Posted by: Adam Deane | 08/06/2010

BPM & ECM: Responses

ECM ResponsesSometimes, the most interesting material on a subject can be found hidden away in the comments of a blog post.

Chip Bell once said “Effective questioning brings insight, which fuels curiosity, which cultivates wisdom.”

I’d like to bring to the front three responses from yesterday’s post on ECM that I found most interesting:

Sandy Kemsley – Independent analyst, specializing in BPM and ECM said:

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?

George Parapadakis – ECM Business Value Advocate (UKI) at IBM said:

Today I read a very well written and entertaining post from Adam Deane, titled “BPM and ECM – The War Begins”

Unfortunately it’s the “Dad’s Army” (aka the vendors…) view of the war. In the real world (Line-of-business) ECM and BPM have made peace years ago and for the last 20 years there have been very few ECM implementations without process elements, and vice-verse, very few BPM implementations that don’t involve documents, forms, images, or other forms of interaction with the knowledge workers and the customers. The only “pure-play” BPM solutions that don’t involve elements of ECM are straight-through-processing and application integration projects.

The “war” Adam is describing is a SuperMarket war: Inevitably you need to eat both protein and fruit… Will you buy your ECM and BPM rations from IBM, Oracle, EMC, Microsoft, your local FairTrade Co-op (is that Alfresco?) Or will you support the local economy by shopping at the smaller local pure-play traders buying separately from the butcher’s, the baker’s and the greengrocer’s?

As a consumer, it’s always good to have a choice!


Ashish Bhagwat – Practice Head at Wipro Technologies and BPM Blogger said:

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


  1. People could actually following this directly by subscribing to your comments feed, like I do.

    You’d have to publish the comments feed URL so that they don’t have to hack it manually, like I did. 😉

  2. […] BPM & ECM: Responses « Adam Deane […]

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