets 90 millions results. Maybe Salesforce’s success is because the started with the (relatively) narrow focus of CRM with a very clear competitor, Siebel.

Or maybe it is that there is too much in-fighting between the different tribes; Six Sigma, Lean, Operational Excellence, BPM, Process Analysis, Adaptive Case Management or Outside-In.  These groups are fighting their own battles to realize that they have lost the war.

Or finally, it could be the fault of the software vendors who have taken BPM to be a type of software rather than the broader definition which organisations like Gartner promote –

“Business process management provides governance of a business’s process environment to improve agility and operational performance. Gartner research focuses on a structured BPM approach employing methods, policies, metrics, and software tools to continuously optimize an organization’s activities and processes.”

The challenge that process professionals need to address is “How do I make myself valued and relevant”


10 thoughts on “Why does nobody care? #bpm #excellence #conferences

  1. Ian –
    The comparisons aren’t quite right – different types of conferences. SalesForce, Oracle, and IBM draw 10s of thousands to their conferences. Just one of IBM’s BPM-related conferences draws > 8000 people. Gartner’s conferences are expensive, and multi-vendor. By definition these analyst-driven conferences just are not going to draw the big numbers – they’ll be smaller, less-focused, and generally cater to executives or people who are still “figuring out how to get started”. The other issue: if you’re already going to a software vendor conference that has a strong focus on BPM, why go to several others? isn’t one (or two) enough?

    Incidentally, curious which conference this was. Looks like I wasn’t there 😉

    1. You are right – the comparison isn’t perfect. But why let facts get in the way of a good story. Having said that, I don’t see any BPM vendor drawing huge audiences. TIBCO, my new employer did $920m in BPM revenues and the annual conference had 1200 people. PEGAWorld and Software AG’s conferences are no bigger.

      BTW the conference was IQPC’s Process Excellence in Orlando.

  2. Craig – Sadly I don’t see it changing soon. Why change something that has worked for the last 20 years? Besides – we all hate change. Especially those who are in the “change management game”.

  3. Ian, specialist subject analyst conferences are a kind of inbreeding with mostly vendors, consultants and analysts attending but no customers except if they speak on behalf of a vendor.
    I propose that no measure of vendor collaboration will improve anything. It is the realization in businesses that the promised business benefits by BPM vendors and consultants can’t be achieved. I am not sure what should have worked with BPM in the last twenty years. When I talk to large businesses they use flowchart tools to write documentation, but hardly anyone runs any substantial process on a BPM system. Some dumb high-volume processes maybe.

    People are jaded. They have stopped to believe and even more ridiculous claims are not going to make it better. We have to bring process, case and content management out of the IT basement to the people – employees and customers alike. Make it work without complex governance and finally link strategy with process execution in a realistic way.

    Structured BPM approaches to manage structured process implementation … my God, how ridiculous. More bureaucracy and more consultancy manpower to do what … ENFORCE people communication? I am stunned about the lack of understanding of human and social aspects.

  4. Max, don’t be too stunned. Some things are in the basement because they aren’t ready to be in the living room ;-). There are great BPM success stories like ThyssenKrupp Steel (incidentally, the lead speaker at the conference in the photo), so all bashing aside, it is real. Achieving ISO certifications that drive their sales to market-leading customers while maintaining an agile business is their unimpeachable success.

    I’ve been saying for a while now that the word ‘process’ has lost its meaning. I even wrote about it here:

    But more importantly, I’ve been changing my language to talk more about outcomes than using a generic term. Maybe conferences need to be retitled and have new agendas.

  5. BPM has lost focus. It’s suffering a bit of a mid life crisis, shimmying up to applications like CRM and ECM that it shouldn’t have gone near and more recently gotting distracted by the shiny baubles presented by Social and Mobile technologies.

    BPM is now a bit of a mongel. BPM vendors need to focus on what they are here to do; design, automate and empower. BPM applications need to integrate with best practice elsewhere and not copy or mimic it.

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