Posted by: Adam Deane | 07/06/2010

BPM and ECM – The War Begins

BPM at WarEven though large tracts of BPM have fallen or may fall into the grip of ECM, we shall not flag or fail.
We shall go on to the end, we shall fight.

we shall fight on the seas and oceans,
we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be,
we shall fight on the beaches,
we shall fight on the landing grounds,
we shall fight in the fields and in the streets,
we shall fight in the hills;

we shall never surrender.

BPM and ECM are on a collision course.
Even though we know that it would be in the industry’s best interests to have separate systems for BPM and ECM,
Even though we know that it would be in the customer’s best interest to have separate vendors for BPM and ECM,
Even though we know that ECM requires different skills and expertise than BPM,
We know that future will bring BPM and ECM to integrate into one system.

Keep CalmEven now we see BPM vendors that offer case management solutions, Microsoft-based BPM vendors embedding SharePoint into their solution offering, Non-Microsoft vendors integrating with ECM tools.

ECM vendors are also starting to embed workflow functionality into their products.

Suddenly the lines are blurred. BPM industry analysts are now BPM & ECM analysts. New terminology.

Meet the Enemy

Case Management
Case Management, traditionally part of ECM.
Most of the cases were around documents, therefore ECM.
We will redefine case management to deal with individual instances of the process.
Documents? Lets deal with that separately.
So how do we conquer them? Easy. PR. Let call it ACM (as opposed to ECM)

Records and Document Management
Ah, Yes.. a bit of a problem here . BPM software doesn’t support these yet.
BPM vendors will probably embed loosely coupled ECM/EDMS products into their solutions

ECM Skills and Expertise
What about the skills and expertise required to capture, manage, store, preserve, and deliver content?
What about Web content management (WCM), content syndication, DRT (Document Related Technologies), DLM (Document Lifecycle Management) and digital and media asset management?
Every war has collateral damage. These skills and expertise will be lost or degraded.

winston-churchillThe Black Horse – Microsoft
Yes. A devious adversary…
If they wanted, they could wipe us out in a flash.
SharePoint is one of Microsoft’s biggest sellers in the last couple of years. Companies have been installing SharePoint left, right and centre.
SharePoint doesn’t have real corporate workflow yet. But what would happen if they decide to enter the BPM market.
Adding BPMS functionality to SharePoint would give them a foothold to later sell BizTalk to the organisations.
Visio –one of the best user interfaces in the industry. Lacking real modelling functionality. But what would happen if they decide to enter the BPA market.
Most organisations already have Outlook. SharePoint, BizTalk, Visio and Outlook together – world domination
Luckily for us, the managers at Microsoft are asleep, so that won’t happen.

At 0800 hours, we received word that the ECM enemy has mobilized.
We have no choice but to launch a preemptive strike.
You are the queen’s finest. I know you will all do you duty. I am proud to send you into battle.

Dismissed. – Left face. Forward march.


  1. Adam, great post!

    But I don’t quite agree that the the lines are getting blurred only now or due to Case Management. The lines have always been blurred due to the workflow functionality overlaps between the ECM and BPM tools – almost forever. Content-centric workflows has been a term in usage for a long time. The architectural and product evaluation exercises have always had this parameter around process characteristics that dealt with content/document centric workflow requirements vis-a-vis say integration centric workflow requirements. Filenet and Documentum have always been competing with pure play BPM vendors in the areas of overlap.

    – Ashish

  2. […] BPM and ECM: The war that never was! By parapadakis Today I read a very well written and entertaining post from Adam Deane, titled “BPM and ECM – The War Begins” […]

  3. Thanks for a very well written post Adam. Please see my response here: – regards, George

  4. Some part of the current BPM industry started as part of ECM (when it was still “document workflow”), and was spun off in the 1999-2001 frenzy of BPMS startups. Since that time, the pure-play BPMS have been adding content management, in part at the behest of the analyst reports stating that any BPMS worth its salt must include content management. The result: a handful of ECM vendors with fairly poor BPM capabilities that focus primarily on document lifecycle management, and many BPM vendors with fairly poor (E)CM capabilities that don’t have the breadth of retention management and security functionality required for full content management.

    Case management is a bit of a dark horse here, since it is so focused on content yet requires some of the more advanced BPM capabilities: BPM vendors will need to prove their ability to maintain a legally-admissible case file, not just the ability to store documents, whereas ECM vendors will need to prove their ability to allow for ad hoc processes in the context of a case.

    Although my focus is primarily on process, I have never been involved in a BPM project that did not involved content of some sort. In many cases, however, the customers are content to maintain those as separate systems, especially if they already have a proven ECM system in place: a common question in the early days is whether they can integrate content from their current ECM into whatever BPMS that they’re considering.

    Customers are more likely to be looking for an integrated BPM/ECM system if they don’t yet have an ECM system (and read the analyst reports that say that they can get this as part of their BPMS), or if they’re using SharePoint and don’t see it as sufficiently robust either for BPM or ECM. Unfortunately, they may not be considering the full implications of using a BPMS with only lightweight document management capabilities.

    Can we expect the BPM vendors to gain sufficient ECM competency, or vice versa? Or are more acquisitions in the future to bring these together?

  5. […] Adam Deane declares war against ECM in a humorous post titled “BPM and ECM – The War Begins”. […]

  6. Adam,

    Love the post — great insight into the BPM space and it’s neighbors (and really funny to boot).

    I definitely agree with your assessment of Microsoft, except for the “asleep at the wheel” part. They’ve managed to put ECM in a death grip with 2010 and, given how much they’ve focused on bolstering the workflow capabilities in 2010 (including out of the box capability to build workflows from Visio files), I think BPM will be one of the two areas they move into with the next release (E20/social media being the other).

    And love the blog, BTW–keep up the good work!



    • Thanks for the kind words Joe.

  7. […] PS: Сегодня и здесь шутят BPM and ECM – The War Begins […]

  8. […] how it relates to BPM (and ECM) seems to be getting a lot of attention lately (from Scott Francis, Adam Deane, Lee Dallas, David Mitchell). All worth a read if the topic interests you. Some serious, some […]

  9. Hi, Adam.

    We don’t think this is a contest ( The old saying that if all you have is a hammer, everything is a nail applies here. If you “subsume” BPM into ECM, every process is a nail.

    Sandy’s right that 100% of processes involve content. But not 100% of processes should be the 21st automated equivalent of a 19th century paper pushing bureaucracy.


  10. […] BPM and ECM – The War Begins « Adam Deane Adam Deane's funny take on the "war" between BPM and ECM that is being caused by case management: both vendor camps want to claim it for their own. Underneath the humor, some good points (and a fun read). (tags: ecm bpm acm casemanagement) […]

  11. […] BPM and ECM – The War Begins “Even now we see BPM vendors that offer case management solutions. …. ECM vendors are also starting to embed workflow functionality into their products. …. Suddenly the lines are blurred.” […]

  12. […] who read last week’s post “BPM and ECM – The War Begins” could read between the lines my criticism on the market […]

  13. […] several authors have started discussions about future of BPM and ECM. One point of view is ECM completely takes over BPM. Another one is ECM […]

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