I am bracing myself for a mailbox of hate mail from disgruntled BPM software vendors that say that they are releasing V8.3.45 which has enhanced dynamic repetition or some such bollocks.

Having spent 2 days at the Gartner BPM Summit in London a couple of things struck me.

BPM is still mired in the junior levels of organisations desperately trying to gain the attention of senior decision makers.  It has not gone mainstream in the way that CRM, ERP or analytics has. And there are no signs that it ever will become the “Tornado” in Geoffrey Moore’s terms. Which is very sad as it has so much to offer.

The critical question for both the delegates attending the conference, 80% of them newbies to BPM, and the vendors is,  “Why”. And no-one had an answer for me at the conference.

Same old problems

The same issues are being raised now that I remember when I was a newbie at one of these conferences 15 years ago.

  1. Sponsorship: Getting senior executives to understand the importance of BPM and its potential impact on company performance and therefore profitability.
  2. Metrics: Identifying the key measures that show the benefits of implementing BPM, which is often a problem when the processes are so chaotic or disparate.
  3. Business Case: Building a strong ROI / business case to justify the projects to senior management, which takes us back to Point 1.

Some new technologies

There were a few new shiny faces sponsoring the event, flushed with the excitement of being named Cool Vendor. There were the regulars such as Oracle, Pega and TIBCO, and a few notable absences – SAP.

A key theme is that vendors have broadened their capabilities in line with Gartner’s iBPMS concept. Now it is no longer good enough to have a good workflow/execution engine or clever point solution. Now the suites need to have at least the following

  • front end modeling / discovery capabilities; no, Visio is not good enough in an increasingly compliant-needy world.
  • an execution engine which has everything from user friendly forms generation to sophisticated back-end integration, supported by rules based work routing
  • business events which can spot or sense patterns and initiate actions
  • social collaboration capabilities to allow informal work and process improvement
  • analytics to provide instrumentation on operational performance.

The rise of the mega vendors

The marketplace is consolidating, just as the ERP market did 10 years ago. This will make it increasingly hard for smaller vendors as the market is dominated by a few $1billion plus revenue mega-vendors. Now a smaller vendor can make money filling niche capabilities, but they need to be nimble enough to stay ahead as the larger vendors add new capabilities to their suites.

So whilst there is no huge market expansion, there is clearly growth in the market as many of the vendors are still showing profitable growth. My employer, TIBCO grew 11% last year to break the $1 billion barrier and that growth is continuing.

Technology is not the issue

Gartner recognizes that BPM is almost trapped in a time-warp and clever new technology  or the Nexus of Forces will not help it break free. That is why it was refreshing that the conference had an illuminating keynote on the “politics of power” and “how to engage the CEO”, and also guest presentations from the analytics and customer experience analysts. Both these areas recognise the tangential importance of process.  Interestingly 35% of the 2100 people who have the title Head of Customer Experience have a process background.

BPM professionals do not need more techniques for modeling, analysis or development. Nor do they need cleverer technology. What they need is to be more business savvy in terms of picking the right project areas and engaging their sponsors. A project that doesn’t get funded won’t make a difference. The delegates need to be credible operators at the C-level.

Until that happens, next year’s conference will be very much like this years – or possibly even smaller.









5 thoughts on “Gartner BPM Summit. Nothing to see here. Move along.

  1. Hi Ian, I could not agree more with you actually. Great post. When I did say similar things years ago, I did get the hatemail …

    But the reason for BPM not to catch on as it could is that the software offered are not real-world solutions. They also have only short-term benefits (firing people) and when those are exhausted then a hard-coded process becomes a legacy problem too.

    The iBPMS concept represents technically complicated integrations of many products that will be terribly hard to maintain and run at customer sites. They certainly won’t make it as there are not enough people with skills to maintain them. Each change requires an expert! BPMS have to move from being IT-driven to being Business-driven and that means that they need to become simple to use and consolidate/replace email, E20, ECM, CRM and BPM into a system of engagement. You can’t do process without busienss content. That is the kind of consolidation needed.

    The consolidation of BPM vendors is not a good thing because it stymies innovation as the mega-vendors gobble up market share. It will contract the orthodox BPM market and not expand it.

    You are right that BPM needs to be brought before the executive and the business process owner and empower them to enable THEIR people to improve the customer experience. There is no one in IT who can and could do that. Yes, some aspects of Business Architecture are needed to enable business to define their own processes but it is more about defining and working towards process goals than technological architecture interests.

    1. Max

      Thanks for your comments. I was hoping to see you there as your stand was close to TIBCO’s. I did bump into Antony Haslett who I know from his time at KWS. I also just missed you at the Garner Symposium in Barcelona. Perhaps we will meet in Baltimore at the Gartner BPM Summit next month?

      Ian Gotts

      e: ian@iangotts.com m: +44 7881 94 30 30 t: @iangotts.com b: http://www.iangotts.com

      1. Hi Ian, I have cut back from going to these events because as it takes a lot of time and while some are valuable for us to be present, they aren’t for me.

        I have delegated the frustrating analyst interactions and
        as I am busy with our new applications for Q2 I won’t be going to Baltimore either.

        I am sure we will run into each other sooner than later.

        All the best, Max

  2. Hi, what kind of iBPMS do you have experience? We running Pegasystem so I will not agree on your iBPMS description. There is iBPMS that only support business driven transformations.

    1. Given that iBPMS is not well defined there is no way to discuss this in a sensible way. We all have different perspectives of what BPM and thus also iBPMS is supposed to do.

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